When the season 1 becomes monstrous hit across the country, it weighs on the makers to come up with a worthy season 2. This weight burdens the seasons 2 of Mirzapur. The series opens with a scorpion crossing the road, poised to be a roadkill from an approaching Rohit Shettyesque cavalcade. You expect the scorpion to be smashed by one of the passing cars and its blood splashed on screen to bring up the title. It does not. The scorpion lives to see another day, like the injured characters from the previous season ( both of whom appear in the opening sequence). This is the only worthy attempt at unpredictability in the entire series. The rest of the series plays out in the Wasseypur-Mirzapur template, shocking deaths, not so unexpected betrayals and quirky slangs about holes and phallus.
That is not to say that Mirzapur is not watchable. It is extremely watchable and has some stellar acting by the cast, especially the wild horses Munna (Divyendu) and Guddu (Ali Fazal). It suffers from the curse of the second season. The first season had dropped in when Indian Web series was in its infancy, in many ways it set the tone for the web series format. The slangs were alluring, the twists applauded, and the climax was avantgarde. This time the show has upped its slangs per frame and blood splatters per screen but with the novelty having worn of, they feel like more of the same.
Makers of Mirzapur realize that the show will be binge watched and have catered to that mode of viewing. So, the episodes are all fast paced, the screenplay has no lag, and every episode ends with a hook. While this makes the show entertaining, the caveat that comes with it is that it compromises with the character building and plot development. The distinguishing factor between a movie and web series is that the latter can unfold with a slow burn, stopping to let the audience in and stay with a character to see his/her graph progress. A Succession or Game of Thrones did this very well throughout their run (except for the doomed last season of GOT which traded writing for pace) which ensure that viewers stay invested in the series over multiple seasons.
The interesting moments in the series come from acting and the mirroring in the sub plots. 2 young girls in hiding are forced into a fight for survival with predators, one kills the attacker, the other one lets him go. Life is after all about the choices we make, and this scene sets the path that these characters are going to take in the rest. As a probable lead up to the season 3 it introduces Dadda’s (Lilliput) family from Bihar. This family is placed in juxtaposition with the Tripathi’s. They are a coherent functional unit, and the women have a powerful say inside the house. This narrative, though, dilutes the central theme without substantially contributing to it.
Kaleen bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) on paper gets an interesting arc where he moves his games from the gangster to the political arena. Owing to the fast-paced narrative this evolution is not efficiently captured on screen. It would have served well to watch the amazing Pankaj Tripathi act his way through Kaleen’s rise in politics at a gentler pace and with more screen time. Also as that is the only rise that Kaleen gets in the show (watch the subtle comic timing of Pankaj Tripathi in the scene with the sexologist to get that joke).
In a show that is essentially about fathers, sons, and their expectations (Kaleen-Munna, Guddu-Panditji), the female characters in season 2 have powerful arcs.
Golu Gupta’s transformation from a babe deep in books to wielding guns in the woods gets the most screen space and the ever youthful Shwetha Tripathi plays it to perfection. Beena Tripathy (Rassika Duggal) as the insider plotting the downfall of the 3 generations of the men in the house is riveting. Unfortunately the host of new characters introduced this season fail to evoke the same connect as the ones lost in season 1 like Bablu and Sweety.
As a whole Mirzapur season makes a decent watch but falls short of expectations. It is primed for a 3rd reason. Should it, though? That remains the question.