Shantaram gets off to an intense and entertaining start but gradually loses its way over the course of its opening hour-long premiere. It feels a little aimless at times, with some rather clichéd moments, but Charlie Hunnam makes for an enticing lead. Hopefully, the show picks up from here on out.
This recap of the Apple TV+ series Shantaram season 1, episode 1, “The Three Nos,” contains spoilers.
Charlie Hunnam (The Gentlemen) stars as fugitive Lin Ford in this Apple TV+ original drama series. The opening episode of Shantaram, “The Three Nos” introduces audiences to this escaped convict, who hopes to start a new life for himself in the corrupt city of Bombay, India. The first chapter starts in an exciting fashion with an entrancing prison break but quickly loses its way, struggling to find cohesion or an enticing hook in its hour-long premiere.
Shantaram season 1, episode 1 recap
It’s a shame, because the episode kicks off with a tense and captivating opening sequence that any show would be proud of. We find our narrator plotting his great escape from an Australian prison in the early eighties, but his plans are unwittingly accelerated. Fellow inmates suspect that he has snitched and they want him dead. He escapes via the prison vents and then abseils down the outer wall. The narrator then acquires some cash and a new identity, hoping for a fresh start.
Lindsay Ford exits a bus in the hustle and bustle of Bombay. Instantly, a lively tour guide grabs his attention and his belongings. Prabhu offers to guide him around the city and introduces him to an adequate hotel lodging. What follows is a montage of Lin adapting to this new world. He quickly picks up the lingo and the filmmakers capture the city’s ethos and atmosphere in fine form. Lin tries the local cuisine and takes a rather dangerous cab ride, admitting that he feels free here.
We’re then introduced to a possible love interest in Karla, who saves him from being ran over. This mysterious woman invites him to a local bar, where he is swiftly introduced to the other cast members. There’s the flamboyant Didier, prostitute Lisa and journalist Kavita. As well as Lisa’s pimps Maurizio (Luke Pasqualino) and Modena. Everyone here seems to be a crooked criminal or running away from some criminal activity – Lin fits right in. The others are impressed with his linguistic skills and array of accents. Although he accidentally embarrasses the stern-faced Maurizio.
Later, Lin is stopped by the authorities, who threaten to throw him in jail for breaking curfew. Lin senses foul play and runs off, fearing his time in Bombay has come to an end. Prabhu offers to take him to his own village and they book train tickets. Karla arrives to throw a spanner in the works though, she informs Lin that Lisa has been taken in by a notorious brothel called the Palace. She needs his help getting her friend out before it’s too late. Karla was working with American Embassy worker Gilbert Parker, but he is now unavailable. She asks if Lin would impersonate him instead. Lin refuses to get involved in any further criminal activities, preferring to lay low.
Throughout the episode, Lin has flashbacks to being tortured in prison for his past mistakes and he has this overwhelming sense of purposelessness on the whole. In one scene, Prabhu stops him from saving the life of a stranger who is overdosing and Lin feels further futility. This scenario pressures Lin to step up and assist Karla. He agrees to help her out and they prepare for the dangerous scheme. Lin puts on an American accent and dresses for the part. They head to the Palace, where Karla and Lin are introduced to the owner Madame Zhou. Lin manages to retrieve Lisa from this awful place, but at what cost?
After leaving the grounds, he discovers that Karla had ulterior motives for rescuing Lisa and was seeking information for herself. Lin feels used as well and storms off. Wandering the streets, thugs beat and rob Lin, taking all his money, shoes and passport. The episode ends with a narration from Lin, implying that this rescue mission was the catalyst that led to a lot more pain and suffering.
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