Summerâ€™s final binge-watch: Sacred Games breathes new life into the TV thriller genre.
Much to my dismay, Iâ€™ve noticed that some of the leaves on the tree in my neighborhood are starting to change color. The days are getting shorter. The pools will be closing in a few short weeks. Summerâ€™s almost over, yâ€™all. And with the chill of Fall comes the realization of responsibilities. I feel a lot more guilty spending five hours binge-watching Netflix if I only have 11 hours of daylight (in contrast to the 16 hours in peak summer! Living up north has itâ€™s perks). My point it, weâ€™re running out of prime lazy day time. And if want to squeeze in one more glorious summer binge-watch, make it Netflixâ€™s Sacred Games.
Itâ€™s no secret that thereâ€™s an excess of cop dramas on TV, ranging from the middling procedurals that crowd network channels to the gruesome true crime series that the internet canâ€™t seem to stop talking about. But with the constant stream of options, even the most polished of thrillers can start to feel stale (you can literally watch David Tennant play the exact same role in the British and American version of Broadchurch if you feel like it, thatâ€™s how many options we have).
Enter Sacred Games, Netflix Indiaâ€™s recent addition to TVâ€™s crime drama arsenal. Based on Vikram Chandraâ€™s 2006 novel of the same name, Sacred Games setting in a gritty, sweltering Mumbai is the polar opposite of the cool, gray overtone that Netflix offerings such as The Fall, Seven Seconds, and Luther all feature. (Itâ€™s also tonally perfect for the final sweaty days of summer.) The story centers on police officer Sartaj Singh (played by Bollywood superstar Saif Ali Khan), a rare â€œgood copâ€ frustrated by the corruption around him, and his attempts to save Mumbai from a terrorist attack associated with an infamous missing crime lord.
Sacred Games is a typical thriller in many ways, featuring crooked cops, a compelling anti-hero and a tightly wound action, but where it stands out is in itâ€™s real star: Mumbai. The idea of brightly colored Bollywood dance numbers tends to dominate the notion of India to a lot of us, especially in reference to Bollywoodâ€™s home of Mumbai. But Sacred Games pulls no punchesâ€”this is no kitschy musical. While itâ€™s still filled with an excess of sex and violence on par with the genre, Sacred Games attempts something more rooted in reality. You can feel the air in every scene, thick with smog and humidity. Our protagonist Sartaj usually marches around with a large damp circle of sweat on his upper back. You can see the disrepair in his neglected home, the discolored walls, and the inconsistent electricity. Although most of us will be watching with English subtitles, the script seamlessly jumps from Hindi to Marathi, the local language, with a healthy smattering of English words in between, just like how Mumbaikars actually talk.
And what makes Sacred Games so great for a binge watch (besides a compact eight-episode run) is the fact that it can be watched in more than one way. With itâ€™s shootouts, high body count, and visually stunning filming, itâ€™s easy to watch lazily, true television junk food. But for those looking for something a bit more arresting, thereâ€™s a much more intricate story being told about the history of India and partition, the sometimes violent history of religious tension in Mumbai and how it related to politics, and how crime and corruption are just a way of life for some.
And most of this more complex storytelling happens in the parallel story being told alongside the one concerning Sartaj. The life story of our main antagonist, the crime boss Gaitonde, is told through a series of extended flashbacks, depicting his rise through the ranks of organized crime in Mumbai. The flashback in the premiere episode almost seems like a one-off, but the Gaitonde storyline ends up commanding more attention than the one happening in the present. Itâ€™s in many ways the standard anti-hero tale, though I would argue weâ€™re rarely lulled into outright rooting for him. (Heâ€™s never Walter White. Heâ€™s always Heisenberg.) But most importantly the Gaitonde flashbacks are so rich in detail, especially with the inclusion of actual historical events like the 1992 Bombay Riots that they could make a supremely watchable show in their own right.
For all of itâ€™s high points, Sacred Games isnâ€™t without itâ€™s shortcomings. The initial premise in the premiere regarding a terrorist plot is mostly ignored for much of the season, only really picking up steam in the last two episodes. The fact that the flashbacks are so compelling means the scenes in the present can fall flat, especially when you notice how much more Gaitonde is fleshed out compared to Sartaj. There are characters introduced early in the season, only to disappear for multiple episodes, making it unclear why they were included in the first place. The English subtitles can sometimes miss the mark, flashing too quickly to be read, and sometimes feel like they arenâ€™t fulling communicating whatâ€™s happening in the scene.
But Sacred Games feels exceedingly fresh for what it is. When Netflix is mostly getting positive attention for breathing life back into romantic comedies, itâ€™s surprising and exciting to see â€œtypicalâ€ TV fare like the crime thriller really show up and deliver. Iâ€™ve watched many of the episodes multiple times over and thereâ€™s always something more to pay attention to, more to dissect, and itâ€™s just the absolute opposite of boring in a genre thatâ€™s can feel like itâ€™s worn out its welcome.
All 8 episodes of Sacred Games are streaming on Netflix now.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
Luke Macfarlane Talks Killjoys Season 5 [Exclusive]
As Killjoys winds down its run, I’ve been extremely fortunate to chat this summer with our onscreen and offscreen faves. I’ve said here a few times that Luke Macfarlane was my introduction into the show, and in the intervening five years, he’s been very kind to chat with me for…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…