Betaal is the TV equivalent to scoring an own goal in the 90th minute and no matter how you feel about the early moments, nothing can extinguish that disappointment. On paper, Betaal actually has some nice ingredients in the pot that could make this a really competent and enjoyable zombie thriller. The basic set-up mirrors that of Kingdom a little; instead of the robes we’re graced with old East India Company gear and zombies able to fire guns. Unfortunately the execution leaves a lot to be desired. What begins as an enjoyable and interesting zombie flick soon descends into a disappointing and illogical romp that leaves things open for a season 2 that may or may not arrive.
The first episode sets the scene but episode 3 is really where the exposition is dumped to explain what’s really going on. The gist of the story revolves around an ancient tunnel that holds an undead, cursed Colonel and his patrolmen. Unbeknownst to those outside, greedy businessman Mudhalvan demands his workers shift the rocks blocking the tunnel so he can get to work constructing a highway. When the locals understandably become jittery at the prospect of this, it’s up to the Baaz Squad led by Commander Tyagi to make sure things go smoothly.
Things obviously do not go smoothly as the tunnel is opened and evil is awakened. From here the series opens up some promise to spill its action into Delhi, Mumbai or even Kolkata but instead we’re graced with the inside of an army barracks instead of more interesting city centres to see these zombies go to town. While this in itself would actually be okay for a more claustrophobic set-up to play out over a few episodes, Betaal squanders this potential by slowing everything down and then delivering a cheesy and illogical finale that sets things up for a second season rather than giving a good resolution to the story.
It’s a shame too because the actual design of the undead plays off the use of grotesque practical effects and the series is dosed with a heavy stream of violence, bloodshed and grimy, dark colours for good measure.
Beyond main protagonist Sirohi, there just isn’t a lot of depth to any of these characters to get you invested in their journey and given some of the cast that are onboard for this – like Jitendra Joshi for example – it’s disappointing to see these actors wasted in simple roles that lack depth. Of course, for a thriller you’d never really expect that much compared to say a character-driven drama but given the benchmark set by Kingdom earlier this year, Betaal falls way short of that standard.
The four-episode set-up is light and breezy enough to sit through in around 3 hours or so but there’s no question the second half nosedives in quality and never looks like fully recovering. If there is a second season then it’ll be interesting to see what direction the show takes but given what we’ve received here, it’ll need a massive overhaul to overturn the damage done with its illogical plot beats and sequel-bait ending. A shame for sure but Betaal is probably best left buried in the cursed tunnel whence it came.
Published: 24 May 2020 at 6:15pm on TheReviewGeek.com
Verdict - 3/10