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The Serpent (TV series, 2021): John C Adams Reviews

Show name: The Serpent

Release date: 2021

Genre: Thriller

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Jenna Coleman, Tim McInnerny

Directed by: Tom Shankland, Hans Herbots

Studio: BBC

Length: 8 episodes

Rating: 5/5

The Serpent tells the story of infamous thief and murderer Charles Sobhraj and his accomplices Marie-Andree Leclerc and Ajay Chowdhury.

The trio drugged, robbed and murdered western tourists in India, Bangkok and Nepal in the early Seventies.

Sobhraj in particular became notorious when he was able to evade prosecution in Thailand for the many murders committed there.

This was because he was serving a prison sentence in India until it became too late to try him in Thailand.

When The Serpent begins, Charles (Tahar Rahim) is posing as a gem dealer in Bangkok and calling himself Alain Gautier.

He met Marie-Andree (Jenna Coleman) in Kashmir and has encouraged her to visit him in Bangkok.

She flies in for a two-week holiday, is comprehensively gaslighted by his rejection which reduces her self-esteem and is then tested by him.

The test is to lure an Australian couple on the beach in Thailand into their orbit and pass herself off as his wife, Monique, a fashion model.

Marie-Andree does this, and later the couple are heavily drugged and become ill enough for Alain to rob them.

Marie-Andree’s complicity in the drugging and robbery earns her a place at Alain’s side as Monique. Together, they use these false identities to befriend backpackers travelling through Asia.

The young men and women are alone, vulnerable and usually too prone to trust the suave gem dealer and his glamorous wife.

They accept the offer of a place to stay and begin to trust Alain and Monique, partying with them and drinking or eating items prepared by them.

Ajay (Amesh Edireweera) assists Alain with some of the murders and with transporting the bodies.

Once drugged, they are easily robbed and killed. Far from home, unaware of the true identity of their newfound friends and without friends and relatives to protect them, the tourists are easy prey for Alain, Monique and Ajay.

After the burnt bodies of two Dutch travellers, Willem and Helena, are found, the Dutch embassy gets involved. While the ambassador isn’t particularly interested, the third secretary Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howell) begins to investigate. He obtains help from a Belgian colleague Paul Siemons (Tim McInnerny).

While it is too late to save Willem and Helena, a French couple living in the same apartment block as Alain and Monique have become suspicious. They help Dominique (Fabien Frankel) to escape their clutches. He is one of the few targets to survive and make it home safely.

The Serpent continues over a number of years as Herman and Paul fight to obtain enough evidence to have Alain, Ajay and Monique arrested. Herman is put under pressure by his ambassador to desist and his marriage also comes under pressure.

I loved The Serpent. Having backpacked in India in the early Nineties and taught in a school in Nepal during my GAP year I know just how vulnerable you can be when far from home.

The location filming for Kathmandu brought back many happy memories and many of the Thai filming locations in and outside Bangkok were very atmospheric and also very beautiful.

Tahar Rahim and Jenna Coleman in particular put in superb performances, balanced by those of Tim McInnerny and Billy Howle on the other side of the battle.

I have watched this show many times since it was released and I always love watching the battle between good and evil play out in some of the most exotic places in the world.


Thank you for reading my review.

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