The Israeli thriller Fauda, which started on Netflix in 2015, is back again for a second season, and it’s every bit as good as the first one.
Unfolding in Hebrew and Arabic, it focuses on an Israeli army undercover unit charged with flushing out terrorists in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War. This taut and riveting 12-part series, directed by Rotem Shamir, resurrects the deadly struggle between its tough operatives, who speak Arabic fluently and can pass for Arabs, and a wily Palestinian Arab fighter whose allegiance has shifted from Hamas to Islamic State.
Doron (Lior Raz), a key member of this crack unit, is scruffy and dishevelled, but fast on his feet and adept with a revolver and his fists. He’s dedicated to hunting down terrorists and keeping Israel safe from its enemies. Doron’s skillful adversary, Nidal (Firas Nassar), or Abu Seif Makdasi, is driven by two objectives: to avenge the death of his father, a revered Hamas commander gunned down by Doron, and to “liberate” Palestine.
Although Fauda is an Israeli production and is told from mainly a Jewish point of view, it neither glorifies the Israelis nor belittles the Palestinians. If anything, Fauda humanizes both sides. Doron, separated from his wife, still has feelings for Shirin (Laetitia Eido), a Palestinian patriot and physician with whom he had a fling. Eli (Yaakov Zada Daniel), the new commander of the Israeli unit, is intent on proving himself to his subordinates. Nurit (Rona-Lee Shimon), the only woman on the squad, fends off gentle advances from one of her colleagues.
The politics are convoluted and murky.
The Israelis have a cooperative relationship with the Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for maintaining security in Palestinian towns in the West Bank. Gabi (Itzik Cohen), the Israeli who maintains this connection with a Palestinian counterpart, is known as Captain Ayoub. Hamas, the PA’s bitter rival, resents its relations with Israel. Walid (Shadi Mar’i), the youthful commander of Hamas’ military wing, bridles over Nidal’s refusal to toe the party line.
Nidal, to be sure, is a loose cannon who answers to no one in the West Bank. Once a Hamas stalwart, his loyalties are now exclusively reserved for Islamic State, which is trying to establish a foothold in West Bank towns like Nablus and Ramallah. Hamas, though committed to Israel’s destruction by force of arms, staunchly opposes Nidal’s quest for operational freedom.
Fauda, which means chaos in Arabic, is awash with with violence and bloodshed.
In the first episode, an Israeli commander’s vehicle, having been rigged with a bomb, is blown up during the course of a chase. Nidal’s men, having learned idiomatic Hebrew and donned yarmulkes to disguise themselves as “Jewish imposters,” manage to get through an Israeli military checkpoint. En route to carrying out a terrorist bombing in Israel, they run into unexpected trouble and shooting ensues.
Under intense pressure, Shirin, now Walid’s wife, agrees to cooperate with the Israelis. Abu Samara, the Hamas commander in the West Bank, is blackmailed into spilling a secret. Having obtained information about Nidal’s whereabouts, the Israeli team sets up an ambush to capture him. Meanwhile, Nidal torments Doron by tracking down his father, Amos, and threatening to decapitate him.
As these events transpire, Walid is flushed out from his secret location and captured, but he refuses to betray Nidal. Still plotting vengeance, Nidal sends two suicide bombers to Tel Aviv.
Fauda, rife with suspense and intrigue, works like a well-oiled machine. The dialogue jumps off the page. The locales are exotic. The cast, led by Raz and Nassar, is exemplary.
This is television with a bite.