Adapted from the bestselling novel by Gregory David Roberts, Apple TV’s Shantaram sees Charlie Hunnam star as escaped convict Dale, who travels to Bombay with a fresh identity and fake passport to make a new life for himself. Moments after arriving, he falls in with a crowd of ne’er-do-wells and, through a combination of bad luck and circumstance, finds himself in a tight situation and unable to go to the authorities for help. Despite the intriguing premise, however, there’s little excitement to be found in the sluggish opening episodes.
After a brisk prison break sequence in the first instalment, the script slows things down to a crawl as Lin steps off the plane and into the bustling Bombay streets. He is struggling to come to terms with his past actions and is on a quest for redemption. Viewers are informed about his history through a handful of interspersed flashbacks that ask if redemption is even possible for a man like this. But, rather than exploring these questions, the early part of the series is more preoccupied with establishing the setting than setting up the plot. This wouldn’t be a problem if the places and characters in them had some substance, however, the slum Lin soon finds himself in and its residents are devoid of personality, there to serve purely as set dressing than as characters.
Lin is likewise as bland as a protagonist can be. While Hunnam’s cheeky smile attempts to bestow a level of relatability to the fugitive, there’s nothing going on below the surface (at least at this point in the narrative) that makes him an interesting character. The inclusion of an internal monologue only reinforces how clichéd the writing is, with some moments verging on soap opera levels of awful.
It’s only in the third episode that some major events and snippets of emerging subplots hint at grander things to come. However, if the quality of writing so far is an indicator of future episodes, this Apple series is nothing to get excited about.
Shantaram is released on Apple TV+ on 14th October 2022.
Watch the trailer for Shantaram here: