Saif Ali Khan as a cop remains his tense and troubled self. It could be argued that the threat of nuclear attack can do that to the best of us. And despite the emergence of characters such as the Osho-like “guruji” (played splendidly by Pankaj Tripathi), it is gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who was seen putting a bullet in his own head last season, holding the audience’s attention even when we don’t see him. The spell holds even when it seems Gaitonde is but a soldier in someone else’s battle. New faces this season are Kalki Koechlin, who plays the guru’s first-in-command Batya Abelman, and the accomplished Amruta Subhash as Kusum Devi Yadav, an officer with India’s foreign intelligence agency (the Research and Analysis Wing).
The show is rife with conflict: the characters are fighting for a future they may not be a part of even as they battle their own personal demons. The convincing use of major turning points in India’s history, such as the Emergency, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the 1993 Mumbai blasts and even Partition, infuses a degree of reality to a show that could easily have gone on to be far-fetched. What makes Sacred Games so appealing in its second season is its commitment to show the best and worst of both the warring sides.
Not only does this season explore more Indian mythology than the first, there’s also more betrayal, more ambition, and more layers. It has its low moments for sure, like when you begin to link “the threat” to all the scares that mankind has faced in fictional worlds before, but it recovers from those pitfalls quite swiftly. There are also tongue-in-cheek one-liners and some silliness in the face of overwhelming death and catastrophe.
About 400 minutes long and divided into eight episodes, the show is perfect for a binge-watching marathon. And even if one doesn’t quite remember all the fine details from the previous season (trailers aren’t much help), it’s easy to catch up to this instalment. And instalment it is, for there is every indication that there will be a third season. Netflix knows what Sacred Games is: winner winner chicken dinner.