‘The Freelancer’ Part 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Does Avinash Rescue Aliya?

Disney+ Hotstar’s new extraction drama, The Freelancer, is set across the Middle East, North Africa, and India. Part one of the show, just through four episodes, tells us the story of a mercenary who is desperate to rescue a young 21-year-old woman from an ISIS-controlled area. Neeraj Pandey is known for delivering some good stories in this genre. The process of getting information about a particular remote village where the young girl is now stuck and the mercenary’s quest to find a definite route forms the crux of the plot.


Spoilers Ahead

Inayat Khan’s Quest For His Daughter

The Freelancer begins with what seems to be a young woman running away from a group of people. Her escape plan is short-lived when she crashes into the vehicle that is chasing her. This kidnapping of the woman sets the tone of the show. This scene is in the trailer as well. The woman happens to be Aliya Khan, daughter of Inayat Khan. As the show progresses, we will get to know why Aliya is trying to run away.


Inayat Khan, an ex-Mumbai Police cop, speaks to his wife, and it is obvious from the conversation that the couple has been going through a tumultuous time. As Inayat forcefully drives into the barricaded area of the American embassy, the police circle him, and he is immediately shot by them the moment he exits the car. His gun is found empty, and the authorities are baffled by his act of suicide. It is not clear why Inayat would carry out such a stunt, knowing his life would be in danger. It is assumed he wanted to gain some attention from the authorities, but Inayat’s one step led to a chain reaction.

We learn from Sabeena, Inayat’s wife, about their daughter, Aliya, who is married to a rich family from Malaysia. As per the details given to them, the couple was supposed to head to Dubai, but all of them reached Turkey as part of Mohsin’s family vacation. Aliya stayed in touch with her parents, but soon she and her in-laws went incommunicado. It did not take much time for Inayat to figure out what must have happened. They were sure there was no death involved because the embassy would have contacted the family in that case. The sudden disappearance of their daughter put them in a frenzy. Inayat and Sabeena’s helplessness is just like that of every other citizen of the country, who ends up wasting a lot of time pandering to the bureaucracy to expect some help. The time that could have been spent on locating and extraditing their daughter.


Avinash Kamath, The Freelancer

The show begins with Avinash being introduced to us, and his current assignment involves neutralizing a Hezbollah terrorist. This entire subplot was added to explain the kind of work Avinash does as a mercenary, which involves taking maximum risk. The assignment helps us understand the mindset and the information that are required to carry out a mission of this magnitude. Avinash and his team deliver the job given to them.

Avinash constantly stays in touch with Dr. Arif Khan, who is the brains behind every operation, and connects him to the clientele, which includes governments and intelligence agencies from around the world. It is not clear exactly what position Dr. Khan holds at this point. He comes across as a gentleman who has abundant knowledge about world politics.


On reaching Mumbai, Avinash meets Sabeena. She lets him know about the chain of events leading up to Aliya’s disappearance. Avinash’s loyalty towards Inayat’s family stems from the fact that they were ex-colleagues and good friends. He feels guilty for staying away from them for almost a decade. It was Inayat’s death that shook Avinash, and he decided to use his skills to do something right. This was probably the first time he carried out this job without asking for any payment in return. Avinash most likely has a lot of money saved from his previous missions, which will help him gather information and weapons if necessary.

Avinash’s parallel investigation begins by approaching a certain ‘Farhat Khalla’, who is known for hosting women from her community and brainwashing them into becoming devout Muslims, which included Mohsin’s family. She confesses to having radicalized the family and is proud of it. She is one of those characters who installs ideas of violence and a superiority complex and shames people into becoming staunch followers. Avinash has doubts about whether she was involved in recruiting Mohsin’s family to the Islamic State. Her arresting talks about religion were a big giveaway. His experience as a mercenary and cop came as an added advantage. He was able to see through the lies perpetrated by this woman.


Avinash And Mrunal

Avinash also has a tumultuous history. His unabashedly righteous behavior cost him his police job. He went through a phase of alcoholism, due to which he lost hope of ever getting his life back on track. His son’s untimely death jolted him out of his slump. We think he did not process the trauma of losing his child well, which forced him to move out of India in the hope of taking up jobs that did not allow him to get emotionally involved. His line of work does not allow him to take sides, which makes it easier for him to operate ruthlessly.

