Mirzapur Season 3 Review: Ali Fazal Emerges as King, but at What Cost?


Last time we were in Mirzapur, Ali Fazal’s Guddu Pandit had conquered the Tripathis and was finally sitting on the throne he had coveted for long. He was now supposedly the new king of Mirzapur, or so he thought, like the rest of us. But just like the unexpected goons of the blood-spattered city, who could pounce on you from anywhere, a “baithak” — that’d be a group of all crimelords from different regions of Uttar Pradesh — pops into the picture. The crime convention has one agenda: to decide if Guddu deserves the title just yet, or if his contender, Shukla (Anjumm Sharma), would be a better successor (there’s still no news on Pankaj Tripathi’s Kaleen bhaiya, though).

As the storyline expands beyond the borders of Mirzapur to other cities like Prayagraj and Varanasi, the stakes get higher, competition intensifies, and the consequences get more violent. The prize, however, remains the same: Mirzapur. In the words of Shukla, “khel aj bhi wahi hai, bas mohre badal gaye hain” (it’s still the same game, only the pawns have changed). We still see a lot of guns and guts, exit wounds and shifting loyalties, and the singular madness of ambition and power taking over the ten episodes.

Overstuffed screenplay mars seasoned performances

Pankaj Tripathi’s Kaleen Bhaiya has taken a backseat in the third season

While the third season is a significant improvement over the sluggish second one, the original magnetism of the show is still only found in traces, often marred by overstretched and overburdened writing. The show continues to dwell on the mistakes it made in the previous season, with several sub-plots bloating the episodes. While they might eventually become necessary background for upcoming seasons, at present many of these don’t add much value to the storyline, except for an extended runtime for the ardent fans of the series to enjoy.

There is a particularly questionable scene in which Zaheera (Anangsha Biswas), the former Bhojpuri dancer-turned-politician, is out to promote a government scheme for women, but is met with outrageous demands from the lusting men who unabashedly demand a dance from her. Instead of taking action against this objectification, she throws in a raunchy performance in exchange for 100 women signing up for the scheme. Umm, what?

There is a sultry scene thrown in the season finale, too, which seems completely out of place and uncalled for. While Mirzapur has never shied from including bold scenes in the past, they would often add meat to the story, unlike this one.

Mirzapur’s characters are still its highlight

Shweta Tripathi Sharma story mirzapur

Shweta Tripathi has brilliantly essayed the role of Golu

Despite the stretched writing, there are a handful of sequences where the original essence of the show finds its way back, especially those with Guddu Bhaiya, leaving you craving more. In the second episode, when we see him burst into a maniacal laugh after killing someone, we are instantly transported back to the first season where the newly minted henchman first started enjoying the bloodshed.

Filling in the gap of his late brainy brother, Bablu Pandit (Vikrant Massey), is Golu (Shweta Tripathi), his sister-in-law. Once an idealistic college topper, Golu is now a dangerous tobacco-chewing thug, who is perpetually surrounded by a baton of armed loyal men. She imparts wisdom to the hotheaded Guddu, just like Bablu used to.

Other principal characters have also evolved. Shukla is more cautious of his moves than ever, Beena is back to her confident avatar, Dimpy (Harshita Gaur) has picked up on the assertiveness of her brothers, and the recently widowed Madhuri Devi (Isha Talwar) has vowed to put an end to this violence, once and for all, by uprooting the concept of “Mirzapur ki gaddi”.

However, the most drastic change comes in the arc of Pankaj Tripathi’s Kaleen Bhaiya, the mobster who started it all. From the ruthless gangster that we know, he has grown into a grieving father who seems to have given up on everything. His limited screen time creates a biting void that is likely to disappoint series loyalists.

