Afraid of evolving, the overlong third season of Mirzapur doesn’t know how to best utilise its principal characters, let alone the giant ensemble at its disposal.

Akhil Arora, a member of the Film Critics Guild and a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic, who has watched all 10 episodes of Mirzapur season 3. He has been reviewing TV series since 2015 and has written for NDTV and SlashFilm.

Kaleen Bhaiya Mirzapur season 3
Pankaj Tripathi as Akhandanand “Kaleen Bhaiya” Tripathi in Mirzapur season 3 // Photo: Prime Video

In season 3, Mirzapur wishes to place an even bigger emphasis on the world outside of it. As a feud between two clans ratchets up, a meeting of all the gangsters of Purvanchal—the easternmost section of the state of Uttar Pradesh—is called more than once. They bicker, they whine, but they have no real voice, no real say in the matter. A mediator warns the two parties not to escalate violence and vows that larger powers will come down on them heavily. But it’s all talk. Mirzapur isn’t willing to follow through as it’s only the protagonists who matter. Everyone else is simply window dressing. They feel like plastic, as do those who work for the feuding clans. Its larger world is irrelevant. Mirzapur is a macro show that has no interest in the micro.

Stuck in a holding pattern

That might have been acceptable, too, if its massive ensemble was going somewhere. Alas, most of them are stuck in a holding pattern in Mirzapur season 3. Pankaj Tripathi is a peripheral presence as Kaleen Bhaiya is relegated to a corner. Ali Fazal’s Guddu is too reactive—as The Dark Knight’s Joker would say, he’s like a dog chasing cars. Now that he’s caught one, he doesn’t know what to do with it. The writers don’t quite know what to do with Shweta Tripathi Sharma’s Golu either and why she’s taken off the board for a long stretch of the third season.

Kaleen Bhaiya’s wife Beena Tripathi (Rasika Dugal) has replaced one madman for another, so she’s going around in a circle. Madhuri Yadav (Isha Talwar), the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and Sharad Shukla (Anjumm Shharma), Guddu’s new rival, are the two most active characters. They have scores to settle. Shatrughan Tyagi (Vijay Varma) wants to erase his old self but like the character, the show doesn’t have a solid plan. Guddu’s father, Ramakant Pandit (Rajesh Tailang), has the most fulfilling arc of anyone in Mirzapur season 3 but he exists on the show’s fringes.

Mirzapur season 3 moves at a glacial pace

Unfortunately, the bigger issue for the third season—developed by Chaman Bahaar writer-director Apurva Dhar Badgaiyan and written by Badgaiyan, Avinash Singh Tomar (Ankahi Kahaniya), and Cubicles creators Avinash Singh and Vijay Narayan Verma—is that it’s severely bloated. Mirzapur proceeds at a glacial pace in season 3. Very little of consequence happens on an episode-to-episode basis. The episodes, at 50 minutes on average, are longer than necessary and there are too many of them. It takes four episodes for the new season to get going. And even by episode eight, you can tell that the events could’ve happened much quicker. Mirzapur season 3 has 10 episodes because that’s what the producers wanted, not what the writing called for.

With a combined runtime of 500 minutes, Mirzapur season 3 suffers from extreme levels of padding. Worse, it feels listless. Like it’s simply going through the motions—imitating what Mirzapur ought to be rather than having the courage to push the Prime Video series, or the genre, in new directions. In ways that would surprise or be unexpected. What we get, on the other hand, is an overlong mess.

Surrounded by chaos, chatter, and cluelessness

Picking up where it left off, Mirzapur season 3 begins with Madhuri (Talwar), the widowed Chief Minister, vowing revenge not just on Govind “Guddu” Pandit (Fazal) but the entire Mirzapur clan for the death of her husband, Munna Tripathi. Sharad (Shharma), who’s keeping the bedridden Akhandanand “Kaleen Bhaiya” Tripathi (Tripathi) in a safe house, lends his support to Madhuri for mutually beneficial reasons. The show adds a personal element to their dynamic as well. Madhuri senses that Sharad might know more than he’s letting on, but it doesn’t build to what you might expect. Sharad, who wants Guddu out of Mirzapur as much as anyone, is keeping his cards close to his chest with Kaleen Bhaiya as his hopeful ace up the sleeve.

Golu Mirzapur season 3
Shweta Tripathi Sharma as Gajgamini “Golu” Gupta in Mirzapur season 3 // Photo: Prime Video

Guddu may finally have the throne he coveted but he’s clueless and surrounded by problems. Publicly, he must deal with the challenge Sharad poses, who is openly attempting power grabs and trying to curry favour with the other Purvanchal gangsters. Privately, he’s being torn asunder by the interests of the women around him. Gajgamini “Golu” Gupta (Tripathi Sharma), his muscle and closest long-term advisor, preaches caution given the threats at their door. Beena (Dugal) helped overthrow her husband from power, but his death was never confirmed. She’s neither here nor there in Mirzapur season 3. Stuck under the thumb of a buffoon who doesn’t give in to her overtures, she propagates aggressive strategies to ensure her future—and that of her infant baby—is secured.

What do you do when you’ve lost it all?

