The past never stays hidden, episode six of The Serpent reminds us, and it’s finally catching up with Charles Sobhraj, as we’re given some back story to one of the world’s most dangerous serial killers.
Is it nature or nurture, then, that set the half-Vietnamese and French-dwelling youth on his violent path? The series seems to imply that it’s a bit of both, and that the impact of key relationships in his life embittered him to the world around him - not that that’s any excuse for his heinous actions.
That Sobhraj has mother issues is obvious, but for starters, we’re treated to a tres glamoureux wedding scene. Did Sobhraj/Alain and Monique/Mari-Andree make it to Paris and up the aisle, despite there being an international manhunt for them and their many murders?
The wedding scene
Not exactly - and while denying us the chance to see Jenna Coleman in an incredibly chic wedding dress - as this is another flashback to Yung Charles’ life before all the murders. Oh, did he not mention that he was married before, and has a young child with his ex?
Now in Karachi, Sobhraj/Alain and Monique/Marie-Andree have gone full Bonnie and Clyde, but it’s not exactly glamorous in this life of sin anymore. Holed up in a grubby backstreet hostel, they’re now no different than the backpackers, living on a dollar a day, that they’ve spent the last year grooming and attacking. While Alain (Tahar Rahim) tries to set up an international gem deal via a marketplace payphone, tensions rise between Ajay (Amesh Edireweera) and Marie-Andree and it’s time for some truths to come out.
Ajay revels in telling Monique/Marie-Andree that she isn’t the love of Sobhraj/Alain’s life after all. Her love rival is Juliette, but Alain, never letting the truth get in the way of a good lie, tells her that she’s dead. She’s definitely not, but Marie-Andree, once again, is completely in the dark about this.
The thruple turns on itself
Like all threesomes inevitably end up, one person feels left out. With Paris and a life of luxury with Alain dangled before them, both Ajay and Marie-Andree want rid of each other and for a moment, it looks like Ajay is going to attack Marie-Andree.
“You want to forget the past?” he yells at her. “While that Dutch girl screamed for help, you’re still wearing the ring you sold her”. The truth hurts Marie-Andree - she’s as complicit as Ajay, a “fucking monster”, they’re just the same. What she hates in him, she hates in herself. But, just like Alan Sugar in his power-hungry reality show, only one person can be Alain’s apprentice. Who will he choose?
Jumping back to Sobhraj’s wedding day, we can at least deduce that he’s always been a snappy dresser, even if he does have a strained relationship with his mum. He whispers to her bitterly after the nuptials: “You know what the greatest joy of this day is for me? I’ll have a real family. My family. A different future.” Ouch. He won’t have to wait for too long, either as his Lana Del Rey-alike bride (Stacy Martin) reveals that she’s currently with child - perhaps don’t mention it to her parents though, as they’ve been chewing on wasps all the way through the ceremony.
The honeymoon doesn’t last long - in a tiny flat in Bombay (five years ago, for those managing to keep up with the jumping timeline) daddy Charles tells his kid and wife that he’s off to do a job. It’s obviously not a day on the construction site, instead it’s a jewellery store heist, and he’s none too subtle about it all either as he’s promptly arrested at gunpoint.
Knippenberg is having his own mental breakdown back in Bangkok. With The Serpent slithering out from his grasp once again, he’s given a gun by Siemons, as “he knows who you are now.”
But he gets a tip off from Nadine - who’s totally fine, by the way, after last week’s cliffhanger - that Kanit House are about to rent out Sobhraj’s apartment, so she suggests they go through it with a fine tooth comb for evidence. They don’t have to look far in the house of horrors, as Siemons is sickened to find “sedatives, dissociatives and Christ knows what else”. Angela, however, discovers Marie-Andree’s diary. Bingo! Enough evidence to “shackle him”! Wait, haven’t we been here before?
Replacing Juliette with Marie-Andree
Travelling back in time we see how devious The Serpent can be - and his first escape from jail, when he literally seems to rip out his own appendix. Going back to pick up Juliette - who’s wisely sent their kid to live with her parents in Paris - they’re then on the run, driving through the desert in a stolen hire car. Sobhraj genuinely seems to think they can have an ordinary life back in Paris as a family, and then demands: “If life with me is so wretched, why do you stay with me?”. Juliette replies: “Why do you think?”, leaving us to fill in the gaps. Is it love? Obsession? She’s stuck in an abusive and coercive relationship? Answer: probably all three, which is exactly the same for Marie-Andree. Still, it’s too late - the police have caught up with Sobhraj again and it’s back into prison he goes.
Back in the present day, Ajay is fired, as Alain becomes business partners with chooses Marie-Andree to accompany him to Paris, as she takes the place Juliette once had - even their physical similarities are unnerving. “Am I nothing but a replacement for his true love?”, Marie-Andree wonders in fit of guilt, when she heads to a priest for a cosy chat. That’s what’s keeping her awake at night? Not all the people she helped torture and murder?
Shooting Marie’s racist words back at Ajay (“a little brown thug”) Alain tells him he can’t rely on him anymore, and “it’s time for you to make your own way in the world.” And that’s the end of Ajay.
In a scene then reminiscent of another of Rahim’s career highs, A Prophet (honestly, you need to watch this if you haven’t already seen it), he’s in prison again and Juliette visits to tell him that she wants a better life and is divorcing. For the first time in this series, Sobhraj’s cool and callous mask drops, and tears fill his eyes - he’s crushed. It’s perhaps the only emotion we’ll ever see him convey before the psychopathic veneer kicks in again. Sobhraj and Marie are Paris bound - but so is Knippenberg, who’s handed Sobhraj’s mother’s address. Will she be a bonne maman and cooperate with the police, or will Charles use her as another pawn in his game? More next time...
What happened to Ajay? Apart from one random sighting in Germany in the late ‘70s, he’s never been seen again. Is he in hiding, or did he end up as one of Sobhraj’s victims as well?
Sobhraj really did fake the symptoms of appendicitis in jail, and even had surgery to have it removed, but it was all a ruse so he could escape. The man could probably slither out of Alcatraz, if required
Sobhraj married once again in 2008, to Nihita Biswas, a woman he met while serving time in Nepalese prison. She even ended up on Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother
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