Aarya Aakhri Vaar should have been slicker and more polished than the first, or at least ended with a louder bang, observes Deepa Gahlot.
The first season of Aarya, adapted from the successful Dutch series Penoza, had a lot going for it.
Adapted for India by Ram Madhvani, with Sushmita Sen making her OTT debut, set amidst gorgeous Rajasthani landscapes and havelis with a fine supporting cast, it collected a few awards too.
Sushmita Sen, as Aarya Sareen, wife of Tej Sareen (Chandrachur Singh) and mother of three, has no idea that her husband's pharma company is part of a drug cartel.
When he plans to leave it, he is shot outside his home, with the youngest child, Aditya as witness, and traumatised by the experience.
Members of the family, rivals, henchmen and a tenacious cop, Younus Khan (Vikas Kumar) were introduced.
By the end of the season, with a whole lot of treachery endured, Aarya and her kids relocate to New Zealand, presumably safe from the criminal gangs running wild in the desert.
In the second season, she was forced to return to testify in court against her father and brother. Circumstances made her stay back and join the narcotics trade supposedly to protect her children.
More double cross, murder, family plots, kids' tantrums and Aarya has her hands full of melodrama and multi-pronged wickedness. That visual at the end, of her smoking a cigar with red gulaal on her face remained in the mind.
If a viewer has not caught the first two seasons and part one of the third season, then Aarya Aakhri Vaar can be confusing.
Who killed whom and why, who is seeking revenge for what, why are Aarya's kids such spoilt, self-centered brats -- except the youngest (Pratyaksh Panwar), the other two, Veer (Viren Vazirani) and Aru (Arushi Bajaj) really have no reason to be so badly behaved.
Aru even imagines herself a poet and her silly poem about sacrifice is often recited in the background, when the soundtrack is not going overboard with chants and mantras, as if this were a mythological instead of a show with not very likeable characters going about shooting one another.
Veer behaves like Majnu over his mother's cohort Roop (Shweta Pasricha), who suffers for no fault of her own.
A Rs 1,000-crore consignment of drugs is caught by Khan, and the Russians, who had paid for it, are furious.
Aarya now has Khan, her kids' tantrums, a Child Welfare Officer (in India, which rich kid is taken away to put into a shelter?) grilling Aditya, the menacing drug don Nalini Sahiba (Ila Arun vamping it up), her loony, trigger-happy son Abhimanyu (Shashwat Seth) and Sooraj (Indraneil Sengupta) seeking revenge for is wife's murder in the last season.
So she is seen marching up and down, dressed in curiously drab outfits, looking harried, shouting orders at the 'wafaadar' Sampat (Vishwajeet Pradhan), her pet cop Susheela (Geetanjali Kulkarni) and later Daulat (Sikandar Kher) who has been released from jail for killing Tej.
Once in a while, she goes on a shoot-out rampage herself, and plots to retrieve the lost consignment.
She keeps reiterating that all this is to protect her kids but they turn around and bite her ankles!
For some time, this fuss and bother about the Rs 1,000-crore drugs, watching Khan's exasperation, and all the convoluted family drama spilling over from the last seasons is entertaining because it moves fast enough to prevent boredom.
Then the subplots get out of hand, everybody acts overwrought, Veer and Aru's (why didn't anyone give her a comb or hair tie!) romantic dramas get hysterical, the Russians get mad, the cool Nigerians enter the territory and Sampat is quite rightly pissed off!
Since the season opened with a glimpse of the scene it also closes with, there may be no chance of a Season 4.
But the drug-dealing shenanigans (writers Khushboo Raj and Amit Raj) grate by the time the eighth episode draws to a close with a 'collect all the still alive characters in one place' blow out.
The location is still the star of the show, alongside Sushmita Sen, who looks quite detached this season.
Also, it is difficult to root for a character who is just as evil as her supposed enemies.
Some of the action sequences are well done but with three directors -- Ram Madhvani, Kapil Sharma, Shraddha Pasi Jairath -- on board, Aarya Aakhri Vaar should have been slicker and more polished than the first, or at least ended with a louder bang.
Aarya Aakhri Vaar streams on Disney+Hotstar.