It’s hard to know where to start with praise for this masterfully crafted dramatisation which documents the crimes of Charles Sobhraj AKA the Bikini Killer AKA the Serpent. Many people reading this post will know friends, colleagues or family who have embarked on their own travel odyssey which makes the plotline even more unnerving and chilling.
Straddled across three decades, three continents and thirty plus known victims, Tahir Rahim takes the lead and brings to life a cold, calculated, manipulative monster who has a number of aliases and a cornucopia of hidden agendas. Aside from his plentiful victims, he is accompanied in his exploits by easily influenced and vulnerable Marie-Andre LeClerc, played by mesmerising Jenna Coleman who by now has well and truly broken free of the Dr Who shackles, and AJ Chowdhury- portrayed menacingly by debutant Amesh Edireweera.
Sobhraj is a French national of Vietnamese descent who clearly suffers from narcissistic personality disorder however, he harnesses his considerable social skills, supreme self confidence and considerable intellect to lie and cheat his way through life. As with every ego maniac, with every success comes further emboldening and after settling in Thailand he catches the attention of a senior officer at the Netherlands Embassy by recklessly robbing and murdering two young Dutch tourists while deviating from his usual ‘modus operandi’. This is where the narrative kicks off in earnest.
Blackadder alumni Tim McInnery teams with relative newcomer’s Billie Howle and Ellie Bamber to unpick the spree of criminality and piece it carefully back together in order to make a case which Thai authorities, various overseas ambassador’s and Interpol are somewhat reluctant to explore.
Critics have lamented the show’s slow start as a reason for saying it doesn’t quite touch true greatness however, I disagree. I see the opening scenes as methodical; they are a perfect reflection of Sobhraj’s character and approach. As the curtain is slowly drawn back detailing every sordid move being made by him and his cultists, you become more and more distraught at the capabilities of mankind.
There is collateral damage aplenty as the culprits are pursued and the investigators come up against a foe well versed in avoiding detection.
For me, this ranks alongside fellow BBC productions such as “The Night Manager” and “Line of Duty” for awesomeness; testament to this is that I watched all 8 episodes over a 24 hour period. For those reading who don’t have access to BBC iPlayer, do your damnedest to ‘source’ a copy, pronto.
Viewed: January 2021