Re­al­is­tic por­trayal of threat on home front

Sleeper Cell: Amer­i­can Ter­ror 8.30pm, Show­time

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Stephen Matchett

A MONTH ago it would have been rel­a­tively easy to dis­miss this sec­ond se­ries of Amer­i­can Ter­ror as an up­dated red scare, with Is­lamic ter­ror­ists re­plac­ing the com­mu­nists as the en­emy within. Af­ter all, back then it was a while since a ter­ror strike had oc­curred in a West­ern city. But then the at­tacks in Lon­don and Glas­gow re­minded us how real the risk is.

The premise of the pro­gram is that the West is un­der threat from fa­nat­ics who are not in­ter­ested in peace on any terms but their own. They will not be swayed from killing as many peo­ple as they can.

Sleeper Cell is TV for our times, a wartime drama that as­sumes civil­ians are on the front- line. Per­haps it in­cludes er­rors that will up­set po­lice pro­ce­dural purists, but for this or­di­nary viewer, pre­sent­ing both sides of the story is dis­turbingly cred­i­ble.

The bad­dies are in­tent on slaugh­ter for rea­sons that are deeply felt, but never co­her­ently ex­plained.

The good­ies are nei­ther all that good nor es­pe­cially able. In this episode US in­ter­roga­tors, des­per­ate to break a pris­oner, are bru­tal and stupid. And while both sides lose key peo­ple, the FBI suf­fers the big­gest de­feat.

This is clas­sic cable noir, a drama made for sub­scrip­tion TV and, as such, more chal­leng­ing than what the US free- to- air net­works gen­er­ally serve up. Sleeper Cell is beau­ti­fully as­sem­bled. It presents a Cal­i­for­nia of mean streets, rather than an air­brushed, op­u­lent fan­ta­sy­land.

The first episode is com­plex, sug­gest­ing this is a se­ries to stick with if you are to have any hope of un­der­stand­ing what hap­pens in the last episode, sched­uled for early Au­gust.

The plot is also cred­i­ble, with both sides mak­ing mis­takes. The charac-

For this viewer, pre­sent­ing both sides of the story is dis­turbingly cred­i­ble

ters are be­liev­able, al­though peo­ple com­ing fresh to the sec­ond se­ries may won­der why FBI agent Dar­wyn AlSay­eed, ( played by Michael Ealy) takes so many risks, even af­ter he is of­fered a way out. And while there is no sym­pa­thy for the ter­ror­ists’ cause, there are thugs on both sides.

Most im­por­tant, the com­bat­ants come from all sorts of back­grounds. There are Mus­lims on both sides and the ter­ror­ists have English, Amer­i­can and Euro­pean, as well as Mid­dle East­ern, ac­cents. Per­haps the writ­ers did this to avoid ac­cu­sa­tions of stereo­typ­ing. But the script makes it clear that the war on ter­ror is a strug­gle be­tween ideas, not na­tions or eth­nic groups.

Peo­ple who think the ter­ror threat is grossly over­rated may well dis­miss Sleeper Cell as hys­ter­i­cal. For the rest of us it is a daunt­ing drama that deals with dan­gers that have not yet hap­pened here, but could.

Not many he­roes on show: Oded Fehr as Farik in Sleeper Cell

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