In the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, a character says about inter-generational revenge that who started the killing spree and why tends to get forgotten with the passage of time. Something similar is happening in Mirzapur, whose own game of thrones has reached the point where it’s tough to remember when or why it all began.

The Game of Thrones dictum “Chaos is a ladder” hangs heavy over the Prime Video series, which explores the quest for control over crime rackets in the Uttar Pradesh city. The third season, despite running 10 episodes, feels like the saga of various clans battling for the Mirzapur fiefdom has only just begun.

Season three has Byzantine plotting, an increased kill count and dizzying deal-making that would embarrass seasoned politicians. Apart from long-simmering vendetta, the new season’s big idea is the pursuit and consolidation of power. Many knives are on the ready, waiting for the next back to be turned.

The new chapter begins with Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Golu (Shweta Tripathi Sharma) unable to capitalise on the demise of their sworn enemy Munna. Mirzapur strongman Akhandanand’s heir apparent has left behind a powerful widow – Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Madhuri (Isha Talwar) – and the prospect of civil war.

Akhandanand, beautifully played by Pankaj Tripathi with a lugubrious air of dignity, is a spectral figure in the latest season. Other players learn the hard way what Akhandanand knew all along: uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Pankaj Tripathi in Mirzapur season 3 (2024). Courtesy Excel Entertainment/Prime Video.

Guddu and Golu are denied their claim over Mirzapur by their opponent Sharad (Anjumm Sharma), who teams up with Akhandanand and Madhuri. Akhandanand’s wife Beena (Rasika Dugal), who had conspired in Munna’s slaying, schemes in the shadows to protect her infant son’s inheritance. Shatrughan (Vijay Varma) has a hard time balancing his love for Golu with his deception of his autocratic father Dadda (Lilliput).

Difficult daddies – one of Mirzapur’s pet peeves – ruin Guddu’s big moment too. Guddu’s upright father Ramakant (Rajesh Tailang) takes the moral high ground, much to the despair of his wife Vasudha (Sheeba Chadha), daughter Dimpy (Harshita Shekhar Gaur) and Dimpy’s fiance, Mirzapur’s money manager Robin (Priyanshi Painyuli).

Returning director Gurmmeet Singh co-helms with Anand Iyer episodes seething with cynicism, betrayal and wheeling-dealing. The new season has been developed by Apurva Dhar Badgaiyan and written by Badgaiyan, Avinash Singh Tomar, Avinash Singh and Vijay Narayan Verma.

The makers’ unbridled ambition results in enough sub-intrigues to merit a spreadsheet with colour-coded cells. Some of the politicking is riveting, while there’s a great deal that is repetitive.

Anjumm Sharma in Mirzapur season 3 (2024). Courtesy Excel Entertainment/Prime Video.

The self-serving, absurdist nature of heartland politics is among the more strongly explored themes in a season that proudly owns its bloat. While overdoing the shock value and twists, Mirzapur is strongest in its detailing of people who behave like courtiers in a medieval-era kingdom. However, the show is too immersed in Machiavellian trickery to wonder whether Mirzapur is a prize worth fighting for.

Ramakant’s righteousness leads to a delightful sub-strand about a poet of explicit verse. Mirzapur’s talent for creating memorable tertiary characters is on solid footing in the new season too. Several minor players stand out, waiting to be promoted in the seasons that will inevitably follow.

The strongest strands emerge from the relationship between Guddu and Golu at one end and Shatrughan at the other. None of them qualifies for empathy – one of them even needlessly gouges a man’s eyes out – but the show makes you care about where they land up.

Vijay Varma deftly conveys Shatrughan’s anguish over his double life. Golu’s complicated dynamic with her brother-in-law Guddu makes the most sense in a series that isn’t always clear about why characters are behaving as they are, given what we know about them. Ali Fazal, who finally comes into his own in the third season, and Shweta Tripathi Sharma, are the most compelling performers among the sprawling cast.

Nowhere is the quest for power as a zero-sum game more evident than in the arcs of Madhuri and Sharad. Far too much time is devoted to propping up Sharad’s endless manoeuvring and Madhuri’s Adityanath-style campaign against Uttar Pradesh’s resident rowdies. While Anjumm Sharma is hard-pressed to portray Sharad’s chicanery, Isha Talwar’s Madhuri is a sleepy-voiced, dim politician who is nearly always the last to know.

Mirzapur season 3 (2024).