What I loved most about this series was that it really captured the hustle n’ bustle of 70s Bangkok like no other. I was a Bangkok resident between 2002 and 2003 and absolutely fell in love with its neon skyline, temples and landmarks. There’s loads of great Bangkok locations here like the Chao Phraya River and Chatuchak Market; aromatic with the smells of spices and the sense that Thailand is a fusion of South and East Asian culture.
It also brought back memories of the hostility between Thai locals and tourists - the latter whose boozing and smoking puts them at odds with the social traditions and customs and prospect of peace in communal Thailand. As Sobhraj labels them “long-haired bums” and “work shy hobos”, I’m sure there is a similar feeling shared by many Thai locals who despise this liberal, new agey, everything is ok attitude that many hippies would claim.
‘The Serpent’ is very Tarantino-esque. It’s very violent as you would expect from a show about a hippie serial killer. There’s lots of scenes of women getting their mouths stuffed with chloroform and gently suffocated. The violence is mainly off-screen, but it hits every bit as powerfully because of the screams and the reactions of the people sitting nearby while it is happening. Such as when Coleman’s Marie-Andree sits outside while her husband is killing his latest victim. Amid the screams, we see fear, melancholy and then confusion at her true loyalties - she’s the price for what you get when you marry a monster.
At times, I got the sense we were watching a Greek oedipal tragedy playing out in South-East Asian settings. There’s certainly something quite oedipal and twisted about Charles and Marie’s relationship. She’s his muse, his brunette beauty and prize possession - she stands by him and never leaves his side - even when he’s committing unholy and unearthly acts.
This relationship reminded me a bit of Fred and Rose West. A bit of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter and a bit of Alice and Luther. She has this magnetic hold over Sobhraj which, to be honest, I’m not surprised at because she is a very sexy lady and has many extremely hot sex scenes with the serial killer.
Why are some women attracted to serial killers? That’s a question you should put to them. But there’s certainly something sexy too about Charles Sobhraj with his mixed race heritage, tanned skin and, gosh, does he wear a suit and sunglasses nicely. Rahim is smooth and seductively efficient as Sobhraj - he has all the marks of a true sociopath when it comes to being sexy, seductive and a little bit narcissistic.
But it’s Coleman who steals the show and makes such a fantastic serial killer spouse. I never liked her as Clara in ‘Dr.Who’ - she was just there to look cute, there was never any sense or even attempt to make her into a fully-rounded female character.
‘The Serpent’ is terrifically smart and sexy television. It’s got some stunning Bangkok landmarks and some more bucket-list locations in Nepal (another place I used to live). But mainly it’s got Jenna Coleman as the best serial killer spouse in years. She needs to be getting BAFTAs.
‘The Serpent’ is on BBC iPlayer now.
Meet Roshan Chandy
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
Roshan's Top 5 Films of the Week
2. Cruella (in cinemas)
3. After Love (in cinemas)
4. Dream Horse (in cinemas)
5. Frankie (in cinemas)
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