This week on Shantaram, the Apple TV+ limited series about a fugitive trying and failing to lie low in ’80s Bombay, our hero sees that his days in his new home are numbered. The only question is, will he leave before a trap is sprung on him or meet his destiny head-on?
Lin and Karla aren’t sure they want to say goodbye, Modena makes a risky move (and Lisa’s caught up in his wake), and Pandey must put his money where his mouth is or risk everything.
Everybody’s escape plans are falling apart in a reasonably gripping outing of this reasonably gripping show.
Shantaram recap: ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’
Season 1, episode 9: As has been well-established in Shantaram, before Lindsay Ford (played by Charlie Hunnam) became Lindsay Ford, doctor and martyr, he was Dale Roberts, convict, arrested for his role in a bank robbery. After he escaped, the man who wanted Dale to give up his co-conspirators was a nasty policeman named Wally Nightengale (David Field).
Hoping Dale would contact his mother after his daring escape from prison, Wally paid a visit to her. He was right to suspect — Dale did stop by. However, seeing the police presence on the block, Dale left. Now he may never see his mother again.
A few months later, and Lin is trying to convince his neighbor Parvati (Rachel Kamath) to take over as the village doctor, or at least step up a little. Lin’s planning on getting out of Bombay before news of his shanty clinic reaches the wider world.
He knows that would-be journalist Kavita (Sujaya Dasgupta) is planning to write about his efforts to keep his adopted home safer. But he doesn’t know that she figured out that “Lindsay Ford” is an assumed name, stolen from a dead man to forge a new passport for his stay in India. Either way, he does know his days in Bombay are numbered.
Aftermath of a deal
Meanwhile, Qasim Ali’s (Alyy Khan) pride is still smarting after Lin hooked up the slums with water and other services courtesy of local crime lord Khader Khan (Alexander Siddig). Still, he forgives Lin for putting him in debt to such a man. After all, Lin did what he had to do to make sure the community survived — not just the cholera outbreak, but all of life’s cruel twists of fate. The two men say what may be their last goodbyes and leave as friends.
Lin’s less anxious to say goodbye to his friend Prabhu (Shubham Saraf). Lin suggests they go visit Prabhu’s village to meet his family, but seeing as Prabhu just got the ok to court Parvati and he’s going to make the most of it. Seeing his family, and having to get more approval of his love life, is not something he’s interested in right now. He’s happy and wants to stay happy.
In a mirror of the stakeout at Lin’s mom’s place, Modena (Elham Ehsas) is watching Lisa’s (Elektra Kilbey) apartment from across the street while his business partner, Maurizio (Luke Pasqualino), tears the place apart. He’s looking for the money Modena stole, or for Modena himself so Maurizio can hurt him for stealing it.
Maurizio finally leaves, taking both Lisa’s and Modena’s passports as insurance. She’s furious with Modena, but he’s convinced he did the right thing. Now they just need to get out.
This stuff just sits on the screen, unfortunately. The only real complaint I have about Shantaram is that Lisa and Karla (Antonia Desplat) are hopelessly bland characters and the drama of their storylines never shapes up. (Sure, the show’s laid-back vibe doesn’t really buttress the supposed urgency of any of Shantaram‘s plot points, but I can’t really complain about that. That was all by design. This is just a chill show soaking up the drama and the Lin Ford lifestyle with equally stoned fervor.)
Of love and leaving
Speaking of Karla, Lin decides to drop in on her. He wants to know how she feels about him, having said that he loves her a number of days ago and getting no answer in return. Now that he’s leaving (or so he says), he wants to get an answer. She says he’ll have it by the end of the day.
In the meantime, Lin visits Didier (Vincent Perez) to get his new passport and finds the sad fellow in the depths of a days-long bender, having not left his apartment for the last several days. He’s been feeling sorry for himself since his arrest, reliving the worst moments of his life as penance.
This is a particularly bad time for a monkeywrench to get thrown in the works, though. The Australian authorities get a picture of Lin sent over to them by Kavita’s newspaper connections, and then they catch one of Lin’s accomplices from the robbery. They can’t squeeze him for information, though. (They accidentally kill him.)
Minister Pandey (Alvin Maharaj) finally visits Sunita (Tharanya Tharan) at Madame Zhou’s (Gabrielle Scharnitzky) brothel. Sunita managed to phone him and tell him to come see him so she can explain that she’s effectively being held prisoner. He hits her with the sweet talk, but makes it very clear he will not be rescuing her from bondage. She’s on her own. Which is dangerous, because she knows more than anyone ought to about the minister’s corruption, and his debts to Walid Shah (Mel Odedra).
A conversation overheard
Karla, who of course was listening in on their conversation, catches Pandey on his way out of the house of ill repute. He’ll betray Shah for them so long as word never gets out that he was cheating on his wife.
Karla brings the news to Khan, who is ecstatic. But she feels gross about it (as she basically has the whole way through this scheme). I’d ask what Karla thought was going to happen when she kidnapped a sex worker to bilk a politician, but I don’t care. Karla’s problems are just plain uninteresting. She tries to talk Kavita out of running her Lin story, offering to sell out Khan and Pandey to get her to drop it. Of course, it might be too late for that.
Maurizio’s angry, ripped-off clients find him and, because he doesn’t want to sell out Modena, he lies and says that Lin refused to give them the drugs that Maurizio and Modena had promised to sell (before welching on their deal and fleeing the city). Maurizio never liked Lin, so this was a good opportunity to goodbye to an adversary and keep his head above water until he finds Modena. Lin may have no choice but to leave now.
If I go there could be trouble, if I stay it will be double
Hunnam’s rebranding as a guy just chasing good vibes in this week’s episode, entitled “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” is a much better fit for the actor than the tough-guy shtick he rode to fame all through the 2000s and 2010s. I like just hanging with the guy, I gotta say.
It’s a little funny that 2003 novel Shantaram should eventually get adapted into something with a very low resting heartbeat, considering what a choice item it was for actors who wanted to play bad boy Lin Ford over the years. Shantaram went from a hot property for actors looking to show their soulful side to the Charlie Hunnam Good Times Hood Crimes Hour.
I prefer this to what might have been attempted in the past, I think, because it never takes itself that seriously. Sometimes, as in this episode’s attempts to get us to care about Karla and Pandey, Lisa and Modena, or even Lin’s passport trouble, this backfires a little because it makes the show easier to disengage from. But it also makes it a pleasant place to be all the same.
Incidentally, there was a gunfight this week tangentially related to the plot. How do you have that in there without admitting that it’s way more interesting than most of Shantaram’s actual plot? Weird stuff but not bad, exactly.
Watch Shantaram on Apple TV+
New episodes of Shantaram arrive on Apple TV+ every Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.