“They just gave me a strange fact,” the screenwriter Álex Pina announces on the phone, who today premieres the fourth season of La casa de papel, that small series of Antena 3 that Netflix turned into one of the biggest television phenomena in the world. “The consumption of the first season of La casa has started to grow in India. When one is forced to stay at home, one seeks to entertain himself as he can. My mother is taking old photos of boxes. Others see fiction. “
Álex Pina (Pamplona, 52 years old) quarantines his home, like practically the entire population of Spain, like that of India, like 3,500 million people worldwide. It is a moment similar only to the works he has devised for television: “I have always done claustrophobic series because of the narrative possibilities it offers: people locked in a boat [El barco], in a jail [Vis a Vis], in a bank… Now it is the spectator who is locked up ”. Perhaps it is not the best time to release more chapters of La casa de papel, in which the cast cannot leave the Bank of Spain, immersed in a suffocating robbery. But Pina disagrees, with a characteristic clinical eye for extreme sensations. “Look, there’s a good feeling. We are going to open an oxygen window, we can change the gray and serious atmosphere. This season has the added value of offering something that part of the population asks for: entertainment ”.
Coronavirus aside, this fourth season occupies a strange place within the phenomenon that is La casa de papel. It is no longer the series that was already finished when it retreated on Netflix and began to devastate posthumously in one country after another of those who had access to it. Nor is it the first batch of new chapters to come out after becoming a hit: that litmus test passed last year. The current season has the thankless mission of deciding which series is going to be from now on, with the eyes of half the world watching. “The previous season we did it with so much fear,” acknowledges Pina. “We had become number one in Italy, in France, in Latin America, and in countries where it seems a miracle to succeed: Saudi Arabia, Turkey. We were scared. We were panicking at empty space. ‘I don’t know if this is good or not, but it shouldn’t be boring,’ we told ourselves. If the viewer was going to turn off the TV we wanted it to be out of tachycardia, not boredom. The norm was to put stimuli to the series like food to the geese. And we were so on that shuttle that we finally dropped two missiles. And I’m not telling you figuratively: in the final chapter we released two missiles with two bazookas. Now we have to tame this beast that we have created to tell something about the characters, who in that inertia had not been able to speak. We have had to reinforce them, rest the rhythm and learn to navigate this roller coaster: go up longer so that the descent is also longer ”.
That metaphor contains another deeper question: how long will the same spectator want to endure on the same roller coaster? Each new season is a challenge (“The fact that the series takes place during a closure limits the flow of new characters or plots,” regrets Pina), but at the same time, it is a corrosive that erodes the premise of the series. How many multi-million dollar heists will the same group of people accept in a relatively plausible world? “Many people ask us if we will not have to change third,” explains Pina. “But we had an approach, which was to take the x-ray of a robbery, seen from the point of view of specific characters. A robbery, the tension it generates, the human relations it forces, the police, intelligence as a solution to problems: this is the series. When we exhaust those possibilities we will have to leave. You have to tell what you have come to tell in the shortest possible way and go. Lengthening is the ugliest word that can be used with a series. “
The paper house has counted two robberies. The first, before Netflix, was going to be the only one to count. The second is the one you are solving now. The time is approaching to decide what happens next, a sentence almost as difficult as resuscitating an already finished series. On television, the person in charge of telling a story almost never controls it at all, rarely can decide when the end comes, the most important element. That depends on when the audience gets tired. “If you write a novel, you have an approach, they turn certain pages and you finish. The cinema is even stricter because you have 90 minutes: it is like a story, and I do not say it in a condescending way, say that it is a Raymond Carver story, “explains Pina.” But in the series you have your approach and you expose yourself to see them coming. You have no idea where you are going to have to go. You are naked. You are in creative weather. ” It is another type of confinement.