Ranking The Characters of ‘The Serpent’

This month’s BBC drama The Serpent has at once filled me with a sense of despairing wanderlust and made me terrified of ever leaving my parents’ house, let alone the country, again. The mini-series follows the true story of ‘the Bikini Killer’, Charles Sobhraj, who throughout the 1970s robbed and murdered at least twelve young backpackers, and a Dutch diplomat’s quest to have him imprisoned and, ideally, executed. The series was a gripping watch, largely due to the fantastic variety of based-on-real-life characters who embodied the best and worst of humanity, fashion, and charisma. This article naturally doesn’t just rank the characters on being objectively better or worse people (though this will be taken into consideration, since the good-er the good-y the better, if you know what I mean), but rather what each of them brought to the series, even if the character themselves (and the real-life individual they’re based on) were nothing short of horrifying. I think we can all agree that would be a somewhat predictable read. So with no further ado, let’s kick off with…

Runner up: Alain Gautier/Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim)

Something went wrong with the depiction of Charles Sobhraj. The character’s ruthlessness and brutal cunning came across perfectly, but when he wasn’t horrifying us, he came across as a little… boring? This wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the baffling fact that so many beautiful women, and indeed men, were so enchanted by him. I appreciated the show avoiding the usual serial killer sob-story, an unfortunately common trope, but the character was a little lacking in dimension. Rather than being irresistibly attractive, he seemed pretty sulky, stand-offish, and basically quite repelling— and that’s even without knowing the fact he regularly murders young hippies for the sake of their traveller’s cheques and passports. Considering he is the focal point of the series, the Serpent himself, Sobhraj should have been far more magnetising. I’m not sure if this is a script shortfall or Tahar Rahim’s depiction, but something isn’t there. At least we can feel a sick satisfaction in knowing the real-life Sobhraj, still imprisoned in Kathmandu, would hate that his onscreen persona lacks any discernible charisma or charm.

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