How The Last Hour Redefines the Mystery Thriller Genre


How The Last Hour Redefines the Mystery Thriller Genre

Illustration: Arati Gujar

There is no dearth of crime thrillers on Indian streaming platforms. You could argue it is the one genre that brings the audience back to streaming and keeps them hooked, just enough, to want more. But mostly the lens has been limited to gory stories from the unforgiving landscapes of UP and Haryana. Amazon Prime’s The Last Hour, which is also co-produced by Academy Award winner Asif Kapadia, is a welcome change to that worryingly familiar trend.

The Last Hour lies somewhere between crime and mystery, with a fascinating supernatural thread running through the show. It’s perhaps the first series of its kind that seamlessly stitches the occult, the mystic into the reams of human vulnerability. Neither robs the other of its power, or impact, allowing each to flourish under its own little arc of storytelling. One must credit the writers for holding onto the natural and the supernatural with equal finesse, all the time turning over the twists with ample ease and keeping you hooked. Here are five reasons why this series amps up the mystery thriller genre with a supernatural twist.

A revitalised Sanjay Kapoor trying to figure things out

Some actors need the right role to spread their wings. It would be fair to say Sanjay Kapoor has had to wait a couple of decades for someone to offer the right one to him. In The Last Hour he plays Arup, a traumatised city-bred cop who has been transferred to the hills as some sort of corrective punishment. Arup has recently lost his wife, and his face tells the story of trauma that he has been internalised for the sake of his job and his daughter. Contrary to the typical, over-animated portrayal of trauma that is common to the crime genre, Kapoor plays Arup with a degree of elegance that is forced upon someone who must choose between the grief he feels and the responsibilities he feels burdened by. To add to all that, Kapoor channels the audience, their curiosity as the man trying to make sense of most things that seem too fantastical to be true.

A magnetic Karma Takapa driving the mystery

When was the last time an artist from the northeast took centre-stage in a Hindi film or series? Takapa’s role as the gifted Dev, is a refreshing shift in the way we tell stories. Dev carries the immense weight of a power that is both a gift and a poignant curse. Thankfully, Dev is not quoted within the ambit of his special power, but is fleshed out in different directions to make him seem human.

Alongside Kapoor, Takapa holds together a series of which the two are, symbolically, different sides. The insider and the outsider, the believer and the doubter. Dev’s brooding face, his reticence is a layer of mystery in itself, and it compliments perfectly the outspoken honesty of Arup who calls things as he sees them.

Shamanism and the mystery of death

What if we could all talk to the dead, just for a few minutes, before their souls left their bodies? It’s a question that crops up every now and then as The Last Hour deftly explores the many aspects of shamanism, and how it is eventually an extended function of basic human qualities like greed and jealousy. The series makes excellent use of atmospherics and technical devices to help us visualise the supernatural. But what the show does most successfully is pose, through personal stories, questions about the mysteries that people take with them to their grave. What if we could listen to them all, know their truths, things they wanted to disclose but couldn’t? Though the series, on paper, deals with crime, it is also at the same time a beguiling yet irresistible spiritual query into the unknown.

The Northeast as a character

This is certainly not the first series to be set in the hills. It’s, however, the first to use it as a character to the point that the atmosphere itself carries the load of mystery and suspense. In one scene, Arup can be seen visibly discomforted by the heights at which roads run in the region. The local culture, its traditions add a sense of alienation that Arup must both navigate and learn about. So much of the northeast is a mystery to the rest of this country. It makes perfect sense then to set a series that marries mystery to the exoticism of the local. Wisely, the writers make sure that issues like racism and presumptuousness are addressed through Arup’s naivety. To add to all that, the mountains, their humbling aura forms a breathtaking backdrop to a story that will surely test your ability to hold it still.

Fascinating subplots

No series can work if it only concerns itself with the utter basics of crime and punishment. Thankfully, The Last Hour is wholly invested in its characters that leads to a host of fascinating sub-plots. Arup’s daughter crosses paths with Dev, a tangential thread that slowly becomes a crucial peg in the show, and further escalates the mysticism that is already gnawing at your curiosity. Dev’s nemesis is a one-eyed killer who has a supernatural power of his own. There’s a thrilling battle of wit and faith that becomes intertwined with the everyday police work that Arup must conduct. To which effect, Arup’s struggles with his own grief and his relationship with his daughter are engrossing backdrops to the mysteries he must both unravel and control before they get out of hand.

At a time when all our days look the same, we could all do with some mystery and suspense. The Last Hour is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.