Rasika Dugal story mirzapur

Rasika has a smaller but impactful screen time in third season

Adding to the disappointment, the makers seem to have undermined the audience’s intelligence, with over-descriptive and thrustingly dramatic dialogues. It’s funny how almost every character seems to be obsessed with describing their profession, again and again, just for good measure. Whether it is Lala going around in the loop that he is a businessman, with a small speech on the traits of a “vyapari” in tow, or an aspiring poet blurting out stuff like “how will a poet like me afford an advocate,” the characters are too keen on holding on to their monochrome identities.

However, one area where the show has managed to shine is its subtle shift in power from patriarchal figures to powerful women who are no less than their male counterparts. Whether it is Isha Talwar’s determined chief minister or Golu’s new avatar who barges into gangster’s dens, the show regularly hands agency to its women.

In one of the scenes where an aged minister snidely questions her ability as a chief minister, Isha’s character stays calm and politely gives a befitting reply, reassuring her well-earned position.

But I wish Rasika Duggal had been given more screen time, given the stellar performance she delivered earlier. In the limited scenes she has this time around, Duggal has yet again left a mark with a nuanced performance.

Ali Fazal is the star of the show

Ali Fazal story mirzapur

We get an intriguing peek inside Guddu’s psyche this time

Mirzapur offers plenty of satirical takes as well. We see a politician pronouncing “karuna” (compassion) as “corona” and then getting mad at the writer for giving him a complex speech written in a tone that no one uses in real life. We even hear conchs and temple bells ringing in the background, as people mercilessly prey on each other. The well-executed dark humour will leave you chuckling.

The show is also full of rich visual metaphors. At one point it cleverly slips in a small scene where we see Kaleen Bhaiya, who is now in a similar position as Guddu, taking support of a walking stick, just like the one that served Guddu Bhaiya throughout the previous season, signifying the shift in power dynamics.

This time, Mirzapur also finally taps into the reasons behind this violent thuggery taking over better parts of the country. This is done through Ramakant Pandit’s character, who now comes face to face with the harsh realities of relying on the broken system.

As he spends his days in prison and meets various “criminals,” the ground reality of law versus justice hits him hard. His realisations, though, feel ironic; as a practicing lawyer who deals with similar cases on a day-to-day basis, he should already be pretty much aware of the flaws plaguing the criminal justice system.

Although Pandit still stands by his morals and principles, he is now unsure of what justice might be. There is an interesting conversation between him and Guddu in the seventh episode where the father and son are seen questioning their ways of approaching life and seeking respite in each other’s way of going about it. The scene peeled back the layers to unearth something burried deep and it ended up staying with me long after the credits rolled.

Vijay Varma story mirzapur

Mystery behind whom out of the two twins played by Vijay Varma has survived ensues throughout the season

While all the actors seem to have done justice to their roles, despite a somewhat shaky screenplay, Ali Fazal particularly stands out. He has effortlessly gotten into the skin of a hunky goon, who doesn’t know better than to let emotions take hold of him. The way he swiftly swings between the two personalities, almost as if he has a controller for his brain, is impressive.

We even manage to get a sneak peek into his internal monologue, as he struggles to find his way into the murky world he has stepped into. There is a scene in the eighth episode where we see Guddu in horror at what he has done. Fazal has never been more in element. Although manslaughter has always been Guddu’s forte, this time he delivers the most gruesome act of them all and is instantly taken over by disbelief and crisis.

Isha Talwar story mirzapur

Isha’s character continues to be as assertive and determined as she was earlier

However, powerful performances and a loaded buildup notwithstanding, we are left hanging in the finale. We get a lot of shocking revelations, which leave room for a plethora of unanswered questions. All the threads are loose, with multiple doors open for the characters to conveniently spring their way back into future seasons. Clearly, the makers want to cash upon the immense popularity of the hinterland-based series and expand the franchise by dipping their toes into crime syndicates in other parts of Uttar Pradesh or even elsewhere. There is also a mid-credit scene where we see an unexpected conversation between two prominent characters, which might overturn the entire game in seasons to come. While there may be a lot on the makers’ minds for expansion, do we still need more?