Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tehran S01E05: The Other Iran

© Apple TV+

‘Tehran’ accelerates with desperate acts in ‘The Other Iran’
by Jeremy Fogelman

The latest episode of Tehran was called “The Other Iran”, which is sort of an ongoing theme of the show, the different aspects of the country apart from the mainstream or party line. The reveal in the last episode that Faraz’s wife was clearly kidnapped by the Israelis is not a huge surprise, although it’s quite a moral boundary to cross as she’s certainly not part of the security services herself, just an innocent connected to Faraz.

But Faraz, under the wire when confronted by his superior, dissembles effectively and seemingly comes up with a new plan on the spot, realizing (probably correctly) that the Israelis threat to his wife is likely an empty one. It’s a clever turn, one I didn’t consider, and Faraz attempts to turn Masoud into a triple agent, although obviously that doesn’t end up working out for either of them.

Masoud seems to be aware that his days are numbered, leading to a pretty tense scene where we aren’t sure exactly what will happen -- but it’s pretty reasonable from the Israelis’ perspective to kill him (in the morals of tradecraft anyway), as he is already compromised and could easily reveal sensitive information (even though he hadn’t broken yet).

Although now Masoud is obviously off the show, and while it’s good for the show to establish such high stakes in the game, I’ll miss Navid Negahban in the role, who was always a great presence here -- it just goes to show how much they screwed up using him in the Aladdin remake (along with all the other mistakes they made there). Now you do wonder the next move on both sides, as Faraz is still hunting for Tamar, while the Israelis have lost their vitally connected asset there.

But Tamar plots to return to the city soon, with the aid of her new lover Milad, who is ethically compromised in different ways. Although Milad represents a more progressive, freer perspective pushing against the legal restrictions of Iran, he’s also a drug dealer of ecstasy (at least), not exactly the most angelic job. It’s a good sort of twist on the idea, because Milad seems decent enough, although we really know very little about him.

© Apple TV+

Tamar has to go through her own little adventure, where we see her fail and succeed in useful ways to establish her character better. She may be well trained and fluent in Farsi, but she doesn’t know the culture perfectly, as she uses a “thumbs up” sign which is benign in many countries including Israel and the US, but in Iran (among a few other countries) it’s basically the middle finger.

She might even have realized that after the fact but was a bit too stressed at the moment -- but then again, Tamar was never meant to stay in the country this long. The rave presented some additional pushes against her, with her desire to always stay in control -- she had to sell drugs and even imbibe them under peer pressure from Milad.

Although at least we get to see her fight back against some big dudes as they “test” her for trust. It’s not the smartest plan to test her, but then again, these guys are drug dealers -- although we do see the leader spot Tamar hacking into Milad’s phone.

It’s a good way to setup the next episode, because there are a lot of threads left to unravel and a lot of unknowns -- Faraz might be an antagonist, but he’s not a monster, and Milad might be a romantic partner, but he also seems to be a bad influence. It’s a good way to keep us interested in the story, which is ultimately so far about the spy vs spy stuff, humanizing both sides instead of making it purely a “good guys vs terrorist” thing. I mean it’s no Ted Lasso, but Tehran has been pretty entertaining so far.

Tehran is available to stream on Apple TV+

Watch on Apple TV

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