The Pink Panthers, if you didn’t already know, was the name given to a gang of jewel thieves in the early nineties. The group mainly consisted of Serbs and are responsible for some of the biggest heists in history. After the Balkan conflicts, Yugoslavia was hit with UN sanctions and many Serbs were forced into a life of crime in order to survive in a post-communist era. That’s when a man named Dragan Mikić lead a gang of young Serbs into small time crime. But before long, they branched out across Europe and were stealing diamonds from the biggest jewelers across the world. The Panthers are responsible for over $500 million in stolen jewelry and continue to operate even to this day.
Loosely based on the exploits of the world famous Pink Panther gang, The Last Panthers follow three main narratives:
Milan (Goran Bogdan) and his group are young Serbian criminals looking to follow in the footsteps of the original panthers. The series opens to the group breaking into a French jewelers in Marseille. With precision, elegance, and a little bit of luck, they come away with €15 million in unset diamonds. Unfortunately, in the getaway, one of the rookie members accidentally shoots a young girl, making the diamonds ‘too hot’ to sell. Traveling through the worn-torn Balkans, the group try their best to offload the diamonds to anyone who will take the risk.
The alternative narrative follows Khalil (Tahar Rahim), a French police officer in charge of bringing the jewel thieves to justice. He believes that using conventional tactics to find the criminals in Serbia is useless, rather he thinks that finding out who sold them the guns for the robbery will lead them straight to the perpetrators. In France, he uses his old criminal connections to find out who is smuggling guns into the country and how they are getting through undetected.
The last narrative follows Naomi (Samantha Morton) an insurance investigator from London on the trail for the diamonds. Her “interference”, as stated by Khalil during there first encounter at the jewelry crime scene, can be detrimental to the investigation. However, she has decided to use her own skills as a UN officer during the conflicts in Belgrade to her advantage. Her storyline focuses on digging through Milan’s past in order to find him in the present.
The split narrative is risky – especially when you’re dealing with multiple languages across many different countries. The drama runs the risk of alienating and confusing the audience when switching between these narratives. As well as this, you have to make sure a balance is achieved otherwise people will not enjoy 1/3rd of even 2/3rds of the programme. Jack Thorne (Writer of This Is England ’86, ’88, ’90) balances the appeal of each narrative well, even creating an war themed back story for Naomi (which the audience will identify as the weaker of the three narratives).
The Last Panthers is solemn and muted in tone – both aesthetically and stylistically. It reflects, to the truest form, the effects of the Yugoslavian break-up to present a drama that travels all across the affected European areas into the depths of the poorest, most crime-ridden areas. The drama presents a war – years before some viewers can even remember – that for the most part has ended. However, The Last Panthers uses these settings (refugee camps in Hungary, blown out houses in Serbia) to remind the viewer a war doesn’t end so neatly.
The Last Panthers is available on Sky Go.