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 West Bank. It wasn’t until Israel’s yes Studios took a chance that the sensation that Jewish American dads seem to love — and that younger liberal viewers love to hate-watch — was greenlighted.
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.
If this season is anywhere near as compelling to Americans as it was to Israelis back in December — 1 million watched over the first 48 hours — the admonitions to just stay home might not be necessary after all.
Season 3 continues to unravel a story that is suspenseful, violent, complicated and, in many ways, a metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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 also turns into 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 1 and 2.
Most interesting, in the process of being an imposter, Doron, now known as
Abu Fadi, develops feelings for Bashar, and a sense of loyalty. We’ve seen this play out before, with his love interest, the beautiful, French-speaking Dr. Shireen in seasons 1 and 2.
Much of the new 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 deep emotion for Bashar, which is in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the layered male lead.
The depth of hostility and hatred between both cultures is articulated by the complex use of technology and high-powered ammunition. There’s no resolution to any of the issues but there’s plenty of 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 1 and 2, 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. JN
Matt Silver is a staff writer for Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication..