Was Fauda, season 2 the bomb?

Today, Sunday March 18th, the last episode of Fauda’s season 2 will air in Israel on “Yes Oh” channel. This review contains mild spoilers for the show and its current season, reader discretion is advised.

Fauda depicts a story of a cat and mouse game between an elite Israeli espionage unit and a leading Hamas terror cell and how their game affects all involved and their families. The show was received well by Israeli audience and became one of the most popular shows in recent years. The show first season also gained popularity abroad when it came to Netflix.

The first season focused on Doron (portrayed by Lior Raz, one of the show creators), a former Mista’arev (a soldier trained to pass as an Arab for intelligence gathering and operations) who finds out that a former Hamas terrorist he thought he killed is still alive and planning his next terrorist attack. Doron joins his former unit to help them catch that terrorist, “Abu Ahmad” a.k.a The Panther (portrayed by Hisham Suliman) and finish what he started. Along the way both parties have to deal with grief, betrayls and the will for vengance. And in this dark world of espionage and terrorism the stakes are high and the dangers lurke in every corner.

The second season is about family honor and revenge. Doron quit the unit, broke up with his wife and lives with his dad. In the meanwhile, Walid (Shadi Mar’i), Abu Ahmad’s side-kick became the new leader of Hamas military wing in Judea and Samaria and is working with his childhood friend, Nidal a.k.a “Al Makdesi” (Firas Nassar). Nidal is the son of a sheikh who was one of Hamas’ founders and was killed on the first season. Nidal, who was fighting for ISIS in Syria came back to avenge his father death and promote the caliphate. Part of his plan is to recruit a unit of Arabs who can pass of as Israeli Jews in similar fashion to what Doron’s unit is doing. In this season the stakes are higher than ever, everything is personal and the body count just keeps growing.

People percive Fauda as refreshing for portraying both sides, dealing with identity and the spike of interest in the Arab language to name a few examples. And although that in some manners and the techniques used in Fauda may be somewhat refreshing I wouldn’t say this is all new. For starters, Hatufim (the Israeli show that “homeland” was loosely based on) dealt with those issues to some degree. And although it wasn’t as high-action espionage drama it did contain many of its elements. We got to see glimpses of “the other side”, to empathize to some degree with some of the characters. We saw the the familial dramas that happened to the prisoners of war that returned and we also got a glimpse to the identity crises’ that Amiel have been going through. One of the main differences that makes Fauda fresh is that unlike Hatufim, it tries to level and equate the sides, without clear message of who is acting worse or who is right and who is wrong. Some might say its a political message, some might say its just for the spectacle, taking into account that the show was made for the Israeli audience in mind the truth should be somewhere in the middle.

Fauda is different from its American counterparts. The seasons are pretty short, less than 15 episodes, there aren’t definitive story arcs outside for the seasonal plotline, there isn’t a weekly mystery/terror attack to prevent. Since Israeli production budget are also lower than those in the U.S the show needs to focus more on drama and less on spectacle and special effects although you will find many action scenes in the show and in this season. And although you might like Jack Bauer going off the rails on 24, you might not like Doron or Al Makdesi dirty tricks. And unlike American portrayl of Israeli spies and commandos, they aren’t cold, apathetic, chill, superpowered, or any other extreme behaviour or ability they might put on them. They are humane, with personal lives, families, love, greif, consicence, doubts. Doron is nothing like Ziva (from NCIS).

The second season is better than the first one in my opinion, because not only the stakes felt higher, they built a better suspense and they also made you care more for minor characters. They made you care for Doron’s father, Moreno’s sister, Nidal’s brother and his sister-in-law. It was written and produced better than the first season, and its amazing what can be produced in Israel with lower budget than other countries.

I also find the cultural affects of the show, and the second season in particular to be interesting and even funny at times. For example, the new spiked interest in Arabic lessons, people want to be able not only to understand the show better without subtitles but they want to imitate the way the characters speak, their slang, their tone. The other thing I found interesting and even somewhat amusing is the popularity of Firas Nassar who portrays Nidal/Al Makdesi. He seems to be the new celebrity crush for many Israeli girls. I found it amusing because apparently, many of them thought he was a Jewish actor who plays an Arab on the show. Few hearts shattered. Still, over the past month it seems that his popularity among Israeli girls have grown among liberals and conservatives.

But now, hours before the last episode airs some questions remains open. Who will survive: Doron or Al Makdesi? Or maybe the battle continue to next season? And if not, what might come next? We all just have to watch to find out.

Fauda was created by Lior Raz and Avi Issascharoff. The season will stream on Netflix on May 24th this year.

About the Author
Dov Trachtman is an Israeli political analyst and cultural critic.
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