And we are at an end! No more charming-but-murderous Maddy, no more troubled-but-reliable Amit, no more police jeeps driving through the streets of Bombay. Well, unless you want to watch one of the many many movies that involve police jeeps driving through the streets of Bombay. I recommend Talaash! (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here)
Amit is investigating Maddy’s latest murder, a drowning in a club pool, but Maddy has the perfect alibi, followed by Amit’s own cops, watching a movie with his students at the school for the blind. Reluctantly Amit moves on to the next best suspect, a man whose wife is dying. Meanwhile his boss confronts him and Amit explains his motivation, that he failed to protect his family once and he won’t do it again. Amit kidnaps him and forces a confession. Meanwhile, Maddy is in trouble from a surprising place, his girlfriend Shriswara has worked out his fake heart attack and murder in her hospital and is furious, and he shoves her into traffic and kills her. At the end, Amit thinks he has solved the case, is congratulated by his boss, unaware that Madhavan is now more dangerous than ever and is waiting outside his wife’s building for her to leave.
This is the episode that felt most familiar to me. Well, this one and the last one. Every series I have seen like this, the one with the cop and the criminal and the audience knowing everything, there is the episode where our cop gets close and then is finally fooled. And then the next episode where he picks the wrong suspect and relaxes, thinking the case is closed. You have to have these two episodes, because you can’t have your cop being so dumb that he won’t figure out what is going on, but you also want tension, so you need that twist that throws him off the trail. And arresting a different/wrong suspect is the final touch in making the “good guys” relax just enough to let the “bad guys” make the final move. But if you have to have these episodes, this is an okay way to do it, Maddy’s cover story is fun, and we can follow Amit’s desperation to solve this case and certainty that he must have the right man because he is the only logical answer. And of course the formula is irresistible, we are legitimately worried at the end of the episode for the safety of Amit’s wife Sapna.
(She has a better dress in this photo op, but still not great. On the other hand OMG is Amit handsome in real life!)
But there are a few things that are different. There is a particularly Indian argument provided by Amit in the middle of the episode, an argument of the individual good over the greater social good. Which sounds like anarchy, but in the Indian context it is a familiar argument, and a reasonable one, institutions can be/are corrupted. Better to look to the good that is obvious, that is right in front of you, than any abstract concept.
Amit has convinced his co-workers to help him, has taken leave, they are all working out of his apartment, and his boss has tracked them down. His boss makes the argument that Amit can go off and be the lone avenger, but he has a responsibility to the apartment. Paperwork isn’t being processed, payroll deadlines are missed, Amit is part of a larger system and when he fails to work, so does everything else. It’s a good argument, it’s not the usual “because I said so!” kind of feeling, it’s a sincere attempt to explain the reason behind his arguments.
And Amit comes back, sincerely, but also firmly, with his own argument. The greatest responsibility a man has is to protect his family. He failed in that once, and he is not going to fail again. And how can the duties he has towards his job and the larger society possibly take precedence over his duty to his family?
This is very very different from the usual point we are at in this kind of dark crime drama in the second to last episode. Our murderer can only be caught by the rule breaking cop. The cop has been breaking more rules and spinning more and more out of control in parallel with the criminal. The audience follows along with the usual feeling of “it takes a monster to catch a monster”. That the danger drives them both, the hero has to turn to his own darkside to understand the killer, etc. etc. etc.
Most of this episode points in that direction, Amit is investigating out of his own apartment, he beats a confession out of a suspect later, even this speech is about not following the rules or listening to anyone else. But if you look a little deeper, this show is going in a different direction. Amit has left the police station, but not alone. He went from a man unable to connect even with his partner in the same car as him, to someone who is drawing more and more people to him. He is clearly stating and defending his position, instead of silently taking criticism as he did in the first episode. He has gone from the lone uncaring rebel, to part of the great sea of humanity again, feeling a connection.
(Similar to Amitabh in Deewar, the moment he finally reaches out and fights back instead of focusing on the day to day)
And what of Maddy? Well, he has lost his ability for connection. He now sees all people as disposable obstacles, not as people. Even his girlfriend, he will kill her in a moment, without even thinking about it, when she stands in his way.
