Fauda season 2 review: This Netflix political thriller is a chaotic, must-see show that revels in its grey areas

Mihir Fadnavis

Jun,12 2018 14:09:54 IST

The second season is where most binge-worthy shows falter, mainly because of the pressure on the creators to deliver something bigger. The element of surprise is gone, so it’s a challenge to give audiences something they haven’t seen before, yet making them feel comfortable in the familiarity of the characters and the milieu.

Fauda, a show centered around bitter Israel-Palestine skirmishes as seen through the eyes of a hardened Israel special forces honcho Doron (played by Lior Raz who is also the show runner), turned out to be an entertaining wild ride when it originally debuted back in 2015 and then found a new life on Netflix. It was different from other ‘TV programming’ of similar genre — it packed a lot of intensity sans the blaring dramatic music and moments that you generally see in shows like this, nor did it have a shred of jingoist overtones. Everything felt real and believable, thanks to the series creators Avi Issacharoff and Raz themselves having a lot of experience as Israeli spec ops personnel.

Season 2 had huge expectations to live up to — so it’s a matter of celebration that the follow up is not just bigger, but also better put together in every single way. It is truly an unforgettable piece of entertainment that should be on the must-see list for those who dig films and TV that revel in the gray area rather than black or white.

The familiar beats are all there — our hero Doron is beaten down after the events of the first season, and it looks like he would never be the same person again. He finds peace in his father, who serves as an emotional outlet because he also seems to have been through similar traumas. Soon enough Doron’s tranquil life is disrupted when a mysterious man, code-named El Makdessi, covered in a headscarf tries to fire a bazooka rocket on his face in the desert. Doron is plunged back in the fire and violence as he tries to find out who the heck is trying to destroy him.

A still from Fauda season 2/Image from YouTube.

A still from Fauda season 2/Image from YouTube.

It’s a fun setup, and the story arc doesn’t hide the identity of this mystery man — the revelation is rendered, once again showcasing the show’s relative subtlety in a rather nonchalant manner, and it works because it seems logical. As Doron regroups with his team to catch El Makdesi, the title of the show, which means ‘Chaos’ in Arabic, comes to the forefront in episodes jam-packed with more thrills than you can keep a count of.

The first thing you’ll notice is how significantly higher the production values of the second season are.

The show’s new director, Rotem Shamir, wonderfully captures the strain of bursting ferocity orchestrating Doron’s unraveling as he gradually understands the true nature of El Makdessi. The script unfolds as a thriller of sheer brute force, interrupting sequences of fleeting hope with throbbing sequences of suspense and uncertainty that culminate in a truckload of Fauda. But the interesting aspect of the show is how it welcomes questions of ethics and duty, toying with the flexibility of justice when faced with an antagonist who will stop at nothing and can only be caught when you bend some laws.

Another achievement of Fauda is how it makes the political situation in Israel easy to follow for those unfamiliar with the region. Only a cursory knowledge of terms like Hamas, ISIS, PLO etc would be enough to settle in, but even if you have no clue about who does what, it still works as an engaging page-turner with cliff notes attached in each episode. This is, of course, a double-edged sword because the relative simplicity in dealing with complex issues causes the problem of the show to come across as one-sided.

Palestinians watching the show may criticise it for showcasing the Israeli military unit as heroic while denigrating the Arabs as reductive terrorists. The show runners attempt to drop a spotlight on both sides due to the fallout of the skirmish — both Arab and Israeli families are shown suffering for being right in the midst of a nonsensical and seemingly never ending war. In fact, the theme of families being torn apart is the primary hook of this season — no matter which side you're on, brandishing guns is not the answer to resolving the mess in the Middle East. A nuanced episode or two ruminating on the political situation would have added a requisite layer of balance to an already good show, even if it came at the cost of pausing the thrills and dealing in dialogue.

On the plus side, the camaraderie between Doron’s team members is more pronounced and heartfelt; the first season made them look like stereotypical machine-gun trotting sexist joke spewing bearded military bro clones of each other, but this time they have individual arcs and high enough stakes for us to care about if something happens to them. The villain, best left for you to discover, is far more interesting than the baddie from the previous season even if his motivations are a bit predictable.

The ferocious psychological brawl between El Makdessi and Doron is fascinating to watch as the latter increasingly shows signs of the fatigue of his job wearing heavily on his shoulders, often succumbing to the temptation of becoming the person he is hunting. It all culminates in an explosive finale providing a full frontal picture of the futility of law in a world where human behavior could be dark and cruel beyond redemption while still upholding the engrossing core themes of the story.

Fauda Season 2 premiered on Israeli TV earlier this year but is now streaming on Netflix Worldwide.

Updated Date: Jun 12, 2018 14:09 PM