The Believers: Is Tang Dead Or Alive?

Netflix’s latest Thai Crime Drama is about a group of teenagers caught up in a vicious web of lies when they decide to make money off of organized religion, the biggest business in the world. The scriptures from every faith talk about the consequences of greed. In Buddhism, as well, greed is an evil which leads to the suffering of mankind. Drawing parallels with the principles of Buddhist spirituality, The Believers shows how greed leads the protagonists into problems that they never even would’ve come across in the first place. 

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Part of the reason I have developed disdain for the capitalist system is because it always sweeps people into this whirlwind of endless greed. We can call it human nature, yes, but again, a market system incentivised by dopamine-rich end results in exchange for blood can only lead to further corruption of the human mind. In this system, there are people who wish to earn a living the hard way but then there are people like Tang who are blinded by their greed for money.

Spoilers Ahead

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Who Is Tang? 

Chaiyong Tang works as the liaison for the head abbott, Monk Veera at the Phummaram Temple. He is introduced when Win, Dear and Game stumble upon the temple while searching for an ideal location to run their operation. Tang initially appears as a responsible assistant to the monk but is quickly revealed to be a swindler himself. The trio tracks Tang down to a cabaret bar which he frequents. They approach him with their business proposition and offer to give him 10% of the profits in exchange for his help. Tang is an opportunistic man and wouldn’t stray from a chance to make more money which he spends on his friends and the women at the bar. But again, he’s also quite innovative and resourceful as he proves useful for the Trio. He knows an awful lot about how temples function and proves himself as a worthy advisor to the teenage entrepreneurs. 


Why Was Tang On The Run? 

Tang benefits a lot from the religion business. He flaunts his newfound wealth in front of his friend, paying for their drinks at the cabaret bar, and even gives some money to the performers there. His friends, however, ask for his help for new gigs to make money, which prompts him to put forth his idea. Tang feels that he might benefit more from his friends’ help and starts a drug operation in the monastery. Since the temple had just started becoming popular, there was a vacancy for new monks. Tang sees this as an opportunity to make his friends get ordained as monks and join the temple. 

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In disguise, this group of crooks pretend to be Buddhist monks during the day and peddle drugs at night. Tang believes this idea to be foolproof as nobody suspects a temple being the front for a drug operation. He could stick to the trio’s religion venture but he grew greedy. His idea is proven wrong when the police sniff out Tang’s business. They raid the temple and arrest the monks, while Tang goes on the run. It is only revealed later that Tang was indeed working for someone else. In this endless hunt for money, even Tang is an oppressed individual thinking he’s in control. 


Why Does Tang Contact Game? 

With the joint efforts by Win, Dear and Game, the Phummaram temple successfully starts to make a fortune when their amulets become viral. Tang, who is on the run and broke by now, sees their success as an opportunity to get some money for himself. He contacts Game, because he knows how inhuman Win can be. He also seems closer to Game because of their past as associates. Game starts spending more time at home with his grandfather following his rift with Win. This is when Tang shows up at Game’s house and asks him for money. Tang is desperate to get out of the situation he is in. He was also wanted by the man whom he worked for and was left with no choice but to run. As expected, Game feels bad for Tang and decides to give him the money he asked for. 

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The next day, Tang shows up again but this time points a gun at Game and demands 3 million Baht. Tang, a greedy man, believes that he will be able to live a comfortable life with this amount. Quite obviously, Game does not possess this much money, especially after falling out with Win. Tang threatens to come after his family if he doesn’t comply, but Will clarifies that it will take some time to arrange this much money. However, Game offers Tang a safehouse to hide in until he comes up with the money. 


How Does Tang Die? 

Game drives Tang to a secluded warehouse with access to water and electricity. Win even brings him food and booze regularly. When he asks who he works for, Tang brushes it off, claiming that he shouldn’t know this if he wants to live. Seeking help for this conundrum, Game goes to the Monastery to figure out a solution. Seeking answers, he questions Monk Veera if he knows whom Tang works for, but is interrupted by Monk Ekkachai.  Game proceeds to confess his problems to the Monk who advises him to be careful about harboring a criminal.

As Game returns to the safehouse to see Tang, he is shocked to see his friend dead. But who killed him? Later, Game receives a text from Monk Ekkachai and visits the temple again, only to find out the truth about Tang’s murder. It was Ekkachai who had killed him. Moreover, the ending revealed the fact that Tang was working for none other than Ekkachai. As the de facto head abbot at the temple, when Tang’s business was busted by the cops, he wanted to tie up the loose ends. And for Ekkachai, it meant killing Tang. 

Tang lived a life of relentless pursuit for money. Driven by his greed, Tang had no sense of objective morality. He gave priority to anything that gave him pleasure like money, alcohol, and women, and in the end, they consumed his life.  Perhaps, if Tang hadn’t started the drug operation at the temple, he would’ve still survived. But again, it’s not an ideal world. As he delves into religion to make money, he becomes a prime example of the very teachings of Buddhism which shines light on lessons against the evil of greed. 

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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