A subplot about Avinash and his ailing wife, Mrunal, in Morocco, where he currently lives as well, allows us to see him from a different perspective. His love for Mrunal is unending, even though they have faced trauma together. He did not leave her because he felt he needed to have a connection to the real world outside of his dangerous job. Mrunal seems to be suffering from dementia, which could be because of their son’s untimely passing. There is a possibility it might have caused some irreparable trauma.


Aliya Is Trapped

Dr. Arif Khan is roughly able to describe the birth of the Islamic State and the reasons why people are attracted to this kind of radicalization. Shortly after her marriage to Mohsin, Aliya Khan was supposed to fly to Dubai, but they flew to Istanbul instead. She was purposefully kept in the dark about the family’s onward journey from this Turkish city. Aliya and her parents blindly trusted Mohsin and his family’s intentions. Halfway into the trip, Mohsin getting radicalized comes as a rude shock to Aliya. This forces her to run away from him and his family in the hope of reaching a local embassy. Her escape from Mohsin’s captivity was the first scene of the show.

Aliya is not the kind of person who will get carried away by her husband’s wild ideas of harming people in the name of her faith. Aliya believes in living peacefully. It also reflects her upbringing. As the daughter of a police officer, she can see the difference between madness and sanity.


Aliya was clearly tricked into this marriage in the hope of radicalizing her as well. She witnessed horrifying images of inhumane treatment against men and women, which was slowly killing her hope to live in the town of Dayr Az Zawr on the Syria-Iraq border. Aliya was probably not ready to face the hardships because she was forced to get used to the customs of the Islamic state without any possibility of escaping them. Her parents waiting for her back home were the only hope instilled in her. The body-shaming comments by the moral police and constant abuse from Mohsin slowly killed her self-respect until she found a phone she had forgotten to submit to the authorities and used it to contact her father.

Aliya and Her Allies

Aliya discreetly messages her father, unaware of the fact that he is no more. This phone is the only way to reach out to the world outside of the town she is stuck in. She figured her father would be able to rescue her. Avinash gives specific instructions to Sabeena and requests that she forward the same to Aliya in the hope of maintaining steady communication between the two of them. This way, both will receive information about her whereabouts without creating any air of suspicion.


Avinash plans to keep Aliya safe and alive while she remains in touch with her family. They will have to deal with this situation patiently because it is a slow process. Their end goal is to extradite her from that horrendous place.

Aliya comes across a British Punjabi girl who was forced to come to this terrorist state. This female bonding is essential at this juncture because Aliya has found herself without a friend or an ally who can understand her predicament. This British national is as frustrated as Aliya is. It helps us understand why educated women like her are dragged into this hellhole and are expected to give up their identity for the sake of religion. Aliya finds comfort in speaking to this woman rather than her two older sisters-in-law at home.


The Slow and Steady Plan

Avinash, via Sabeena, requests Aliya to provide intel about the name of the place along with pictures, which would make it easy for him to understand the whereabouts. Avinash was smart and not brash about getting things done. He is aware that dealing with the Islamic State is equivalent to dancing with the devils, which is why all of them must be extra careful while transmitting messages. Aliya was informed about Inayat’s demise in the most insensitive manner by Mohsin. This breaks her temporarily, but her mother reassures her that Avinash is trying his best to extract her. Aliya had to remain calm in the situation so that no one suspected her movements or motives. 

CIA’s Role in the Rescue Mission

Meanwhile, Avinash is contacted by the CIA desk in Morocco, which could offer some input in this matter. Since he is a mercenary and the CIA has worked with plenty of them in the past, Avinash figured approaching them would be worth a try since they have the resources and intel to get a better picture of the situation. Avinash proved his claims to be true by presenting pictures, phone numbers, coordinates, and information about Mohsin’s entire family in the hope of receiving assistance in return.


The CIA is concerned about Mohsin’s younger brother, Sameer, who was trained as a pilot in the USA. As expected, the CIA would only concern themselves with someone who could potentially pose a threat to their soil, and so far, saving Aliya is not on their agenda, even though they are receiving a great deal of intel from her. The CIA considers her an asset, and in return, her safeguarding is expected. We believe the CIA is playing a safe game without causing much stir among their allies. We feel they also consider this mission dangerous because it does not involve a US national.

