Is Netflix’s Kaleidoscope Based on a True Story?


You know how it feels like virtually every piece of television or film has to have some sort of disclaimer in the news before its release saying “based on a true story”? It’s almost as if the creators of fiction believe it gives more credence to their plot if they can say it’s realistic enough to have taken place in real life. 

Netflix’s creative new heist-thriller Kaleidoscope is joining in on this recurring theme of supposed-realism. The show tells the story of a criminal team of thieves who attempt to break into a vault holding billions of dollars in bearer bonds. Viewers are all given a different order to watch the episodes in, encouraging people to come at the series from a different perspective from their streaming peers. The show always ends with the point of this whole shebang: the heist itself. 

Perhaps because the narrative sounds pretty far-fetched and unrealistic, Netflix has let it be known to viewers beforehand that creator Eric Garcia based the Giancarlo Esposito-starring series around actual events that unfolded on Wall Street back in 2012 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy … sort of.

After the devastating tropical storm that wrecked havoc on the East Coast of the United States a decade ago, about $70 billion in bonds in a vault deep underground were ruined by the fluids that inundated New York City. This wasn’t just water we’re talking about. There was mud, gasoline, and even other waste that desecrated the currency housed inside of this massive security safe. 

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So how does this tie back to the events in the show? Well, the banks were very secretive about the fate of the money in this vault back in 2012. Big names such as JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America supposedly had an otherworldly amount of their funds inside of this container, yet they were suspiciously hush about the aftermath of their losses. 

According to the New York Post, only Goldman Sachs said what their losses were: a minuscule $10,000 or less. Nobody else would even comment about what happened that would lead to a storm affecting sums of cash very far underground so vulnerable to destruction. This left the story ripe for speculation. Did the money actually get ruined by the effects of the hurricane, or was there other foul play involved in some manner? 

Kaleidoscope is the thrilling theoretical answer to some of these questions. What if the hurricane was a prime opportunity for some super-talented thieves to take this money that is probably menial in the grand scheme of the American economy? There is still negligible evidence to this day about the whereabouts of the cash. These banks and the big wigs on Wall Street have seen their lives go on business as usual, so maybe the whole thing made for a juicy headline, but wasn’t actually as important as it originally was made out to be in the media. 

This means the story is somewhat of a non-factor without adding some zest to the alchemy. The journey is always more important than the destination. The show depicts Leo (Giancarlo Esposito) and his band of criminals as very ingenious and sneaky, but it’s their motives that are more the basis of the drama. 

The characters have jealousies that turn into betrayals and vengeances that transform into murders. The process of the money being stolen is almost beside the point. In this way, Kaleidoscope doesn’t try to come up with any hypotheses about the real flooding on Wall Street. It rather serves as a fun and thrilling fictionalized version of a story that went away pretty quickly after the fact, instead breathing life into the people who try to commit large-scale crimes. As we’ve seen with the pandemic and the election results in the U.S. back in 2020, conspiracies can be dangerous things to exploit, but they also make for some deeply entertaining television!

All eight episodes of Kaleidoscope are available to stream on Netflix now.

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