What is the story about?
On the verge of Himmat Singh's retirement, investigating officers D.K. Banerjee and Naresh Chaddha are saddled with vetting his name for recommendation for pension, with several letters of allegations against him. Banerjee and Chaddha summon Abbas Sheikh, who has served under Himmat, and ask him to narrate something that could boost Himmat's chances of getting pension post his retirement. Abbas then tells the story of how Himmat Singh's life progressed after the 2001 Parliament attacks, and how, even in his wait to catch Ikhlaq Khan, he participated in another mission that changed his professional and personal life for ever.
On its debut last year, Special Ops was widely touted to be Disney+ Hotstar's rejoinder to Amazon Prime Video's The Family Man. Creator Neeraj Pandey has gotten to a point in his directorial career where he can churn out terrorism and espionage action-thrillers almost at will, which places Special Ops 1.5 squarely in his comfort-zone. But reducing this prequel/spinoff to just another notch in Pandey's filmography would be to do it a grave injustice.
Pandey revels in creating a sense of urgency and pace which actually suits his espionage dramas. Himmat Singh is actually the anti-Srikant Tiwari, in the sense that Pandey portrays him as a spy who can balance his personal life with his professional life, in spite of the life-threatening qualities of his job. However, the first season of Special Ops never paid much attention to Himmat's personal life. The best thing about Special Ops 1.5 is how this season gives equal focus to Himmat's professional life and personal life. Through Abbas's testimony to Banerjee and Chaddha, Pandey, along with co-writers Deepak Kingrani and Benazir Ali Fida, unspools layers to the audience, slowly revealing various facets of Himmat Singh's life post-2001, his friendships with Abbas and Vijay, and how his wife Saroj entered his life. That the writers succeed in doing all of this while also charting Himmat and Vijay's mission to take down Maninder and a network of honeytraps is a feat in itself, and combined with Shivam Nair's deft direction, this makes for a real doozy. The best part of this season is that it wraps up in four episodes, and hence its pace never flags. Grab a chair and binge-watch this. An even better idea would be to binge-watch this after finishing Season 1, as a lot of references to the previous season come up in this short instalment.
Kay Kay Menon is the star looming over this entire season. Even when he's not in the frame, he is always present through Abbas's testimony, and Menon portrays the poker-faced Himmat very well, with a touch of vulnerability. Vinay Pathak holds this season together as Abbas, the unofficial sutradhaar of this season. Aftab Shivdasani is actually sharp and understated and makes an impression as Vijay, Himmat's colleague. Aadil Khan is menacing and unpredictable as the rogue agent Maninder. Gautami Kapoor is assured as Saroj, Himmat's wife, while Aishwarya Sushmita and Maria Riaboshapka excel as honeytrappers Karishma and Natasha. K.P. Mukherjee and Parmeet Sethi keep the banter flowing and the story moving as Banerjee and Chaddha.
Music & Other Departments
Abbas Ali Moghul's action sequences add zing to the proceedings. Advait Nemlekar's background score is rousing and effective. But the real show-stopper in the technical departments is Sandeep Sharad Devade's production design, with attention paid to various little details. For instance, there's a particular sequence in Dhaka where characters actually speak in Bengali with the distinct Bangal accent that is central to Bangladesh. With various sequences shot in several countries, including Sri Lanka, England and Ukraine, the show definitely has scale.
A power-packed screenplay
Focus on both Himmat Singh's personal and professional lives
Kay Kay Menon's performance as Himmat Singh
This is a brand-new season which serves as part-prequel and part-spinoff. Apart from Abbas, there's no mention of other characters from Season 1. Also, certain sequences from Episodes 2 and 3 could have been shorter.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
If you're a fan of Neeraj Pandey and Kay Kay Menon, the answer is a no-brainer. Go for it.