Mohsin’s Trip to Raqqa

Aliya finally has smoking gun information about an elaborate plan hatched by Mohsin in the town of Raqqa. Mohsin’s family does not trust Aliya, and that’s why they only share minimal information about their travels to another town. Mohsin and his family members are aware of Aliya’s zero to no interest in adopting this lifestyle. They keep her at bay because, so far, she has not crossed any boundaries. But Aliya should have been smart enough to understand that Mohsin and his family’s arrival in this place meant business. They are not here to just live life as devout. The family does have a bigger plan at hand.


Meanwhile, Mohsin and his brothers are also informed about a certain Avinash Kamath, who has approached Farhat Khalla. Aliya is forced to identify Avinash, but she does not give away too many details. She did this to avoid any suspicions that could lead to her public flogging and eventual death. Aliya has shown some resilience at this point. Just like her father, she will not withstand intolerance in the name of religion. She is asked to send a GIF image to Mohsin’s computer so that, on download, his system could be hacked. This was done so that Avinash could gather more information about the work done by Mohsin with the Islamic State. 

On a surface level, this is just an extraction. But the subtext of this relies on the fact that thousands from around the world contribute to terrorism by funding the state’s vision of a ‘Khilafat’. This sort of radicalization will only lead to further destruction. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that people joining this force are willing to kill the population of their community in Syria to prove their mettle.


Aliya’s Rescue Plans

Mohsin’s family, including Aliya, was given their phones back with a new number that she is sure has a surveillance chip. At Avinash’s further request, she shared all the new numbers so that the CIA could track them. The CIA has chosen to go after Mohsin’s brother Sameer, whom they feel is a bigger threat, instead of showing any amount of interest in extracting Aliya. Avinash should have expected this, which is why we assume he will take things into his own hands to get Aliya out of Raqqa. This is the state of an asset who is willing to put their lives at stake and, in return, gets nothing.

Avinash had promised Inayat that he would protect his family at any cost. It is more about his duty than guilt that makes Avinash finally take matters into his own hands. He formulates a foolproof plan to extract Aliya safely from Raqqa, which is where they are headed. Avinash could have utilized his contacts from other intelligence agencies to get this work done. 


The Suicide Mission

Part one of The Freelancer ends with Mohsin, Aliya, his older brother, and his sister-in-law heading to Raqqa for a mission. Aliya is not informed about the nature of this operation. Their teary departure should have alerted her. Sadly, she was so mentally occupied with offering intelligence that she forgot to look around her.  The determination to serve their religion and the statement they wanted to make are disturbing narratives. On reaching Raqqa, Mohsin’s brother Khalid and sister-in-law Asar walk into a crowded local market and blow themselves up. Mohsin records this bombing with a smile on his face.

Aliya is shocked. She was not ready to understand the magnitude of this act. This is probably the first time the young woman understands the extremism of the family she is married into. She knows they are the epitome of everything wrong and that they perceive Islam differently. She probably could not believe her brother-in-law and his wife could get carried away and agree to kill themselves. She is most likely afraid that Mohsin wants to recreate this with her in some other town. She will have to leave him before he comes up with a plan to carry out another suicide bombing.


The brainwashing was done to the family over the years in such a manner that they were ready to sacrifice themselves in the blink of an eye. The entire narrative of a rich family going the radical way is disturbing, and it highlights the state of others who are willing to do the same. In this process, they end up ruining the lives of women who have no interest in propagating this kind of mindset. The contradiction comes when Mohsin’s boss, Commander Al Hindvi, states that he is against suicide bombing. This could mean Mohsin either defied his boss’s words or the writers of the show simply forgot this detail.


We get to watch the sequence of events that will take place in part two of this show. The way part one concludes creates a genuine interest in knowing how Avinash will rescue Aliya. He does not extract Aliya by the end of Part 1. Avinash is already in the process of gathering as much help from his associates as possible to get Aliya back to India by taking an unusual route, which we believe will be the highlight of the last three episodes. We think a lot more complexities await us in the form of the intricate politics of that world. I look forward to part two of The Freelancer.


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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