Ghoul season 1, episode 1 premiere recap: ‘Out of the Smokeless Fire’


Netflix miniseries Ghoul brings us a freaky blood ritual, a suspected terrorist safehouse and an enigmatic, creepy figure named Ali Saeed.

As Ghoul begins, we know something ominous is happening. Agents are swarming into a building, and a man with a faint, low, raspy voice informs the S.W.A.T team types, “Everyone is dead.” Sure enough, there are bodies all throughout the darkened building, and a man awaits.

The name “Ali  Saeed” comes up, and a man wants to speak to the Captain (Bajrangbali Singh). Approaching without much caution, the figure holds the captain up close, whispers something quietly in his ear…

One Month Ago

We are introduced to two characters: Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) and her father Shahnawaz (S. M. Zaheer). They are discussing what many paranoid folks discuss: There are terrorists are among us. Nida’s father does not like the paranoid age he is in, though, and how the government is increasingly cracking down on basic rights.

Sure enough, this is a very draconian, totalitarian and dystopian world where personal belongings are sacrilegious. Still, Shahnawaz feels compelled to ask: “What good can come of burning children’s books?”

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Like in Orwell’s “1984” and other freaky futures, people are taken in the middle of the night, “re-conditioned.”

Basically, it’s already a horror movie, even without any added horrors.
Still, Nida — optimistic to a fault — says “They only take away those who need re-conditioning.”

Then, as if on cue, the two approach a checkpoint, and Shahnawaz is accused of hiding something in the car.  However, Nida’s from the “protection squad,” so they’re let go.

Still, everywhere they go the message is clear: Anyone can be a terrorist, and report anyone suspicious.” Before very long, Shahnawaz is arrested, and it appears that Nida set him up. He is told that he has no rights. Despite Nida’s assurances of his being safe, they take him off to an uncertain fate.

Interrogation as a Way of Life

After obediently betraying her father, Nida goes to a secret facility called “Meghdoot 31,” and they welcome her as one of their own. Still, they question her loyalty due to her background. For example, she is asked if her religion will be a problem.

Nida is in fact an Interrogation Officer, and she’s advanced by displays of loyalty (such as turning in her own father). Still, she’s not given a chance to rest.

She is told that a mysterious leader named Ali Saeed (Mahesh Balraj) is to be interrogated. He is called the biggest threat to the government (though, in this context, we can certainly wonder if that’s such a bad thing).

In preparation for her big meeting, she is chastised for offering a detainee — or, actually, let’s just call him a prisoner — a blanket for warmth in his cold cell. Nida is warned that compassion is a sign of weakness.

A few more draconian lines are said: “No one is innocent here” and “We are only doing our duty,” among other telltale signs of an oppressive climate. Basically, the only bit of liberalism in “Ghoul” is that they can’t keep anyone in custody for more than 3 weeks.

We receive light introductions to Laxmi (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee), a prominent Interrogation Officer, and Colonel Sunil Dacunha (Manav Kaul). Still, other than Laxmi questioning the Colonel’s judgment in front of his team (while he’s not present), not much happens with them in the Ghoul premiere.

However, we do get to see Ali Saeed, who seems to tower above everything, and not just due to his height. It’s really a great depiction of a mysterious, charismatic leader. Before he showed up, prisoners were discussing his capture, calling it impossible…that is, impossible unless he actually wanted to be caught.

Ghoul season 1, episode 2 recap. dark. Next

This episode is part 1 of 3 episodes of Ghoul, and it does an excellent job of building tension even without being very action-packed. It has a steady horror vibe so far, without being overwhelming (at least not yet).

In fact, the totalitarian atmosphere carries the dread as well as any supernatural/horror could, and it really reminds us of a perilous future — or even a perilous present. We know that Ali Saeed represents something bad, as in a form of retribution. The only question is, what form will it ultimately take?

That’s it for this Ghoul recap. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!