Maddy has seemingly “won”. Josh is at the top of the transplant list, the police have arrested the wrong man. But then Maddy learns his mother cleaned out their garage, and his box o’ murder is gone. He confronts her, and after a lot of prayer, she tells him to burn the evidence. And then they get the call saying that there is an accident victim who might be able to donate to Josh. Only he was a smoker, his lungs are not usable. Maddy goes back to his previous plan, tracks down Sapna in her gallery first as a friendly artist trying for a date and to get to know her, then late at night, hitting her on the head and setting up an accidental electrocution. But then Amit is there!!!! And he tells Maddy that he knew it was him, all along. They spotted a flaw in his frame up of the other man, and have been watching him for months, waiting. Maddy taunts Amit, tells him he is a bad father, blames him for his daughter’s death, etc. etc. Finally Amit shoots him, and Maddy says “Josh…please” and then dies. Amit understood his message. He closes the case on the last victim, so that there is no need for an autopsy. Josh receives the organs he needed. A year later, Amit and Sapna and Maddy’s mother watch Josh at sports day at his school. And it ends with Amit’s voice over saying that he chose life, and hope, and protection, and he is reporting for duty.
Wow!!!! Just, WOW!!!!! Okay, ignore the first half of the episode. That, I have seen before. The penultimate episode ends with our killer seemingly getting away with it, then we pick up again several months later to see him return back to the fabric of society and shiver as we think how the most harmless people can hide a darkness inside and wait for that darkness to reappear.
I even have a complaint about the first half, I really do not like his mother brushing his sins under the rug like that. Most of the show set up this confrontation, her as a devout woman who is angry with God and feels bad about it. I wanted her to model how a devout person truly handles these issues, prayer and faith and patience and acceptance. But instead, she has a moment of weakness and lets Maddy off the hook. The only way I can accept it is if we think of it as another part of the theme, the parent choosing her child over everything else.
And then we see Maddy play the pretentious artist trying to pick up the pretty gallery owner, which is great fun, good scarf usage. And then surprising her in a spooky shot with green light on his face, that’s all fine and interesting too. Everything is just sort of okay, until the moment when Amit appears and we learn he has been setting Maddy up all along.
So many things fall into place at that moment! First, that the show had forgotten Amit for so long. It was a gutsy decision to have the whole first half of the episode without one of our two stars and trust the audience to be so distracted that they wouldn’t even notice it.
Second, the reveal that Amit was playing the same game as Maddy, but better. He was setting up his own “accident”. Everything around Maddy seemed normal, invisible, just like when he set up his own victims. And that final moment, he still thought he was in control, he was the one attacking Sapna, it was all fine. Until the discover that it isn’t fine, the normal everyday things he thought he could trust were in fact traps.
Third, the reveal that Amit caught him not through heroics, but through intelligence and careful watching and, most of all, working with others. He knew something felt wrong and he kept looking until he found it. Maddy had gone in disguise as the other man to kill his last victim, even taking the other man’s car. But he had missed putting a tattoo on his arm. And Amit remembered the tattoo, followed his gut, and more importantly, convinced his superiors to trust him as well. This is what the last episode was beginning to point towards. Unlike all the other anti-hero cops in all the other dark crime dramas, Amit gained strength as he learned more and more to work with people and trust others.
Remember in the last section I talked about how both Maddy and Amit saw each other’s weakness in their first meeting? Maddy, that Amit was still touchy about his daughter’s death. And Amit, that Maddy was too confident in his ability hide his real goal and manipulate others.
That is what makes them understand each other here. Maddy insults Amit, picks at his weak spot until he gives in. Seemingly. It’s odd watching the scene, Hrishikesh, Amit’s assistant, gets angry and threatens Maddy, but Amit just stands there and listens, seemingly without a reaction. Until, finally, there is a gunshot and we realize he has shot Maddy through the heart, still without an expression on his face to tell us what he is thinking. Maddy dies, thinking of Josh, and giving Amit his final message.
