When La Casa De Papel released on Netflix late in 2017, it took the world by storm. It remained the most-followed series on Netflix for six consecutive weeks, critics and audiences loved it, and the show inevitably lead to numerous sequels being green-lit.
It seems like only yesterday that the show finished its fifth season, and a quick browse on Netflix will tell you the final set of episodes dropped back on 7th December 2021.
So, here we are again, six months on and we’re back, with more Money Heist. This time though there’s a distinct Korean flavour to proceedings. Aside from that, this is very much the exact same show all over again.
As someone who absolutely loved the original, the announcement that Netflix were producing Money Heist: Korea seemed like a hit in the making. After all, the streaming giants have have been on a roll with their K content recently. And it seems those in charge of Money Heist: Korea went in with the thought of: “Well, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” For some, that’s going to be very annoying and a bit of a disappointment. For others, they’ll be quite happy to take that trip down memory lane. Even if that trip only finished six months ago.
To be fair, the story does have a few differences, namely that of the first 15 minutes or so of episode 1. An intriguing prologue whisks us forward to some time in 2025. North and South Korea have come to a political agreement and open up their borders to one another. The fighting is over and for now, Korea is one.
As part of this historic unification, those in Pyongyang and neighbouring North Korean villages are free to head down South to try and make a name for themselves. With high hopes and dreams for the future, it doesn’t take long for the crushing reality of capitalism to rear its ugly head.
Eking out a living in the midst of this happens to be Tokyo, who becomes disillusioned with her current life and ends up on the run. Wanted by police and with nowhere else to go, in a neon-lit alleyway one night she takes a gun and prepares to fire. Step forward The Professor.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the Professor recruits Tokyo alongside various other misfits, some hailing from North Korea and others from South Korea. Their target is the Unified Korea Mint, where they intend to break in, steal 4 trillion won and make it out in one piece. But with the police closing in, will they make it out before they’re caught?
From here on out, Money Heist: Korea is essentially a copy and paste job of the original series – including all the same bells and whistles as before. The characters all act the same, the red jumpsuits are here (albeit with a slightly different set of masks) and the story pans out in much the same way. The problem is, one can’t help but shake the feeling of deja vu while watching this.
That’s both the best and worst part of this show and is likely to be the major deciding factor over how much enjoyment you’ll get from this. With such a similar plotline, one will inevitably go into this and pick out all the differences to the superior Spanish thriller.
The most notable change here comes from the lack of focus on one character. While the original zoned in on Tokyo and had her as the central focus for much of the story, Money Heist: Korea is far more expansive, sporadically jumping between different characters throughout the heist. Only, there’s not much in the way of heisting.
I’ll try not to compare this to the original Spanish version too much but it’s kinda hard to do that when this one sticks so closely to the story. If you’ve seen the Spanish one, you’ll know every twist and turn to come and Money Heist: Korea will have absolutely no surprises in store for you.
Still, episodes 5 and 6 do mix things up with slight deviations from the main story, but on reflection these are more like cherrypicked moments added from seasons 3 and beyond of La Casa De Papel to try and throw you off the scent of what is otherwise a copy and paste job in terms of narrative beats.
The characters we follow across the season are pretty good, although they’re more of a mixed bag than the Spanish version. Helsinki and Oslo are barely mentionable, Nairobi is pretty forgettable while Rio’s chemistry with Tokyo is way off the mark.
On the other end of the scale though is Berlin, played by Park Hae-Soo. He’s excellent and personifies the character to perfection. His backstory is also pretty interesting too, although I’m not about to spoil that here in this review!
Beyond these flashes and a couple of surprises, almost everything in Money Heist: Korea is a retread of the Spanish version. Essentially this is the exact same dish served up again, with added Korean spice and garnishes. If that sounds like a tasty treat, you’re bound to devour this one without much complaint. If, however, you’re after something a bit different, it may be worth skipping this one.
Verdict - 6.5/10