Betaal season 1, episode 1 recap – “The Tunnel”

May 24, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Recaps
2

Summary

A reasonably promising opener in “The Tunnel” quickly descends into paint-by-numbers action-horror cliché – first impressions of Betaal certainly aren’t the best.

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2

Summary

A reasonably promising opener in “The Tunnel” quickly descends into paint-by-numbers action-horror cliché – first impressions of Betaal certainly aren’t the best.

This recap of Betaal season 1, episode 1, “The Tunnel”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.


Just when you thought the weekend was over, a new original series fresh out of India arrives out of nowhere – though perhaps you’d prefer Sunday to have passed by without the presence of Betaal episode 1, “The Tunnel”, a decidedly flawed introduction to this latest attempt at reinvigorating the maligned zombie-horror sub-genre in the wake of Kingdom.

Points should be awarded for atmosphere, though, as both the titular tunnel and Betaal, Lord of the Underworld, make their presence felt early. Unable to satiate the deity with a blood offering or, years later, warn workers away with a litany of dead animals at its entrance, the tunnel is quickly introduced as the central conflict of this opener, as Ajay Mudhalvan, played by reliable Indian stalwart Jitendra Joshi, is leading its excavation – much to the displeasure of superstitious tribal locals living nearby.

The locals are a problem to be dealt with by the Baaz Squad, led by Commandant Tyagi (Suchitra Pillai) and deputy “Ahu” Ahluwalia (Aahana Kumra). Enter ostensible lead Vikram Sirohi (Viineet Kumar, late of Bard of Blood), obligatorily haunted, and who is tasked immediately with relocating some village locals. This isn’t a complete success and leads ultimately to a standoff that turns bloody.

Zombies are not far behind in Betaal episode 1, as is to be expected. British regiment flags and East India Company regalia make the underlying colonialism theme of the show pretty explicit as Sirohi enters the opened tunnel in search of Tyagi, who is set-upon by hordes of the undead British. After an opening installment largely devoted to setup, a classical standoff is prepared by episode’s end as the survivors arrive at the nearby barracks that the next episode will be named after.

Paper-thin characters, a paint-by-numbers tortured backstory, jump-scares, and a speedy retreat into empty action don’t bode well for Betaal season 1, episode 1, which wastes a somewhat promising idea on a rote descent into genre cliché. Potential? Sure. But I think there’s an upper limit to where this lackluster series is likely to go.


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