By Matt Silver
When journalist Avi Issacharoff and actor Lior Raz collaborated on writing and producing “Fauda,” it was unclear whether their series would resonate to the extent that it has, in as many countries as it has and especially among Palestinians and Israelis.
Most major film outlets rejected the premise — too divisive, too “problematic,” too much like “24” set in the occupied territories. It wasn’t until Israel’s yes Studios took a chance and called itself by its name that the sensation Jewish-American dads seem to love while younger, more politically liberal viewers love to hate-watch was green-lit.
In the immortal words of Chris Farley: “Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?” The third season, like the return of the wasteful son you didn’t know you wanted to embrace until he plopped himself back on your doorstep, has made its unlikely way back to us at the height of our lassitude.
Let us all say Baruch Hashem and Allahu Akhbar for that. Season three continues to unravel a story that is suspenseful, violent, complicated and, in many ways, a metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On one hand, of course, there’s the intense Israeli desire to obliterate Hamas and vice versa. But also present is the more subtle, underlying dynamic of cultures that simultaneously seek to override their own programming while executing that which has been commanded. The human condition, its penchant for self-destruction and desire for order to be imposed from without, are on full display.
The characters here have the potential to coexist; desires to actually care about one another manifest themselves closer to the surface than before, but the struggle to find common ground … over common ground remains.
The use of Arabic and Hebrew rather than English as in some other recent international films creates an authenticity that outweighs the uncomfortable rapid-fire dialogue as it is translated into English subtitles.
As the season begins, Doron (Raz) and his team are once again trying to dismantle Hamas’ infrastructure, this time in Gaza (the first two seasons center on the West Bank). This time, he cleverly but also pretty unrealistically becomes a recruit of Hamas and becomes a respected boxing coach of an up-and-coming Palestinian fighter, Bashar. Of course, it’s not long before he’s found out and all manner of violence and killing ensues, picking right back up from seasons one and two.
Most interesting, in the process of being an imposter, Doron, now known as Abu Fadi, develops feeling for Bashar, a sense of loyalty. We’ve seen this play out before, with his love interest, the beautiful, French-speaking Dr. Shireen in seasons one and two.
Much of the season revolves around Doron trying to save Bashar’s life, after the pupil is thought to be a traitor who protected his coach, a Jew.
The violence is vivid and the photography is magnificent — whether that’s a selling point or a drawback may depend on your own level of sociopathy. The language is raw and real throughout with moments of sensitivity and compassion. Doron, for all his gruff bluster, conveys a deep feeling for Bashar, which is in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the layered male lead.
The depth of hostility and hatred for both cultures is articulated by the complex use of technology and high-powered ammunition without any resolution to issues but sheer drama. We know it’s fiction, but an American Jew can’t help but wonder how much truth there is in the show’s portrayal.
While the show’s value as uncut pop entertainment can’t be denied, too often the overdone violence and killing is a huge disservice to all the nuance, superb acting, cinematography and incredible, realistic setting.
If you have seen seasons one and two, there’s no reason to stop now; there’s no reason now for much of anything, really. “Fauda” is rock-solid quarantine binging.
But if your stomach is a little weak or one potentially never-ending nightmare is already too much for you to take, maybe the new 10-part series on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls is more your speed.
Matt Silver is a writer for the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of Washington Jewish Week.