Vancouver Sun

SE­RIES AN UNCOMPLICA­TED GLIMPSE AT GLOBAL CON­FLICT

- DANIEL D'ADDARIO Va­ri­ety.com Middle East News · Politics · Tehran · Iran · Mossad · Apple TV+

Tehran Ap­ple TV+

An Is­raeli-pro­duced se­ries de­but­ing on Ap­ple TV+, Tehran is a show that looks at Iran through an al­ter­nately ad­ver­sar­ial and nos­tal­gic lens. The pro­tag­o­nist, Mos­sad agent Ta­mar Rabinyan (Niv Sul­tan), in­fil­trates the na­tion fol­low­ing an emer­gency land­ing of a pas­sen­ger jet in the cap­i­tal city; she is on a mis­sion that, should it suc­ceed, will have the long-tail ef­fect of thwart­ing what the viewer is made to un­der­stand are Iran's nu­clear am­bi­tions.

The se­ries's ad­ver­sar­ial side comes through in Ta­mar's mis­sion, and in the peo­ple she en­coun­ters. Its nos­tal­gia stems from the idea that she, in­deed, is one of them, a cit­i­zen of an Iran that was: She was born in Iran and lived there un­til her fam­ily fled, and has both fam­ily ties and a sense of Iran as a place wor­thy of her sav­ing it. A re­la­tion­ship with a fig­ure in the Ira­nian op­po­si­tion (Shervin Alen­abi) as well as time spent with Are­zoo (Esti Yerushalmi), an aunt who re­mained be­hind, ce­ment that.

Her ex­po­sure, and ours, to Ira­nian street life, as in the case of Are­zoo's daughter (So­gand Sara Fakheri), who protests “im­mod­est dress” and calls the op­po­si­tion move­ment “med­dling low-lifes,” rep­re­sents Iran in one uncomplica­ted way, a way that makes this se­ries's ex­is­tence on Amer­i­can TV make sense.

Tehran's bi­ases tend to flat­ter Amer­i­can prej­u­dices, too. Are­zoo frets “I don't know how she got in­volved with the Mus­lim stu­dents,” flatly equat­ing Is­lam with the en­emy; those same Mus­lims chant about ji­had at a protest, with one declar­ing, “Re­formists, Con­ser­va­tives, it's all over for you!”

As tele­vi­sion, the show, cre­ated by Moshe Zon­der (pre­vi­ously the head writer of Is­raeli se­ries Fauda) is flawed: At least a few episodes too long, lack­ing plau­si­bil­ity or ten­sion, turgid when it wants to be zippy. (How can a spy show in which the pro­tag­o­nist is con­stantly try­ing on new iden­ti­ties, up to and in­clud­ing a fake beard stuck on poor Ta­mar, feel this bale­ful?) As a doc­u­ment of its moment, it feels built to flat­ter the present-day Amer­i­can pos­ture to­ward Iran, treat­ing its threat as be­yond ne­go­ti­a­tion, worth en­gag­ing with only to dis­man­tle. It is hardly an en­dorse­ment of the present-day Ira­nian regime (not that that is a TV critic's job in the first place) to sug­gest that a show called Tehran, one that as­says a na­tion that has un­der­gone seis­mic and chaotic change in liv­ing mem­ory, might make more sense were it re­ally about Ira­ni­ans liv­ing in Tehran.

It might be more apro­pos to fol­low the strug­gles and dra­mas and doubts and tri­umphs of cit­i­zens, and to eke out crit­i­cism of the state (if that is in­deed the or­der of the day) that way.

Tehran doesn't ex­clude Ira­ni­ans en­tirely, but does frame them as al­lies or ob­sta­cles of a Mos­sad mis­sion de­picted un­crit­i­cally and some­what blankly as the work of justice, and more than that as a ve­hi­cle for thrills and scares.

That gets at the flaw of Tehran: It's not that it's on the wrong side of a geopo­lit­i­cal con­flict. It's that, em­a­nat­ing from out­side the land it takes as its sub­ject, it doesn't have enough on its mind to rec­og­nize one side of that con­flict as truly real.

 ?? PHOTOS: AP­PLE TV+ ?? Niv Sul­tan stars as a Mos­sad agent in the new eight-part se­ries Tehran, an Is­raeli-pro­duced ef­fort that has a lot of flaws.
PHOTOS: AP­PLE TV+ Niv Sul­tan stars as a Mos­sad agent in the new eight-part se­ries Tehran, an Is­raeli-pro­duced ef­fort that has a lot of flaws.
 ??  ?? The Ap­ple TV+ se­ries Tehran, star­ring Arash Marandi as Ali, could have done a bet­ter job at fo­cus­ing on Ira­ni­ans.
The Ap­ple TV+ se­ries Tehran, star­ring Arash Marandi as Ali, could have done a bet­ter job at fo­cus­ing on Ira­ni­ans.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada