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Series / Betaal

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Betaal is an Indian horror series by Blumhouse Productions.

The series is written and directed by Patrick Graham and co-directed by Nikhil Mahajan. Produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, the web series stars Vineet Kumar Singh and Aahana Kumra in significant roles. Betaal is released on Netflix, making it the second collaboration between the production house and Netflix.

The plot based in a remote village in India that serves as the battleground between East India Company Army officer Lt. Colonel John Lynedoch, his battalion of zombie redcoats from the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and the fictional CIPD force.

The series provides examples of:

  • Armies Are Evil: While the undead British colonialists are a pretty straightforward example, Vikram's loyalty to his squad and the atrocities they are ordered to commit are a big part of his character development.
  • Asshole Victim: Mudhalvan. His selfishness and willingness to do whatever it takes to get money or power, and later his mistreatment of his daughter, doesn't make him very likeable. Even at the end when he's trapped in a cage with an explosive, he begs her not to activate the detonator she had on her.
  • Ate His Gun: At least two of the soldiers do this, one to avoid being Eaten Alive, and another after a My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • Big Bad: Colonel Lynedoch
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though there are 3 survivors, when they turn on the radio, and later watch a live newscast, it turns out there are zombies all over the country. May be a borderline Downer Ending considering how many calls for help they hear on the radio, indicating many places being attacked at the same time.
  • Blind Obedience: Vikrams biggest flaw
  • Bottomless Magazines: The shots fired by the soldiers fires off many more rounds than they could realistically hold.
  • Break the Cutie: Saanvi has to see her mother die, witnesses a regional Zombie Apocalypse, is sold out to the leader of the zombies by her own father, finds out about her fathers other evil deeds and is then betrayed by the one surviving soldier she came to trust because he becomes posessed by the Big Bad. Eventually, she can stop him from killing her and frees him from Lynedoch's influence, only to be forced to blow him up together with the undead. Then it turns out that this was the trigger for a country wide Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Cassandra Truth: The Adivasi villagers have warned the other characters about the undead threat, but nobody believed them, which lead to the unleashing of the Sealed Evil in a Can. Later, Vikram finds out what's going on, but the rest of the squad refuses to believe him and Puniya until Haq is revealed to be undead.
  • Children Are Innocent: Saanvi and the girl from Vikrams flashback
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Saanvi's father, Mudhalvan, who orders some soldiers to forcefully move some resistant villagers out of the way in order to build a highway through their village. He later makes a deal with Lynedoch, talking about how he had to claw his way up the ranks by any means necessary, and is more than willing to give his daughter to be sacrificed in exchange for power.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Puniya, thanks to the traditions followed by her people, know how to keep the zombies at bay, and handily carry around a lot of ash/tumeric which works until it starts to rain. She even impaled Saanvi's mother with some metal spikes they found in the armory to either pin her down, or at least slow her movements due to the heavy weight.
  • Creepy Child: Lynedoch's Drummer Boy, who continues his duties of rallying his fellow zombified soldiers into battle even after his undeath. Throughout the series, his drumming serves as a foreboding warning of the undead's presence to the remnants of Baaz squad and the other survivors. Even getting shot by a Baaz squad member does little to deter him from playing his drums.
  • The Dead Have Eyes: Most of them have glowing red eyes
  • Deal with the Devil: The source of Lynedoch's powers. Mudhalvan later makes a deal with Lynedoch but is put into a cage when he fails to deliver his part of the deal.
  • Demonic Possession: Betaal does this to Lynedoch, and Lynedoch in turn does it to Tyagi and later Vikram
  • Devoured by the Horde: Vikram's fate. Several workers and later soldiers also suffer this fate when they're quickly overwhelmed.
  • Dirty Communists: In a particularly Indian variation, the villagers are often claimed to be Naxalites, which includes any political organization that claims the legacy of the Communist Party of India. In reality, the villagers in the series are mostly just people trying to live their life, but the Baaz squad kills them because their villages happen to be in the way of building projects or because they try to prevent Mudhalvan's company from freeing the Sealed Evil in a Can. They are only labeled Naxalites to justify the killings.
  • Dwindling Party: By the end there are only 3 survivors, one of the soldiers, Puniya, and Saanvi.
  • Elite Zombie: Colonel Lynedoch is one of the Smart Zombie variant
  • Ethnic Magician: The Adivasi villagers are the only ones knowing about the zombies sealed inside the tunnel, but nobody believes them until it is too late. They also know how to combat the dark powers. For example, Puniya creates a magic barrier from ashes, turmeric, and salt.
  • Evil Brit: Colonel John Lynedoch
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Mudhalvan tries to make a deal with Lynedoch, but after he fails to deliver Saanvi to the Colonel, he is put in a cage and later dies in the explosion caused by Vikram
  • Eye Scream: Lynedoch gets stabbed in the eye with Vikram's combat knife when he breaks free of the former's brainwashing.
  • Ghost Ship: After Betaals shrine is destroyed, his power is set free and causes undead attacks all over India. This includes an armada of British colonial Ghost Ships attacking Mumbai.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Undeath: The most defining feature of the undead.
  • Hive Mind: The undead Brits have some sort of hive mind, with everybody who becomes a zombie immediately assimilated into it.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: After Lynedoch brainwashes Vikram, Saanvi pleads to not follow through with the former's plan to kill her. He's very conflicted during this, deciding whether to follow orders, or do the right thing. He eventually uses the knife in his hand to stab Lynedoch in the eye.
  • Just Following Orders: Vikram just wants to be a good soldier, so he blindly follows Tyagi's orders even if it means killing an innocent child or does he?. He eventually breaks free from this mindset
  • Kick the Dog: Mudhalvan slapping and hitting his daughter repeatedly when she tries to call him out on his setting off a bomb to trick the soldiers into killing the innocent villagers. He becomes an Asshole Victim after this moment.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the surefire ways to kill the zombies off is to light them on fire. As a bonus, since they're they have a Psychic Link, the other zombies can also feel the pain.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Tyagis reason for ordering Vikram to kill the young girl.
  • Locked into Strangeness: After falling under the control of Lynedoch, Tyagi's hair turns white.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: See Just Following Orders
  • Nazi Zombies: In an interesting subversion, we have British Colonialist zombies.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the end, Saanvi succeeds in destroying Betaal's shrine and thus defeating Lynedoch. But shortly after, she reads that the shrine should never be destroyed because that would set Betaal free. Cue GhostShips with British flags appearing at the coast of Mumbai.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: The British soldiers
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: None of the characters ever call the zombies by that name. At best they're considered demons.
  • Psychic Link: See Hive Mind
  • Shout-Out: The Counter Insurgency Police Department are an obvious homage to both the United States Colonial Marines from the movie Aliens, as well as the Special Tactics and Rescue Service from the Resident Evil Game, down to everything from being a tough corporate backed paramilitary group that's ill prepared against non human threats, to having tough women and a company man in their group, specific references to Aliens include the presence of Saanvi and her father being reminiscent of Newt and Carter Burke, while the Mansion and Zombies (and the CIPD being militarised police rather than military pe se) being specific to Resident Evil, Vikram can be seen as a subversive parody of the Dwayne Hicks/Chris Redfield style of character.
  • The Raj: The backstory of the villain. During British colonial times, the powerhungry British East India Company Lieutenant Colonel John Lynedoch used black magic to turn himself and his army into immortal undead in the hopes to become emperor of India, only to be sealed into the tunnel by Indian fighters. 150 years later, the tunnel is opened, which sets the plot in motion.
  • Redemption Equals Death: When Vikram finally faces his guilt about killing innocent people for the sake of being a good soldier, especially one girl, he finally gets the strength to shake of Lynedochs influence. Shortly after, the is Devoured by the Horde and then blown up together with the undead army.
  • The Renfield: Tyagi is this to Lynedoch. Vikram takes her place later
  • The Reveal: Vikram has several moments of a flashback showing him encountering a little girl. He's clearly troubled by it, and more information is revealed with each moment. At first he's ordered to kill her as she's a witness to the massacre, but seems to have doubts about this. He then tells the girl to run off so that she's not around when a cleanup crew arrives later, then reveals that he did end up killing her, shooting her in the back after giving her a Hope Spot by telling her to run away instead of killing her initially. Though he was just following orders, this decision still weighed heavily on him.
  • Revenant Zombie: Colonel Lynedoch fits the trope. Some others like Haq don't seem to be aware of their previous life, but are intelligent enough to pretend to be.
  • Tempting Fate: Puniya says that the burning idol and the barrier of tumeric she placed around the building would keep them safe from the zombies. She's right, as it does initially keep the zombies at bay. Unfortunately the monsoon rains start pouring shortly afterwards, putting the fire out and causing the barrier to disappear.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: The Colonel needs a sacrifice, preferably female and before her first period. Saanvi is the only one around who fits the bill.
  • Would Hurt a Child: An important theme:
    • Prior to the events of the series, the Baaz Squad got the order to kill a group of rebels who turn out to be just some villagers. Vikram has a particular memory of a young girl whom he is ordered to kill by Tyagi which he actually did.
    • Mudhalvan would sacrifice his own daughter to get a part of Lynedochs powers
    • Lynedoch once sacrificed his own son to get Betaal's powers. Now he needs a prepubertal girl to expand those powers even more.
  • Zerg Rush: One of the tactics used by the zombies, though some of them are also capable of long range combat with muskets.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Lynedoch plans to become more powerful and overrun all of India.
  • Zombie Infectee: Everybody who was wounded or dies from the zombie bites could be assimilated into Lynedoch's army. Even Saanvi's mother, who was killed by a musket ball fired by one of the zombies, ends up turning later.