'Tehran': Series Review

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Amartya Acharya

Tehran is a modern espionage tale about a rookie Israeli agent who tries to help her employers ensure that Iran’s nuclear armament can be dissolved. As far as pitches go, this is a fascinating one. The backdrop of the Iran-Israel Proxy War is also a fascinating portal into a cold war that is still ongoing. The fact that the show-runner of Fauda is involved in it should be cause for ensuring the show’s quality.

For the most part, the show works.

Tehran is acquired by Apple TV+ for international distribution, and it fits into the mould of the American web-series format – there is a slickness in the proceedings of the show, from the action set-pieces, to the cinematography, to the masterful editing during the car and bike chases, using drone shots which reminds you of the Mission Impossible movies – while not as technically proficient as those movies, the propulsive mood is carried well over here. However, the success of Tehran lies in the fact that the writers and the director Daniel Syrkin successfully manage in crafting a spy or espionage thriller in the vein of a John Le Carre novel – for the most part. The failure of Tehran is the failure most web-series face – in attempting to cater to all audiences, web series create a B-plot or a subplot, mostly romantic in nature which at its best, is skilfully weaved, while at its worst feels unnecessary and drag the pacing.

In Tehran the romantic subplot between protagonist Tamar and an ally of her who is a hacker comes completely out of left field, all the more jarring because the chemistry between the two actors doesn’t feel believable. As a result for an 8 episode series, Tehran feels bloated in the middle, a detour to a rave in the outskirts of the city while visually pleasing, feels unnecessary. I can appreciate the necessity of a scene like this, showcasing a side of Iran not usually seen in conventional pop culture offerings. The series excels in crafting the Iranians, the apparent antagonists as three dimensional figures instead of the moustache twirling ones they are usually seen as, which is appreciated as the backdrop itself is an extremely complicated one in the geopolitical sense (The Israel – Iran Proxy War, which is still ongoing).

The performances are mostly strong overall. Niv Sultan as the protagonist Tamar is believable as a first time secret agent on a major mission; Tamar is not yet as hardened as her mentors, shades of vulnerability and a personality can be seen behind the wry smiles and the soulful gaze. Shaun Toub as Faraz Kamali the leader of the Revolutionary guard of the Iranian government gives an intense yet believable performance. Toub especially excels during the emotional moments, his Kamali is weathered, experienced, conflicted with his loyalties. Navid Negahban, of Homeland fame is also here in a minor role but memorable just the same, while Liraz Charhi as Yael gets a much meatier role in the back half of the season, and Charhi’s intense and steely acting provides a personality not exactly present in the script. The music by Mark Eliyahu is a mix of modern EDM with a traditional Iranian flavour, while the cinematography by Giora Bejach is absolutely breathtaking.

Overall Tehran as a show will be a much easier binge watch. The pacing is noticeable at parts, but as an espionage show, Tehran delivers, while also providing a balanced viewpoint between both the Iranian as well as the Israelis. The slick look of the overall show would ensure that you will be entertained, and the final cliff-hanger the show leaves us on will make us salivating for a second season.

Tehran is currently streaming on Apple TV +. Episodes releasing every week on Friday.

Rating: 7/10

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