Aarya, the Hindi adaptation of the Dutch show Penoza, was premiered on Disney+ Hotstar in 2020. Four years later, the third season follows Aarya Sareen (Sushmita Sen) to a bloody outcome.

Aarya is a homemaker who entered the drug trade after her husband’s murder in order to protect her three children. With the final four episodes of the third season now available, series creator Ram Madhvani appears to be rounding off Aarya’s journey with the drug cartels of Rajasthan, where guns speak louder than words.

Season three has new writers (Amit Raj, Khushboo Raj with Anu Singh Choudhary) and additional directors. Kapil Sharma and Shraddha Pasi Jairath join Madhvani at the helm.

The change in crew is evident in the tonal shifts in performance and the slightly chaotic narrative. However, Aarya remains steadfast and increasingly at ease in the violent and wild world of narcotics, while maintaining her stand of being a “working mother”.

From the start of season 2 into season 3, Aarya has slipped into the position of boss woman, killing and commandeering deaths and taking on the task of moving a massive heroin consignment. When the consignment is lost under her watch, Aarya has to pay with product or cash – or with her life.

Between infiltrators and informers, a mother-son duo, a Russian cartel, a vengeful widower and the police, the net is closing in on Aarya. Threats and dangers are amplified by her children’s mistrust of her, as well as a dwindling team of supporters.

The creators adopt the device of a female voiceover reciting poetry to set the mood. It’s ominous, overused and annoying. The moles within the police team and one inside the Sareen household is another overextended arc, even as the fate of informers becomes pivotal to the culmination of this eight-episode season.

Aarya is holding on to an illusion of power, running out of time and chances. Those closest to her have lost faith and her promises sound hollow. As her character unravels, Sushmita Sen excels in a scene where her character’s vulnerability, frustration and breathlessness finally flow out.

Matching her acting prowess through the season are Sikandar Kher as the unshakable lieutenant Daulat, Vikas Kumar as the cop obsessed with bringing Aarya down and Maya Sarao as her best friend.

At the other end of the acting spectrum are Ila Arun as drug don Nalini Sahiba and Shashwat Seth as her son Abhimanyu, all amped up with over-the-top wigs and crazy eyes.

As a series, Aarya has maintained an emotional core through the Sareen family dynamics. It is a bit shaky in this season even as Aarya’s children (Viren Vazirani, Pratyaksh Panwar and Aarushi Bajaj) lose the most.

Despite being the wobbliest, Aarya is still very watchable. Its climax makes you realise how compelling and entertaining the character, Aarya’s world and Madhvani’s creation have been.

Aarya Season 3 (2024).