Kaleidoscope – Limited Series

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Created by Eric Garcia
Episodes: 8
Netflix
Release Date: 1st January 2023

You can’t really say anything about Eric Garcia’s eight-part heist thriller without mentioning its format and storytelling approach. It could never have been delivered this way on linear broadcast television, and it being a Netflix original and ready to stream for audiences in a single setting means that it can be viewed the way it was intended; seemingly any order at random. 

As concepts go it’s rather unique, especially for a series that is made up of episodes that tell one story across its eight episodes. This isn’t a procedural or a set of stand alone instalments which was previously the domain of television shows that allowed you to select any episode at order. 

Kaleidoscope tells the story of a vault heist and a high number of bearer bonds, a story that spans the course of twenty-five years, and despite having a plot made up of threads and strands that connect across that twenty-five year timeline, its promotion and minute long first episode explaining the concept lets it be clear that you can watch any of its colour-coded episodes in any order. The sole exception being the White episode as that’s been intended to be the finale.

Having said that, I rather thought the Pink episode could have functioned as the end of the show just as powerfully. In the timeline of the series, it’s the end of the story, but the White episode features scenes and explanations for elements that have been left hanging throughout the series, while also playing out the heist that the entire show pivots around.

With a cast including (amongst others) Giancarlo Esposito, Paz Vega, Tati Gabrielle, Jai Courtney and Rufus Sewell, not to mention Ridley Scott as an executive producer, the whole thing has a slick veneer to it, not to mention a whiff of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Trilogy. Being a heist thriller, there is a large amount of wit and wordplay amongst the characters, but refreshingly despite the high-end production values, Garcia and his writers aren’t afraid to portray the characters in complex and occasionally unsympathetic ways.

The slick production values and non-linear approach of its story gives Kaleidoscope a dose of innovation, but it’s also a story that hangs around one of the oldest ideas of all; no honour among thieves.

Decisions are made that paint this gang in a very dog-eat-dog manner and when notions of vengeance and revenge are inevitably raised in the Pink episode, the body count rises exponentially, blood is spilled and the lesson of the whole endeavour is that there is truly no honour amongst thieves. These aren’t the classy designer suit wearing heroes of Ocean’s Eleven. Instead, they are conning and playing the game to make ends meet and the prospect of a big score like this is enough for them to take the risk of jail time if it means earning billions.

If they can earn more by getting one over the rest then so be it. Mistakes are made, sometimes because greed gets in the way, and even life-altering injuries aren’t enough to elicit sympathy, especially when revenge becomes an animalistic gain as result and some of the more genuinely sympathetic characters get hurt or worse as a result.

A large majority of it is very entertaining and it draws you into its orbit quite irrevocably, but the question is left as to whether or not the series really needed such a non-linear high concept format with which to view it. Apparently there are over five thousand combinations with which to experience its twists and turns, although Netflix have programmed the series to be delivered to the audience in a way that seems to conform to some structural semblance, at least in the way that I watched it. 

There is nothing new here in terms of the storytelling itself, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. The whole notion of a slickly designed and impregnable vault, the real motivation being revenge and characters inevitably turning on each other has been done so many times, although thankfully this doesn’t attempt to pull the rug out from the audience too frequently. Sometimes what you see is what you get and the real surprises sometimes come from information that’s being withheld from the audience that isn’t revealed until a future episode.

It would have been so easy for it to use certain shocking moments as a vessel with which to deliver a twist that reveals that nothing is what it seems, but it brilliantly commits to some of the more brutal plot development. If the Pink episode is anything to by, it’s actually delivering a pretty grim and downbeat ending to the story as a whole, even if the so-called actual finale tries and find some sort of catharsis and closure for the whole thing. The series finds its power in the penultimate episode’s actual final confrontations and somewhat bitter closing moments for it lead character. In the end, it has the feeling of having been what the whole series was really building up to.

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