Special Ops is an espionage thriller that chronicles the 19-year manhunt conducted by Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officer Himmat Singh and his task force to capture the mastermind behind major terror attacks in India.
Creator: Neeraj Pandey
Directors: Neeraj Pandey, Shivam Nair
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Vinay Pathak, Karan Tacker, Sajjad Delafrooz, Divya Dutta, Muzzamil Ibrahim, Meher Vij, Saiyami Kher, Parmeet Sethi
Streaming on: Hotstar
Too many plots spoil the drama
The series begins with an internal audit at RAW set in the present day. Officer Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon) is being questioned over irregularities in his department’s accounts. From that moment, a flashback shows the scene of the 2001 Indian parliament attack. After conducting his investigation, Singh concludes that though five terrorists were gunned down, there was a sixth man, who masterminded the entire operation. Aided by cop Abbas Sheikh (Vinay Pathak), he manages to stumble upon the mastermind’s identity. And from there begins a cat and mouse game, which plays out over 19 years, between Singh and Ikhlaq Khan, the Keyser Soze of the series.
The story moves jarringly between past and present. Singh has five intelligence agents spread across the Middle East to keep tabs on Khan and his associates. Farooq Ali (Karan Tacker) emerges as the only agent worth a mention as he goes undercover to entrench himself into Khan’s inner circle comprising Ismail Hassan (Rajat Kaul) and Hafiz Ali (Sajjad Delafrooz). The other agents are merely lip service; their presence does nothing to advance the story. Instead, they are saddled with superfluous side narratives. That’s the primary problem with Special Ops. Instead of telling a complex story well, the thriller, which brims with potential but never quite reaches it, is a narrative mishmash full of half-baked romances, the overprotective father trope involing Singh and his daughter Pari (Revati Pillai), Singh’s distracting domestic life and a corrupt minister out for revenge among other uninteresting side plots.
You don’t have to be a RAW agent to guess the end
As the story plods towards its predictable end, the writers throw in a few twists. However, the series, which is hampered by a lack of ingenious writing, never really manages to captivate your attention and imagination. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess the big reveal (the identity of Ikhlaq Khan) and other denouements. Kay Kay Menon, who deserves a better script and stronger role, infuses Singh with a likeable earnestness and gravitas. The same goes for Vinay Pathak and Divya Dutta, who do the best they can in weak roles. Special Ops takes so long to set up the chessboard pieces that by the time ‘checkmate’ occurs, you’ve lost interest in the game.
Kay Kay Menon is the only good thing in this spy thriller that never really captures your attention.