Exigency & Enjoyment for Law & Crime in La Casa De Papel — Işık Barış Fidaner

Raquel Murillo and Sergio Marquina

Warning: I recommend you to watch the two seasons of La Casa De Papel before reading this text, otherwise it will be a spoiler.

La Casa De Papel is a Spanish TV series about a great crime and how law deals with it. The principal axis of the series is the relation between Law and Crime, staged through a sexual relationship between two figures: Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño) as the figure of Law, and Sergio Marquina (Álvaro Morte) as the figure of Crime. The essential difference between Law and Crime is expressed in these two figures’ modalities of jouissance. As I told before, I theorize the jouissance of a subject as a substance that’s divided into Exigency & Enjoyment [1]. By applying this division to both of the figures, we can see how jouissance is organized for Law & Crime in this story.

For Raquel, the figure of Law, Exigency is her job as an inspector to rescue the hostages and arrest the criminals, and Enjoyment is basically her need for love, encouraged by her mother. Exigency and Enjoyment are mostly at odds for her, in two senses: (1) Exigency always takes the first priority and Enjoyment is reduced to small fragments of spare time: her mother’s post-it note in S01E13 says: “Raquel is a serious woman but she loves me very much.” (2) In her relationship with Sergio, her Enjoyment becomes a trap for her and she tries to avoid this trap by intervening in the name of her Exigency, i.e. suspecting and inspecting Sergio multiple times.

Of course, Raquel also enjoys chasing criminals in her job, but for the most part, her Enjoyment lies outside of her Exigency: her life is divided between her job and her personal life. Thus, the canonical division between Exigency & Enjoyment characterizes the modality of the Law. Exigency & Enjoyment are in constant conflict, and Enjoyment is severely fragmented by this conflict: this fragmentation of Enjoyment is staged in the clinical forgetfulness of Raquel’s mother. This division and conflict is a weakness of Raquel (Law) that Sergio (Crime) exploits. The title “La Casa De Papel”: “The House Of Paper” refers to this weakness of the Law.

For Sergio, the figure of Crime, Exigency is his task as “El Profesor” to succeed in his heist, marked by his father’s wish. Most of the time, his Enjoyment is subordinated to this Exigency: what he truly enjoys is the progress of the heist. He wants his accomplices to subordinate their Enjoyment like him to the heist, and that’s why he prohibits interpersonal relationships among them, although this prohibition is violated exemplarily by Tokyo & Rio. This need to subordinate everything to the heist gets complicated in his relationship with Raquel.

Most of the time, Sergio manages to instrumentalize Raquel’s love for the aims of the heist, for obtaining information, for destroying evidence, for escaping etc. But the instrumentalization remains incomplete: sometimes, his love for Raquel forces him to compromise the heist. One compromise is when Sergio is about to kill Raquel’s mother to destroy evidence but stops the murder at the last moment, just after the mother endorses his love with Raquel (S01E13). In this compromise, he is saved by the mother’s forgetfulness. Another compromise is when Sergio releases Raquel after she kisses him, taking her gesture of love as a proof of her loyalty (S02E06). In this compromise, he is saved by her temporary loyalty, which lasts until she is threatened with her daughter, Paula.

Therefore, Sergio fails to fully subordinate his Enjoyment to his Exigency. As he puts it in S02E04: “It was all planned, Raquel. Everything, everything. I’m so sorry, it was all planned except what happened between us. I don’t know, I broke my own rules. I didn’t contemplate that variable. / What variable? / To fall in love with you.” Thus, the modality of Crime is characterized by the almost complete subordination of Enjoyment to Exigency, with the exception of love. Moreover, Crime exploits the division and conflictuality of Law by subordinating its Enjoyment to its own Exigency by instrumentalization, although this instrumentalization is incomplete and Crime is compromised, and then saved thanks to the goodwill of the scriptwriters.

In terms of their Exigencies, Raquel and Sergio are almost always opposed to each other as Law and Crime, but their Enjoyment is organized into a love relationship in time. In the last episodes of the second season, Raquel learns that Sergio is the main criminal she had been chasing, but instead of directly arresting him in the name of Law, she interrogates him in private with a lie detector, going against her Exigency and yielding to their shared Enjoyment (S02E04). Raquel’s yielding to love reaches its peak when she kisses her captor Sergio to prove her loyalty (S02E06). At that point, she abandons her Exigency of Law and gets subordinated to Sergio’s Exigency of Crime. Her “unconscious” support of Sergio turns into a “conscious” support. The police are right to accuse her for “possible collaboration in the robbery and obstruction of justice” (S02E05).

Raquel uses a lie detector in S02E04

Both parties’ fidelity to their shared Enjoyment echoes Lacan’s ethics of desire: “Do not give way as to your desire.” For Raquel, her fidelity to Enjoyment is directly against her Exigency (forcing her to ultimately abandon her job), whereas for Sergio, his fidelity to Enjoyment is only marginally against his Exigency (only forcing him to compromise the heist a couple of times). As a result, given these two figures, “not ceding one’s desire” seems to be compatible only with Crime (except a few compromises), since Law is by definition a betrayal of Enjoyment.

In S01E02, “El Profesor” asks “Have you ever faked an orgasm?” and Raquel answers “No.” It’s significant that Law almost never instrumentalizes Enjoyment, it’s against its logic to do so. Law is unable to deceive. That’s why Raquel’s kiss in S02E06 is not a deception, it truly proves her love and loyalty. Exploitation of Enjoyment is a privilege of Crime, which seems to support Žižek’s thesis that “the opposition of crime and law is inherent to crime, law is a subspecies of crime, crime’s self-relating negation” [2]. In Raquel’s words, “I don’t know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys anymore” (S02E06).

In the end, Law is defeated as an Exigency and Crime wins by instrumentalizing the Enjoyment circulating between Law & Crime. The clown act in S02E03 is the ultimate expression of this instrumentalization of Enjoyment, and that’s why the red strand of hair as the Hitchcockian object, as the little piece of the Real, becomes the ultimate indubitable evidence that reveals the criminal.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] Postmodern Alienation Model, Dr. Işık Barış Fidaner

[2] Less Than Nothing, page 298.


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