Yellow -| Review Score – 3/5
Green -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Blue -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Orange -| Review Score – 3/5
Violet -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Red -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Pink -| Review Score – 3.5/5
White -| Review Score – 3/5
Say what you will about Netflix but they’re certainly not afraid to push the boat out and try new things. From interactive quiz games and “choose your own ending” adventures, it’s clear the streamers are attempting to produce shows that haven’t been seen in the medium before. As with any experiment, there are going to be teething problems and in that respect, Kaleidoscope is a bit of a toothache.
For those unaware, Kaleidoscope is a heist drama with the unique premise of being able to watch the episodes in any order. It’s a neat idea in theory and one that this 8 part series attempts to exploit. In some ways it succeeds, as this can be watched in any order but you’re going to have a vastly different experience with this depending on which episodes you watch in which order.
There are some big plot reveals late on that make earlier incidents in the timeline redundant and lack tension. Similarly, there’s a distinct lack of characterisation for some of the heist members, with others even acting completely out of character during moments in the timeline. That’s before mentioning the narrative itself which is mediocre at best and painfully cliche at its worst.
But what is Kaleidoscope about? Well, the show is loosely based on real events and centers around the largest heist ever attempted. At the heart of this is a man named Leo, a veteran in the field. Leo is desperate for revenge against a man named Roger, who happens to front the security firm SLS. As fate would have it, he also happens to be sitting on billions in unclaimed bonds that could give Leo a pretty tasty payday.
Leo can’t go it alone though and on his journey, he’s joined by a diverse group of players that each have their eyes on the prize. There’s getaway driver RJ, Leo’s old prison buddy Stan, his oldest friend Ava and oddball couple, Bob and Judy. Together, they work to infiltrate SLS and pull off the greatest heist ever.
As I said before, the order of episodes will vastly change how the narrative works for you but it’s clear that watching this chronologically is probably going to be the best way to experience this. The “Pink” episode feels like a natural end to the story but if you’ve watched this earlier on, all the big plot reveals and character pay-offs in this chapter will spoil the rest of the story.
For the purposes of this review, we watched the show a few times, with the first in the order Netflix have chosen (listed above in the episode guide!) The second time however, we changed the order slightly, watching this is chronological order and honestly, the story flows much better that way. One could argue that “Violet”, a flashback episode that takes place 24 years before the heist, could very easily work to be played right before the big event too.
But beyond tinkering with the episode order and the gimmick of watching this in any order, Kaleidoscope’s problem is that it’s… just not very good. We’ve seen a litany of heist dramas over the years, with La Casa De Papel, The Great Heist and even Prison Break showing how to deliver strong characterisation and an exciting plot involving a heist. When it comes to Kaleidoscope however, the story has serious problems.
For one, there’s a distinct lack of characterisation for almost every single person. A lot of the characters here are basically one-note players that have no gravitas or depth. All the supporting characters are crying out for more time to explore their past, while the character arcs either feel unsatisfying (especially if you watch this in a different order) or bizarrely one-dimensional at its worst. If that wasn’t enough, the story is littered with contrivances and plot holes, requiring you to suspend your disbelief for large swathes of the run-time.
It’s worth messing about with Kaleidoscope and it’s certainly a novel idea. In the end though, this feels like a beta version of an idea that needed a bit more time cooking in the kitchen. The show definitely has a unique hook and it’ll be interesting to see what Netflix does with this concept going forward. In the meantime, Kaleidoscope feels more like the most mediocre heist rather than the greatest.
Verdict - 5/10