Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Aftab Shivdasani, Vinay Pathak, Gautami Kapoor, Aadil Khan and ensemble.
Creator: Neeraj Pandey
Director: Neeraj Pandey & Shivam Nair
Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar
Runtime: Each Episode Around 45 Minutes.
Special Ops 1.5 Review: What’s It About:
Last year we met Himmat Singh. An R&AW officer who doesn’t follow a rulebook or a protocol but only knows how to get his work done, to keep the country safe. On the rim of retirement, he solves a case that didn’t let him sleep for almost two decades. Now as we move forward, actually backward because 1.5 takes us back to the time when Himmat Singh wasn’t the Himmat Singh we know today and what made him the most deadly R&AW agent. Himmat has hidden a secret from us all this while. Read on I will tell you!
Special Ops 1.5 Review: What Works:
Neeraj Pandey with espionage thrillers and suspense dramas has created a niche for himself. With Special Ops, the filmmaker comes close to the territory duo Raj & DK have also claimed as theirs with Manoj Bajpayee led The Family Man, but he also successfully manages to add the correct amount of masala that gives it a completely different look.
In 1.5 we meet Himmat when he wasn’t the Himmat Singh we saw in season 1. He was just an intelligence officer who had no authority until the day he decided to take things into his hands. Written by Neeraj Pandey with Benazir Ali Fida and Deepak Kingrani, Special Ops 1.5 acknowledges the current times and is set in the post-pandemic world. The writing follows the same template where a new inquiry is set about Himmat but this time for good. Vinay Pathak sits down and tells his story.
The writers are well aware that it hasn’t been long that season 1 was released, so they don’t waste time in setting up the pace for season 1.5 (a rather clever move because this is not season 2, it is yet to come. This is just a mini extension to the first, so 1.5). We know how the 2001 Parliament attacks served as Himmat’s trigger to follow a case no one else believed. Season 1.5 talks about his motivation. We dive into Himmat’s personal life and how things shaped up.
The espionage thriller gets smarter and sharper with time. It is not just about a bad man probably a terrorist who is being hunted by a group of highly skilled officers, but it is a data robbing syndicate that needs to be busted. In a limited runtime of 4 episodes, the show not just travels to countries looking for the wanted criminals, but also highlights the cultures. For example, how an art school in Moscow disguised as an actor and Ballerina theatre, actually trains spies and assassins. It could be made up, but a strong way to set up the landscape.
Or the fact that Neeraj Pandey breaks the fourth wall metaphorically when he takes a dig at the current ruling party in India for real. He tells us that he is aware and that his show is set in the same times you and I are witnessing. There is no way Special Ops could run away from touching the politics of the country and the makers acknowledge that. Brownie points!
Neeraj and Shivam Nair in their direction take a risk of focusing on just a few characters this time, unlike the first season that had a huge ensemble. So the risk of the camera going monotonous is definitely high. But to break that the writing with their direction adds the biggest twist is Himmat’s life there is and that serves the purpose of breaking the monotony.
I cannot talk about the story anymore without giving spoilers so I am going to stop.
Special Ops 1.5 Review: Star Performance:
The acting performances in Special Ops are as unpredictable as the storyline. I don’t know if it is Neeraj Pandey’s brief to his stars to sport the most mysterious eyes throughout the show. Take Vinay Pathak for instance, look at his face, you cannot make out if this man is actually telling the truth, or is playing yet another trick by joining hands with Himmat.
Talking of Kay Kay Menon, he is Kay Kay Menon and knows his job to the tee. There is not a single loophole in his acting performance. He is even vulnerable this time, but then he is on duty for his country and breaking down is not an option. He collects himself and uses rage to revenge, but there is never a dramatic outburst. A well-written character performed by a seasoned actor.
Aftab Shivdasani gets a rather special appearance and does the job well. More of this please Aftab, this is the right track. Gautami Kapoor brings the same positive presence. Now in my season 1 review I didn’t really like the treatment she was given, but now that the story is clear to me, the lack of attention to her for keeping secrets to reveal in 1.5 makes sense.
Aadil Khan becomes the bad guy this time. He doesn’t have a bigger share of the pie, because the antagonist this time is concept more than a person and the idea is to break it. Aadil is just a part of that syndicate and he plays it well.
Special Ops 1.5 Review: What Doesn’t Work:
The decision to make it just a 4 episodic season. Maybe a lengthier approach could have worked. Things start speeding up a bit too faster by the end of episode 3. The rush makes it look like the team is more interested in making you see the end rather than the journey.
Some plot points seem like they are forced in the narrative to just support Himmat’s story and don’t look natural. You will observe it too. For example, do retirement evaluations really work as they do on the show?
Aftab Shivdasani was in a good form, giving him longer screentime would have been a good idea. Maybe the character has more to do in the coming seasons.
Special Ops 1.5 Review: Last Words:
Neeraj Pandey is a well-aware creator and knows the formula to grab the audience. With Special Ops 1.5 he proves the show he created was a one-trick pony, but a well-layered universe that has the capability to branch out into several storylines. Kay Kay Menon adds panache to Pandey’s source material and makes it gold.
We recommend you one more nail-biting suspense thriller. Read our Tabbar Review here!