Netflix took a gamble by ordering a second season of “Fauda” and it is one that certainly paid off, with the streaming service and viewers getting plenty of bang for their buck. “Fauda” is an Israeli political thriller television series that uses some of the richest material out there, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The new season aired on Yes TV in Israel earlier this year, and the full season just dropped on Netflix at the end of May.
Coming off the end of last season’s explosive finale, the first episode starts and ends with a bang—a literal explosion—with the death of a character you’d least expect to meet their demise.
Creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff clearly know how to ratchet up the tension. In this show about an Israeli undercover unit, where members dress as Palestinians to capture or kill those who are planning attacks against Israel, there are six eyeballs you need to keep your eyes on. They belong to Raz, who stars as Doron Kavillio, Shadi Mar’i, who plays Hamas military commander Walid el Abed and Laetitia Eido, who plays a Palestinian doctor. Raz’s green eyes are often piercing, especially when his character is filled with guilt or hatred. Doron escapes execution at the end of Season 1, though he fails to save a fellow unit member who is supposed be swapped for a sheikh. When Hamas kills him, Doron kills the sheikh.
In this season, he thinks he can chill out on his farm and maybe never have to put his life on the line again.
But the son of the sheikh wants revenge. Nidal Al Makdassi is a member of Hamas, but strays to ISIS, all in the hopes of making sure he doesn’t have to answer to anyone and can eliminate Doron and get payback.
Mar’i is wildly talented and gives an award-worthy performance as Walid. His hair is shorter and he is no longer the sidekick to Abu Ahmad, an antagonist of the first season. His eyes bug out in such a crazy way when he is jealous or feels betrayed that it edges on sheer madness. Eido, is once again masterful. She nails the role of a woman who wants to be loyal to her people but also to herself and her need to be free. Her eyes convey a battle of hope and despair and the twist the writers throw in is a clever one.
Doron has to deal with one tragedy after another, when people close to him are killed or driven to death. Al Makdassi proves to be a tougher opponent than expected. As opposed to Hisham Suliman, who had a clear ruggedness as Abu Ahmed, Firas Nassar seems almost too cool to be the tough guy. The character slits two throats as calmly as someone might cut a steak at a diner and he fires an RPG like he’s just out for a day at the park.
Episode 11 contains a highly emotional scene when members of the unit are cornered by a mob. The episode ends off a little too cleanly with a wounded character surviving. Also, part of the seventh and eighth episodes involve a far-fetched plan to trick Walid and the scenes ring a bit false.
Though she only gets a little screen time, Rona Lee Shim’on is fantastic in every scene she’s in as Nurit. Showing both her beauty and ferocity, she attempts to demonstrate that she should not be treated differently just because she is the only female member of the unit. As Marwa, Luna Mansour is stellar as a lovely Palestinian woman who wants to shield her husband from violence and wants to have a normal life, but may be powerless against forces that could destroy her family. The writers employ skillful foreshadowing, especially when using Doron’s son, Ido, who may or may or may not be learning from his father.
“Fauda” is a thrill-ride that requires binging and it’s better than “Homeland.” The title is the Arabic word for chaos and the Israeli undercover unit members shout this phrase if their cover is blown, so military reinforcements can be sent. There is one important thing to note. Netflix offers the option of watching it in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles or watching it dubbed in English or other languages. You need to watch it without dubbed voices. I know some people say they “can’t deal with subtitles.” Unless you’ve just had cataract surgery, if Israeli and Palestinians can live with their conflict every day, I think you can handle subtitles.
The show portrays Israelis and Palestinians doing good things and bad things while they try to protect their families. Some have balked at the fact that the show doesn’t show specific segments of Palestinian suffering, including checkpoints, and a lack of food and electricity.
But this is not a documentary or a newscast on the totality of the conflict. It is a drama from an Israeli point of view centered on characters facing a specific enemy.
Support the New York Jewish Week
Our nonprofit newsroom depends on readers like you. Make a donation now to support independent Jewish journalism in New York.