She season 2 review: Imtiaz Ali’s name no longer means anything
She season 2 review: Imtiaz Ali’s name no longer means anything
Elle season 2 – now streaming on Netflix – might be one of the worst things Imtiaz Ali has ever put to paper. From the beginning of season 1, the principle of Ali with She was that sexuality can empower women. But he hasn’t the faintest idea how to go about it. (And although Ali wants sex to be the basis of the protagonist’s growth, She continues to put on a childish face. I wasn’t expecting a blue is the warmest color, but there’s nothing here that comes close to an honest sex scene.) And while the director of Jab We Met can’t -not having accepted defeat by pursuing this angle, she season 2 has so much more on her plate than it’s definitely no longer the focus of the story. Now it’s the story of an undercover cop who gets lost and ends up crossing the line, a story told a thousand times better elsewhere.
Inspired in part by what sound like Narcos and Breaking Bad B-movie ripoffs, it season 2 is unable to sell us anything. One of the biggest problems with the Indian Netflix series is that there is no scale. What we see on screen is often confused with what people say in dialogue. The bad guy keeps telling us how big the protagonist is going to be, but in reality she feels like a little gamer. Everyone who knows about the villain’s plans keeps telling us how grand they are, but the show’s world makes it seem tiny. Character traits are revealed not by their actions, but by someone else’s mouth. And much like in season 1, the characters swing wildly from end to end, without giving us the necessary proof that they’ve gone through the required growth.
In summary, Ali’s scripts – brought to life by returning director Arif Ali – are utterly incapable of sketching out his characters and world on their own. Basically, he doesn’t know how to show it, so it’s stuffed into empty dialogue. And it seems that the She showrunner has never heard of the words “narrative momentum”. Because if he did, season 2 of She wouldn’t exist. Several episodes that seem to go in one direction ended their ongoing storyline abruptly, before going off on a tangent for several minutes, or for the rest of the episode. It’s like the script has dissociative personality disorder or something. Elle season 2 is a glorious showcase of Ali’s weak writing abilities, as he delivers a six-hour series — each scene drags — that I felt like stopping after watching the first 10 minutes.
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This may in part be due to multiple seasons being compressed into a few minutes worth of episodes. A voiceover-focused coda in the Season 2 finale hints that She is set to conclude for good, which comes out of nowhere, as the episodes leading up to it had seemingly all teased a larger story to come for the protagonist. Instead, it’s all squeezed into a final flashforward. It’s also surprising because Netflix India didn’t feature it as the final season anywhere in their marketing – although we’ve been here before, with Sacred Games season 2.
It picks up season 2 where the first left off, a day after Mumbai police constable Bhumika Pardeshi (Aaditi Pohankar) offers to become the “new Sasya” – a double agent – for the big villain and drug kingpin. Nayak (Kishore Kumar G). Since it’s been two years between seasons, you might not remember which is which. (It had been so long since I completely forgot which characters were associated with whom. And the Netflix India season 1 recap does next to nothing to catch you up.) Sasya was played by Vijay Varma, arguably the best part of the series at the time. But I guess I spoke too soon in my review, because Ali had already killed it in the episodes that didn’t air to critics. And boy, her absence is felt on Elle season 2.
Pohankar continues to deliver a hammered performance as Bhumi, with an accent that’s still unconvincing throughout, and funny when it shouldn’t be. Kishore has a much larger presence on the second season than the first, most of which he spends in front of an array of monitors, interacting with them a la Tom Cruise in Minority Report, sans the gloves. And while he does well in the muted performance demanded of him as Nayak, he falls to the ground just when a more dramatic delivery is needed. It doesn’t help that there’s hardly any chemistry between the two – Bhumi sleeps with Nayak not just for work, but because he “likes having sex with her”, something she doesn’t. never had with another man before – but dialogues can’t back up what we see with our eyes.
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Not only is season 2 of She totally uninviting from the start – as I noted earlier – worse, there’s filler in the first episode itself. Soon after, it is both rudderless and directionless. It meanders in places, lies to the audience elsewhere, and forgets the main narrative from time to time. His biggest crime, minute by minute, is that there is no progression. A scene brings nothing back to those who preceded it. Instead, her season 2 is a hodgepodge of a variety of scenes — some retreading the ground, while others revisit what we saw only minutes ago — piled one after another. others.
Sometimes it feels like even Imtiaz Ali knows he’s going in circles. Early on, villain Nayak admits to delaying his actions, just so Bhumi’s subplots could be developed. It sounds like an admission from She season 2’s writer and showrunner that he’s slowing down the main storyline to make room for side missions. And then deeper into the new season, when Bhumi’s place in the story becomes precarious, Nayak states that he will try to make sure she remains “useful”. Once again, it feels like a realization on Ali’s part that his own protagonist has become tangential to the story he’s telling. And now he’s going to try to keep them relevant as best he can.
Also, the police work in this detective show continues to be a joke. Jason Fernandez (Vishwas Kini), Bhumi’s handler and primary cop figure on the third bill, punishes police brutality even though a man of his “intelligence” would know it doesn’t work. She claims in season 2 – via hilarious news broadcasts, which seem to have been done by the third unit of the production team – that drug use has increased all over Mumbai because of a guy whose operation is taking off. What is Pablo Escobar? And even if Bhumi turns into a triple agent, her superiors believing her to be compromised, they mostly trust her completely, choosing not to follow her when they easily could – something that seems particularly laughable in the wake of the final.
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Ultimately, some more important questions need to be asked here. Of the 28 Indian original series that have been streamed straight to Netflix since 2018, She is the only runner-up to reach a second season. The hit crime thriller Sacred Games, directed by Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, was the only one so far. (Dhruv Sehgal’s romantic comedy Little Things and TVF star Jitendra Kumar’s Kota Factory started elsewhere, before getting more seasons on Netflix.) So why? She get season 2 when others don’t? It’s not like it broke viewing records, otherwise Netflix would have sounded its own horn. And I never met a fan of Shenot to mention the Legions who were clamoring for a second season.
Considering all of this, it feels like Netflix India is – for unknown reasons – desperate to be in the Imtiaz Ali business. Maybe they want his next film, whenever the writer-director decides to return to feature films. But it can’t just be about nurturing relationships. After all, that doesn’t seem to have been a problem in the past. Netflix India quietly canceled cricket drama Selection Day after two lackluster outings, but they still landed the revenge thriller Tar years later. (Both were productions of Anil Kapoor’s AKFC.) Similarly, although irresponsible spy thriller Bard of Blood never got a season 2, Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies continues to work with Netflix, including for the upcoming Alia Bhatt Darlings movie.
So, who exactly is She season 2 for? (Did Netflix really see a creative reason for him to exist? Because I have even more questions then.) Because he feels more and more like nobody needs to be in the Imtiaz Ali business.
All seven episodes of She Season 2 premieres Friday, June 17 at 12:30 PM IST on Netflix in India and globally.