Leila doesn't even commit to its thriller elements satisfactorily. It feels both hasty and lethargic. Worse, the series ends on a cliffhanger replete with the most depressing possible closing line. That said, some of the show's best moments are hopeful ones where characters forge connections in the midst of this despondency. In the second episode, Shalini has a warm maternal rapport with Roop, a young girl from the slum who is leading her to the home of her in-laws. In another episode, Shalini and Rao, the second-in-command of Aryavarta, discuss Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the Urdu poet with Marxist leanings whose poetry has been banned in Aryavarta. These interactions electrify Leila.
The show is also filled with deft touches like the shopkeeper who switches around his double-sided portrait of Gandhi with Joshi, the bespectacled smiling leader of Aryavarta. A politico warily notes, "First there was only Joshi. Now everyone has become a Joshi."
At a time when some of the biggest hits on the Indian silver screen are jingoistic potboilers, Leila, despite its surface-level nods to the Hindu nationalist politics of the current government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can feel novel. Twitter is littered with accusations of the show's 'Hinduphobia.' Last October, there were reports that representatives of streaming services in India such as Netflix and Prime Video had quietly met with the Ministry of Broadcasting and agreed to self-censor their content, a move towards pacifying the government in a country where online content isn't yet subject to the repressive mandates of the Censor Board. Under this political climate, it's no surprise that the show feels neutered. Sexual violence and Pakistan aren't brought up, and despite the show's color scheme of yellows, it is very careful not to evoke the specific shade of saffron used by the BJP.