Guddu’s grip on power is akin to grasping for straws. Until Kaleen Bhaiya’s body is paraded for all to see, no one’s going to take Guddu seriously. He can shatter Tripathi marble statues in the streets all he wants. It won’t get him any closer to making Mirzapur his own. Speaking of Kaleen Bhaiya, the famed godfather-level entity of Mirzapur is in an altogether different place at the start of season 3. When he wakes up, he realises he’s lost his son and his empire. He fed an underling who turned into a monster and ate him up. Now, at the bottom of the pit, what does the show want him to be? Will he accept his fate? Will he try and rise to his former glory? Or will he realise the inherent problems of the world he once ruled? Mirzapur season 3 suggests there is no way out.

It’s not just him who needs that lesson. Following his cop-killing actions in season 2, Ramakant (Tailang) surrenders himself to the police. He has no interest in fighting his case either—Guddu’s father has resigned himself to his fate. In the case of Ramakant, it’s the sins of the son being borne by the father. The virtuous lawyer has always tried to stay true, but he also couldn’t let his wayward son be killed by a cop. An extrajudicial killing has no place in his worldview. Through Ramakant in jail, Mirzapur season 3 offers the best attempt at meaningful commentary. Of a man whose values are eroded by what he sees around him, whose belief in doing the right thing is usurped by the struggle for survival that Mirzapur forces on its inhabitants.

Chhote Mirzapur season 3
Vijay Varma as Shatrughan “Chhote” Tyagi in Mirzapur season 3 // Photo: Prime Video

The character arcs of Mirzapur season 3 disappoint

Not everyone has Ramakant’s moralistic problems. The fickle-minded Shatrughan/“Chhote” (Varma) is passing as his more responsible dead twin Bharat/“Badde”. That means being a husband to Bharat’s wife, a father to her young daughter, and serving Golu’s head on a platter to his father to avenge the son he lost. Shatrughan would rather run away with Golu. Except he now knows exactly what she thinks of him—an immature boy she used to get what she needed. Stuck being the man everyone wants him to be and trying to be the man he wishes he could be, Shatrughan draws himself into a dark place. But it’s also an incomplete arc with Mirzapur season 3 leaving him hanging.

The character arcs are underwritten in general. Though Kaleen Bhaiya doesn’t have a significant presence in season 3, Mirzapur is determined to pull him to centre stage. In doing so, the show ends up with a soft reset of sorts. On some level, the Prime Video series is a love story between Golu and Guddu—but that gets lost amidst the noise. Without Golu around, an unhinged Guddu is too one-dimensional. An inherent recipe for disaster, sure, but Mirzapur season 3 pushes him in ways that he ends up at a point of no return. Sharad’s is maybe the most poetic and complete of any. Having chased the thing he has wanted for so long, he ends up with a short-lived pyrrhic victory.

Mirzapur season 3 is more than capable when it tries

Where it does better is with moments and scenes. On rare occasions, Mirzapur season 3—directed by the returning Gurmmeet Singh, and Anand Iyer (Love in the Time of Corona)—takes its time and offers a character-first approach. That goes for a scene with Golu and Chhote in episode 7. As well as for a scene with Sharad and Madhuri in episode 3. By way of the knowledge provided by a former mutual acquaintance, it’s able to settle into a less formal tone and make room for a bit of flirting amidst all the assassination talk surrounding Guddu.

Madhuri Yadav CM Mirzapur season 3
Isha Talwar as Madhuri Yadav in Mirzapur season 3 // Photo: Prime Video

Elsewhere, late in episode 4, Fazal gets to flex his (acting) muscles. He’s brilliant in how he engages you and pulls you into his circle. It’s a shame that he doesn’t get to do this often enough. I’m glad that Mirzapur season 3 tries to slow down and let the characters interact with one another. But these moments where it isn’t rushing things are few and far between.

In the violence department, Mirzapur is as graphic as ever. There’s a literal beheading in episode 1. Later in the season, it enters gratuitous territory as a central male character makes a woman watch as he beats another with a leather belt. At the same time, it feels like there is an attempt to eschew the gore and blood that has gripped and defined Mirzapur. In terms of action choreography, the gun-forward nature of the violence means that action usually ends very quickly. But a scene late in the season suggests that the Prime Video series is more than capable of delivering sans weapons. The rare fisticuffs exchange is a fun watch in a show that gives you very few of these moments. In fact, that’s the problem. Mirzapur season 3 is lacking in fun.

Mirzapur refuses to evolve in season 3

In the beginning, the show’s engine was powered by dark humour, oddball characters, and the quest for power. The first is gone. Mirzapur takes itself so seriously now that it’s lost sight of what made the violence appetising. Season 3 makes a mockery of the second. New colourful characters are introduced, expanded, and dispatched all in the same episode—Mirzapur can’t see the forest for the trees. We still have the third, but its pursuit feels hollow. Because it’s a macro show and the details don’t matter, the throne is ultimately meaningless. How does Guddu Pandit in place of Kaleen Bhaiya change the city or impact the people who work for them?

Guddu Mirzapur season 3
Ali Fazal as Govind “Guddu” Pandit in Mirzapur season 3 // Photo: Prime Video

It’s now a dark and unforgiving world for the sake of being a dark and unforgiving world. Plot twists are generated to serve the audience, not the narrative. Mirzapur grounds ambition into dust, eats morals for breakfast, and chews hope and spits it out. That pervasive thinking undercuts any desire for introspection. In season 3, the show doubles down on its classical gangster drama credentials, where power and survival are everything. Maybe that’s what Mirzapur feels about its existence as well. Maybe that’s why it refuses to evolve. Because, like its characters, it too is afraid of its place in the sun.

All 10 episodes of Mirzapur season 3 released on Friday, July 5 on Prime Video worldwide.

Akhil Arora

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