Mirzapur 3 Review: History Repeats Itself in this Addictive Gangster Franchise

The third season of this popular series, starring Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal and Rasika Dugal, is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Mirzapur 3 Review: History Repeats Itself in this Addictive Gangster Franchise
Mirzapur 3 Review: History Repeats Itself in this Addictive Gangster Franchise

Directors: Gurmmeet Singh, Anand Iyer
Writers: Apurva Dhar Badgaiyan, Avinash Singh Tomar, Avinash Singh, Vijay Verma

Cast: Ali Fazal, Shweta Tripathi Sharma, Pankaj Tripathi, Rasika Dugal, Isha Talwar, Anjumm Sharma, Vijay Varma, Priyanshu Painyuli, Rajesh Tailang

Episodes: 10

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

You’ve heard of filler episodes. You know, the kind where there’s no narrative motion, no real character development, a lot of flavour, a few conversations, and a whole bunch of things happening without any consequences. Some of these episodes serve as connective tissues between the more dramatic beats. But some just allow the viewers to spend time with the world. I like filler episodes, because life itself is composed of such moments. The long-awaited Mirzapur 3, though, is a filler season. So much happens across 10 episodes that nothing actually happens. The show unfolds like an extensive post-credits sequence. The characters – no major new entrants – don’t move the needle too much: Munna Tripathi is still dead, fallen ‘King of Mirzapur’ Kaleen Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) is still recovering, new king Guddu Pandit (Ali Fazal) is still struggling to contain his bloodlust, the women still quietly pull the strings, and a political game of thrones is still being played. 

A Crowded House

The tempo is deliberate. Early on, Golu (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), the brains of the new leadership, restrains brawny partner Guddu with a key piece of advice: “This is the time for consolidation, not violence.” Season 3 takes her words to heart, consolidating the innings after two seasons of rabid powerplay. In terms of what Mirzapur represents, this is not a bad thing. There are several parallel threads: The rise of Jaunpur heir Sharad Shukla (Anjumm Sharma); an alliance between him and bereaved Chief Minister Madhuri Yadav (Isha Talwar) against Guddu; an alliance between Sharad and an ailing Kaleen Bhaiya; the tension between Guddu and other crime bosses for the Purvanchal seat; the prison stint and courtroom drama of Guddu’s father Ramakant Pandit (Rajesh Tailang); Shatrughan Tyagi (Vijay Varma) secretly leading the life of his dead older twin Sharad; a ‘widowed’ Beena Tripathi’s (Rasika Dugal) cunning; orphan Robin’s (Priyanshu Painyuli) integration into Guddu’s broken family; a queer Muslim poet becoming a crowd favourite in jail. I’m sure I’m missing some tracks. There’s the usual wheeling and dealing, killing and kidnapping, sex and gore. 

But the broader idea is that regardless of how crowded the series gets – that no matter how much it tries to expand its lawless universe – there’s no escaping the original feud and cycle of violence. Eventually, Mirzapur itself is the protagonist: The classic underdog looking for a way back. The series keeps darting to different corners of Uttar Pradesh, even reaching Nepal, almost in defiance of the native template. It acts like it’s moved on from primary characters like Kaleen Bhaiya and Guddu and Golu, only to be yanked back ‘home’ in the end. In a way, it’s moving to see the old gang fight for relevance in an environment that threatens to swallow their screen-time. They struggle to control the series, and that’s part of the trick. The battle for the narrative throne echoes the battle for the regional throne.  

Mirzapur 3 on Amazon Prime Video
Mirzapur 3 on Amazon Prime Video

Endless Loop of Stories

The problem with this tone, however, is the sheer volume of its storytelling. It makes for an exhausting viewing experience. I have no other way to put it: There’s just so much Mirzapur. One can tell that each track is individually and carefully constructed. Like, for instance, the moral devolution of Guddu’s father, an honest lawyer who slowly loses trust in his own principles. Or the simmering trauma bond between Guddu and Gollu, survivors from separate love stories. Or the subdued Chief Minister, who always shares a joint with her ally as a symbol of solidarity (when she exhales, she resembles a silent dragon breathing fire). Or even the conflict of the younger twin, who goes from pretending to be his brother to becoming him for the sake of his surroundings. In isolation, most of these arcs are compelling enough to have their own shows. But when they’re thrown together, the result is a spiceless dish that hopes to taste good because the ingredients are right. There’s no sense of big-picture pace and rhythm – some tracks disappear for entire episodes, while others focus so much on the staging of a scene that the broader purpose is forgotten by the time it closes. 

Instead of looking like a series where separate characters are jostling for space, it looks like a show where separate movies keep colliding with each other. It brings to mind the density issues of Anurag Kashyap films — there’s so much information and fabric to pack in that the exposition itself is forced to do more. There are a few trademark Mirzapur themes: Sex scenes doubling up as parables of power (the woman on top, or a man striving to ‘look after’ his wife instead of the other way around), the agency of language (the Urdu spoken by Muslim characters is so elaborate that it’s funny), the gleefully gratuitous violence, the shock-value deaths, and the neat transitions (a lawyer advising his fellow inmates in jail cuts to his daughter tutoring children at home). But the multiple script rewrites are apparent in how most sequences and characters can be placed anywhere without affecting the overall flow. I can’t even call it disjointed; it’s more like disruptive, except the agenda it disrupts is its own. Not to mention the fact that there’s no standout set piece, no definitive twist and very little element of surprise. It’s like watching a functional team prod along without any spurts of individual brilliance. 

Mirzapur 3 on Amazon Prime Video
Mirzapur 3 on Amazon Prime Video

History Repeats Itself

Most of the supporting performances aren’t allowed to gather momentum. Ali Fazal plays Guddu as an unhinged anti-hero; he is visibly tapped to fill Mirzapur’s Munna-sized void. His brooding gait from Season 2 makes way for a more mainstream masculinity and madness – he has the kitchen-sink acting moments here, but Guddu himself is reduced to a one-note psychopath. It does help that Guddu is competing for the limelight like the rest; this gives context to Fazal’s aggressive meltdowns, like he’s forcing the camera with a roving eye to stay on him. A late incident features him exploding and gouging a man’s eyes out; every other actor in this scene looks genuinely startled by Fazal’s rage. But he often goes on a tangent like he’s in a totally different show.  

I also like Shweta Tripathi Sharma’s reading of Golu, a former lover who seeks refuge from her grief in the power-grabbing landscape that crippled her. She doesn’t play Golu like a man, but more like a person who feels betrayed by her womanhood. Of the others, there’s something unnerving about the blankness with which Isha Talwar portrays CM Madhuri Yadav – it feels like a performance within a performance, which kind of humanizes the convoluted political doings of this distinctly apolitical show. Vijay Varma turns the predictability of his role (as the surviving twin) into a slow-burning psychological thriller. I only wish he had a more coherent storyline (or story-circle, in this case) to work with. 

One could argue that a filler season is inevitable. Because the USP of this hinterland succession franchise is exactly that: The endless war for continuity. The lows are part of the highs. Mirzapur 3 doesn’t succumb to fan service and showboating, and for that, it deserves credit. But the lack of spark and direction can’t always be justified by design, especially if it takes nearly four years to drop a new season. An abundance of time tends to complicate the simple motive of entertainment. Which is to say: The series is progressing because it must, not because it can. The way forward now is the way back, a notion that sounds more romantic than it looks. I can imagine the next season returning to the drawing board. Only, the canvas is ripe for overwriting and not writing. Everything that could be done has been done. Now it’s just a matter of history repeating – and revising – itself. 

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