(It’s so sad! Here, have happy smiling young Maddy to reassure you)
If the show had ended there, it would be crazy dark! Maddy in his last moments reveals his hidden pride and selfishness, crudely passing his own evil on to Amit. Everyone is a kill, no no one is exempt from justice, and so on and so on.
My first thought when I realized there was still time left in the episode was that Maddy’s plan was to die and live his organs to Josh. He taunted Amit into killing him, trusting Amit’s darkness to break through, so that he could die for Josh. And his last words were a plea to Amit to join him in an effort to make amends for their mutual sins and ensure Josh received his organs.
But it is so much better than that! Maddy died not from his own hubris, or from a desire to die for Josh, but because he knew if he lived their would need to be a trial, which meant his one still living but about to die victim would have an autopsy, and could not donate. He was thinking ahead, purely of the greater good beyond himself, how he could take care of his son above all else.
And what makes it extra special is that he was talking to Amit. And Amit was understanding him. In his last speech, he was reminding Amit that it would be hard to make a case against him, especially before his one living victim finally died. He was reminding Amit of his own daughter’s death, of their shared responsibility as fathers. And he was doing it all in a way that would make Amit’s shooting of him seem understandable to those around them, forgivable, just another moment of hotheaded anger sure to be covered up as an “encounter”. Amit was watching his eyes the whole time and he got the message “please kill me to prevent a trial. please don’t autopsy the last victim. please let it end here so Josh can live.”
Let me take a moment and talk about the rise of the antihero. The toxicly masculine man who is selfish and uncaring and seems to move through the world without being touched. In the best version of this, if you watch it closely with an educated eye, you understand that the “antihero” is just a straight up villain. We are studying him and fascinated by him because he represents everything toxic in our own lives. The withholding father, the abusive boss, the politicians and police and every other powerful figure of the patriarchy. We watch Breaking Bad and Mad Men and even Game of Thrones in order to learn more about this figure that controls our lives. Not to learn to love him, but to understand him and eventually defeat him.
(Not a good person! Do not try to be like him! Try to be better than him)
The problem is, as you can see from the fansites and Halloween costumes and everything else, that the message begins to be lost and we turn towards that strength, mistaking “winning” for being right. Beyond the fact that seeing the same old dark troubled hero over and over again is boring, there is the possibility that it is harmful, that it is teaching people it is okay to be selfish, to trumpet anything that lets you reach the top no matter who you harm. And so this ending to this show is remarkable, and wonderful, and a solid break with the style that influenced it.
Amit gives up his “win”. Doesn’t even consider what it would be as “winning”. He lets the case drop, let’s the public think it was all a mistake. He chooses to avoid the autopsy so the organs can be donated. He chooses life, Josh’s life, protection over attack.
And he is rewarded. He ends so much better than he began. Back with his wife again, his determination to protect her without pride or demands is rewarded. In the sunshine, leaking cleaner and healthier. And with a new family, it appears that he and Josh and Maddy’s mother (Neena Kulkarni, who is as excellent in this as she has been in every small mother role I have seen her in since Zamaana-Deewana) have formed their own new family.
But most of all he ends with a firm grasp of his own philosophy, of the purpose of his life and the meaning of it all. This is how he has been living his life all along, going back to the first episode when his only focus was on finding the drugs, not beating up suspects. But he questioned it, wasn’t sure of what he was doing. The result of this investigation for him was not to bring him face to face with the darkness within himself, but the lightness. Danger and darkness and trouble made him turn ever more to the light.
That is a remarkable message and a remarkable ending. An encouragement to look at the hard times as a test, as a strengthening of our goodness, not a weakening. A reminder that humanity, ultimately, is good. Our instinct is protection, not killing. This show is about death, but death in the service of life.
It’s the last speech that makes it different. That makes this not a dark crime antihero drama, but something a little different, a little new.
We are born as animals. But our existence reflects in the change we bring. That’s why in the moment of danger, in that split second, our instinct is to protect not kill. So to uphold and safeguard these instincts of protection, once again. Senior Inspector Kabir Sawant reporting for duty.