Fans of the cloak-and-dagger genre will be intrigued by “Tehran,” an eight-episode Israeli spy drama from “Fauda” writer Moshe Zonder.
The series, which premiered on Israel’s Kan 11 network in June, is now available on Apple TV+ (with English subtitles) — and, like “Fauda,” it’s a doozy — from its topical plot line, to its frenetic pace to its three-dimensional portrayal of people on both sides of a long-simmering historical conflict warring with each other, and with their own personal demons.
Here, that conflict is between Israel and Iran. In the series premiere, Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan) is sent undercover into Tehran in order to hack into an electrical plant’s computer system and cut the power to a radar station, enabling Israeli jets to fly in undetected and bomb an Iranian nuclear power plant. The mission starts smoothly enough, but soon goes awry when, through an elaborate chain of events, Tamar blows her cover, breaks contact with her handler, Masoud Tabrizi (Navid Negahban) — who she comes to mistrust — and endeavors to find a safe place in which to hide while being chased by relentless Home Guard security chief Faraz Kamali (Shaun Toub). Eventually, it’s learned that Tamar was born in Iran and moved to Israel when she was 6; as the series progresses, she rediscovers her roots, gets enmeshed in the country’s political scene and continues plotting her escape across the border.
“Tehran” was filmed entirely in Greece, but you’d never know it. It’s easy to believe that it was shot in Tehran, with its atmosphere of menace permeating every nook and cranny of this nonstop game of cat-and-mouse, where a single misstep, however small, can mean the difference between life and death. Tamar is a tough cookie, but she’s human; her near-tears reaction to witnessing the aftermath of a public hanging — a bank manager who was said to have embezzled funds from his employer — speaks volumes about the dangerous situation into which she lands.
Zonder also endeavors to delve into the characters’ back stories; not just the stories of Tamar and her Israeli cohorts, but also Kamali, whose devotion to his job puts a strain on his marriage. It’s clear that he loves his wife, but choosing country over family forces him to miss a trip to France with his ill wife. She travels alone to Paris to undergo a serious operation, a cloud of guilt hovering over Kamali as a none-too-subtle reminder.
“Tehran” is, admittedly, a little difficult to follow at first, and really hits its relentless stride midway through the opener once the plot points are clarified. From there, it’s a pulse-pounding journey, but be forewarned: There’s no bingeing allowed, since a new episode premieres each Friday (the series premiered Sept. 25). That programming strategy has paid huge dividends for “The Boys” on Amazon Prime — keep ’em wanting more — and should work for this exciting series.