Here is where the crime miniseries starts to sound better as a movie. It’s the third episode of six, firmly in rising action territory. Only what’s the action? Naomi investigates the Panthers’ diamond dealer in London but loses the scent, forcing Tom to back the airport. Khalil investigates Les Agnettes against orders, and makes the startling discovery that Roman’s dirty. And Milan sabotages a coup, leaving his brother at risk twice: Not only does Milan not get Zlatko’s promised (and, sure, probably fictional) payment for Adnan’s heart surgery, but now Zlatko’s men are actively trying to kill him to get back at Milan. The Last Panthers is a process drama; its power comes from its refusal to skip steps. But without greater context, “Chimaeras” is mostly just a plot download. We watch it so we’re caught up in time for the real drama.

Just because it’s not very illuminating doesn’t make the episode dull. At one point the Panthers meet up in Eben, Belgium, from where they launch the craziest prison break since Prison Break, landing a helicopter in the prison yard to “rescue” Dragan and distributing a bag of Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers to the inmates. If The Last Panthers weren’t so stone-faced it’d be a blockbuster moment. It’s hard to believe as it is, which is part of the point. This is a would-be revolution for the Panthers. Or rather, it’s a would-be coup d’état. Zlatko, a man so plainly idiotic that Milan’s younger brother with the damaged heart promises to walk it off if Milan will stay away from him, is finally taking over. This is how he consolidates power. He wants Milan to kill Dragan as a show of loyalty, which is itself plainly idiotic if we take him at his word: If Milan were to kill Dragan for Zlatko, it would be to get the money for Adnan’s heart surgery, not a show of loyalty to the new regime. Beyond that, Zlatko wants to get out of the arms business, a not at all rash plan he enacts by dodging calls from Les Agnettes’ honcho Manu (Patrick Azam) and eventually informing him outright that they’re through and that Rajko, the third of the original diamond thieves who got shot and dove into a trash can, means nothing to him. Talk about a show of loyalty.

“Nobody’s important to me,” Zlatko says. “Only actions are.” You can say that again. Dragan, the man he calls “Papa,” is past his sell-by date. Rajko, a man who helped procure the diamond payment for the airport contract, is dead weight. Adnan is leverage, and Milan’s just a good soldier. And he talks about loyalty.

The immediate contrast is with Milan, who refuses to turn against Dragan, leading to the other exciting action sequence of the episode, although this one sounds more exciting in print than it is on-screen: Milan holds Zlatko at gunpoint, forces Milomir to fork over the keys, and rides off with Dragan as Milomir shoots after them. The episode ends with Milan warning his brother that the Panthers are after him, but on the question of whether he can get out in time, it leaves us hanging. Considering all Milan has already done for his brother’s heart surgery—the diamond heist, killing his comrades, orchestrating the airport deal—I’m not sure “Chimaeras” sells his actions here. It certainly doesn’t milk the drama of Milan having to choose between his brother and his “father.” It doesn’t play any skepticism about whether Zlatko would actually pay this time. It doesn’t play any turmoil over what happens next, for instance, whether Dragan has any allies left in the Panthers or how in the hell Milan plans to get the surgery money now. Because Milan has to pretend to be in on Zlatko’s plan, he doesn’t play any struggle over killing Dragan. And once he turns on Zlatko, he doesn’t even consider killing him or Milomir. It’s all very procedural. The big climax of the episode doesn’t tell us much about why things happen. It simply tells us that they happen.

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But the loyalty question shadows every other subplot. For Naomi’s surveillance of the Panther’s diamond dealer in London, Sol Meyer (Michael Fitzgerald), Tom has assigned her a bug expert, Michael Farnborough (Joseph Mawle). And Michael happens to be Naomi’s ex-husband. When he approaches her for a drink after a bad day on the case, she succinctly dresses him down and tells him to go home to his new family. The main idea at the start of the series is that Naomi and Tom are compelled by financial interests while Milan and Khalil have family ties and basic survival concerns, but next to Tom and now Michael, Naomi is starting to reveal a greater capacity for connection and maybe loyalty than we’ve seen. She doesn’t give Milan’s name to Interpol, and now she’s contrasted with Michael. She has an active conscience, after all, even if she thinks nothing of calling in a bomb threat to help her surveil Sol.

Tom’s the one Michael embarrasses, not Naomi. His explanation for assigning Michael to Naomi’s case is, “Better the devil you know,” and he says it all rascally. Ain’t he a stinker? Yes, yes, he is. He treats Naomi’s life like a game of pranks, and this just further underscores his smiling amorality. What’s been subtext from the start becomes text in “Chimaeras,” when the Belgrade airport overseer stands up to Tom. “You’re a sweaty leech from a country of sweaty leeches. You fucked over Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain. They get nothing left. And now you’re coming east for blood.” True, Tom in particular is a sweaty leech, but the bigger idea in The Last Panthers is that the rich are exploiters who approach as friends. Tom doesn’t produce; he works in insurance. The Serbs at least work in the physical world. Milan’s life is on the line as he runs around Europe. Tom’s life is a succession of meetings. The irony is Tom is actually trying to help, and the airport is a mob slosh pit that may or may not even come to fruition. The Serb has no choice, though. The diamonds are safely being distributed, so he can’t fire Zlatko now, and that frees him up to remain absolute against Tom. It’s a beautiful scene, the wide shot revealing a tangle of wintry trees out the window behind Tom and a liberating clarity behind the airport overseer. Tom backs out, but when the diamond trail goes cold, he has no choice but to throw his lot in with the airport. But there’s an important point here: This is Tom’s decision. He could still reject the airport and face the consequences at work, but here he succumbs to the same forces that compel Naomi to stick with the diamond case.

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As flashbacks continue to underline, Khalil stands somewhere between Milan and Naomi on the spectrum, motivated by family ties while it also happens to be his job to fight crime. As kids, he and Mokhtar go out one night on a Les Agnettes assignment with a friend named Halil who abandons them. Later a long pan up a black stream on the street finds Halil lying dead in a puddle of his own blood. That’s the threat hanging over Mokhtar, a formative moment probably. But Khalil got out, and now he’s worried about his brother’s involvement in Les Agnettes. He warns Mokhtar that he’s found their new place, and he wants to know where Rajko is. Mokhtar doesn’t tell. In another show this might be Rajko’s story, but “Chimaeras” treats him like a pawn. He’s Khalil’s Macguffin and Mokhtar’s show of loyalty to Les Agnettes. Zlatko cuts him loose. What’s Manu to do with his Serbian hostage? He stages a police shooting with his pal, Roman. Milan doesn’t witness that part, but thanks to his mercenary surveillance, he sees enough to know Roman is dirty and his brother is in too deep. To protect the latter he snitches on the former to their higher-ups, which sounds to me like kicking the hornet’s nest rather than torching it. After all, Zlatko’s punished for his disloyalty in “Chimaeras,” but he’s hardly down and out.

Stray observations

  • “Chimaeras” is written by Jack Thorne and directed by Johan Renck.
  • Add a pin in the map to Eben, Belgium, just a short helicopter ride to prison!
  • Guillaume is a pro: “Yeah, so I’ve got something for you from your family in Serbia…When would be a good time to deliver it?”

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