The following contains spoilers for Kaleidoscope, now streaming on Netflix.
Netflix’s Kaleidoscope is a unique take on the heist genre as Giancarlo Esposito’s master thief, Ray aka Leo, hires a crew to steal $7 million in bonds from Roger (Rufus Sewell), a high-tech security magnate. While the streaming service has interactive features such as Black Mirror: Bandersnatchthis series focuses on non-linear and linear storytelling, allowing viewers to watch in the order Netflix wants or however they see fit, changing the way they perceive heroes, villains, and the plot in general.
The kaleidoscope the structure has even led to debates online with many not liking how the Netflix order ruins the big twist at the end regarding key deaths, while others believe that watching it in random order doesn’t change it that much. Either way, it has audiences buzzing, so it’s worth breaking down how to watch the series in chronological order, which will paint the best possible story and add cohesion to the show.
1. Violet: 24 years before the robbery
As an opener, “Violet” reveals that Ray and Roger were partners earlier in their criminal careers, pulling off robberies. Ray eventually quits the heist game to focus on his family, but Roger (known as Graham at the time) sticks to crime. Unfortunately, Ray is drawn back into a life of crime and wants to steal jewels from his wife’s racist employers at a country club. Graham is far too excited to pull off another heist, but things go awry when a guard catches them red-handed and takes him out.
Graham then sets the place on fire, resulting in the death of Ray’s wife, Lily. After Graham fled instead of saving her, Ray took the rap for it, sending their daughter off with Ava (his lawyer and fence) to start a new life. Graham escapes with the jewels, assumes the identity of Roger Salas and starts a happy life, which is why an imprisoned Ray begins to scheme, hating how he lost everything due to Roger’s cowardice.
2. Green: 7 years before the robbery
“Green” opens Netflix’s viewing, but it flows much better after “Violet”. Here, Ray has been in prison for 17 years, and connected with Stan, his cellmate. Ray, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, wants to escape to take down his former partner, who is now living as Roger. While Stan does not agree at first, he also decides to run away to reunite with Judy, who is married to the hotheaded Bob (played by The Suicide Squad Jai Courtney)
Stan can tell this will affect his business with Judy dropping him contraband to shop in prison, so he drugs the inmates (when working in the kitchen) and uses it as a distraction to get them to bail. Unfortunately, after the elaborate scheme – which involved copying keys and sneaking out of the facility – goes awry, only Ray gets out. This puts FBI agent Nazan on the case.
3. Yellow: 6 weeks before the robbery
In “Yellow”, Ray (now under the identity of Leo) gathers the crew. Stan is out, and knowing he can make $1 billion, Judy is hired as a chemical expert, while her husband Bob is the resident safe-cracker. This creates tension, but Stan is focused on the money. RJ is then hired as a wheelman, while Ray gets a key employee to make this an internal job.
Ava is there for weapons and ammunition, as well as arranging new identities as the team’s shopkeeper. However, they must first pull off a robbery in the Diamond District, gas the street and rob the Manhattan stores during a burglary. They needed this for seed money, but it has Nazan keeping an eye on them, especially after a bullet links her to an old enemy in Ava.
4. Orange: 3 weeks before the robbery
“Orange” delves into how Nazan – due to her past drug addiction – had a lot of trouble in the past trying to arrest Ava. That led to her being suspended and going to rehab. As soon as she trains, Ava is connected to a larger criminal network, but she doesn’t mind breaking FBI rules again. She begins to hatch her own scheme, monitoring Ava’s home and how she and Bob fenced off items from the district job.
This gives Nazan the information she needs to take action against Ava, using ICE and Ava’s illegal immigrant aunt, Teresa, as pawns. It is driven by revenge as Ava played and accused Nazan of harassment, effectively gaining Nazan’s ex full custody of their son. At this point, Nazan is obsessed with the bigger issue and impressing the agency.
5. Blue: 5 days before the robbery
“Blue” is where things start to go wrong for Ray. He assumes that his daughter, Hannah (who also happens to be Roger’s VP), is on his side, ready to help steal the tapes, avenge her mother’s death, and start a new life as a family after their conversation in “Yellow”. He also doesn’t realize that an injured Bob is planning to betray the team, and Judy is conflicted about it.
Roger is also forced to increase surveillance of the safe after Hannah’s scheming inside the company causes a jealous ex-worker to threaten the boss. This may have cleared the way for her to help the crew, but Roger is as paranoid as ever, anxious to ensure that the tapes (which belong to three sinister tycoons known as The Triplets) are not taken. It shows how trusting Ray is and how big of an ego he has in how he didn’t think anything could go wrong.
6. White: The Heist
“White” is intense in a way Ocean’s Eleven movies could never be. When a hurricane hits, the team infiltrates Roger’s company, as planned. They sneak into the vault using facial recognition technology, while flooding the area so that the temperature sensors don’t work. Roger’s feed is also hacked, allowing the hijacker to get off, but Ray decides to stick to planting evidence in Roger’s personal safe of past sins.
Unsupervised, Bob tries to steal the loot, which causes a fight among his teammates. A panicked RJ shoots Bob, only for Judy to shoot RJ and finish him off. Wracked with guilt, she then injures Bob’s neck and leaves him for dead, on the run with Stan. Believing she has the tapes, Ava flees after a shootout with Nazan, whom she sent down the wrong rabbit hole. Unfortunately, Hannah steals the bonds herself, and sends fake papers to Ava. She let Ray know that she is giving everything back to The Triplets, who want to make money via insurance, and not come after her and Ray.
7. Red: The Morning After the Heist
“Red” playing before “White” is a huge mistake by Netflix as fans lose emotional interest in knowing how the heist went. Experienced in the right order, however, it is horrifying to see everyone at each other’s throats at the meeting point and keeping their own secrets. Ray hides Hannah’s double-cross as well, scattering the team as he knows they are physically and mentally drained of everything.
Ray leaves feeling somewhat fulfilled, however, when Nazan and the FBI find a stolen jewel in Roger’s personal safe in this veritable technological castle, arrest him, and expose him for the country club heist. Another tipping point comes when Roger finds Stan’s glasses in the water and works to track and monitor him. This sets off a wild conclusion where the theme of aftermath comes full circle, leaving Esposito with another powerful performance.
8. Rosa: 6 months after
This finale is heartbreaking as it turns out that Bob survived the robbery, although he lost his voice. He teams up with an imprisoned Roger, hires thugs and seeks revenge against Ava, Teresa and Ray just outside their safe house in Ohio. Many surprising deaths occur, reminding Ray how his vendetta took from everyone and created killers in their supposedly loyal tribe.
As for Bob, he finds Judy and Stan, living happily together. They hope Ray will bring them some money, but after getting information from his hostages, Bob arrives with a gun. Fortunately, Nazan is there with his FBI agents and a gun battle ensues. This leaves Judy with an important decision to make: elope with Stan or steal the money Bob took from Ray. The series ends with an unsuspecting Ray trying to get to Hannah, unaware that Roger’s son is tracking him down for his own revenge.
All eight episodes of Kaleidoscope are available on Netflix.