The Serpent Review: Worth The Watch?

Picture Shows: Charles Sobhraj (TAHAR RAHIM), Monique/Marie-Andrée Leclerc (JENNA COLEMAN) - Photographer: Roland Neveu

If you have a good memory then you may recognize this title from an article that we published in the New Year on upcoming TV to watch out for. You can visit the article here if you haven’t yet read it.

The Serpent which aired on New Year’s Day, will air it’s finale on BBC One this Sunday. Although for the fellow binge watchers reading this, all 8 episodes are currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

The series is a 70’s true-crime drama inspired by the crimes and subsequent downfall of Charles Sobhraj. As fans of true-crime dramas and documentaries will know there is something that draws our attention to the psychology of serial killers. We have access to a multitude of podcasts, shows and movies dedicated to fictional and real life serial killers to fuel our morbid fascination. Allowing us, as the audience, to mull on the age old question of nature v nurture.

However, The Serpent does not attempt to breakdown the how and why of Sobhraj’s psyche. There is no reminiscing on childhood trauma. The Serpent directs its attention to the stories of it’s victims and the accomplices of Sobhraj who find themselves equally tangled into his web of deceit and control. It is refreshing to watch a retelling that does not attempt to excuse or romanticize its serial killer.

Source: BBC

The Serpent builds it’s story with flashbacks that flit back and forth between the facade of glamour that Sobhraj builds and the net of capture closing in. Admittedly the flashbacks were almost overwhelming and at times, it was easy to miss whether the story had progressed or backstory was being depicted.

That being said, the cast is incredible – I stand by my earlier comments that Rahim as Sobhraj is captivating, charming and yet chilling. Rahim nails the subtle manipulation that allowed Sobhraj to exploit and trap Western tourists and keep his partners in crime malleable to his will. Coleman playing his doting lover, Marie-Andrée Leclerc, is one of her best performances. The visuals are breathtaking – from the introduction sequence to the landscape shots of Holy places across Southeast Asia.

Picture Shows: Nadine Gires (MATHILDE WARNIER), Monique/Marie-Andrée Leclerc (JENNA COLEMAN) – Photographer: Roland Neveu

It can be easy to forget that Sobhraj is currently alive and serving the remainder of his life imprisonment. He is a man that lives for power and infamy; having capitalised on this before his recapture in 2003 and it is an uncomfortable thought that this retelling may fuel the fires of his ego.

For those that enjoy tense, thrilling dramas and want to be on the edge of their seat then The Serpent is worth the watch.