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Passed tense

Published November 29, 2020

Tehran

It’s taken a while for me to get to the end of Tehran, the Apple TV espionage thriller based in the Iranian city. Initially, I was watching it week on week as it was released, but I’m no fool. I knew the penultimate episode would have one heck of a cliffhanger, so I opted to save it a week and watch two episodes together. But then, a week became two and other things got in the way and oop, finally it’s nearly Christmas and I need to finish watching Tehran before the jingle bells start.

It’s done though, and what a ride it was. One of the key phrases that kept popping up as we devoured this show was from a Financial Times review that branded the show as “nauseatingly tense”. At first, I just loved the sound of these words together but gradually it became clear that it described the show perfectly.

It’s a spy thriller but it’s not in your James Bond style. There aren’t a lot of running, jumping, shooting, huge battle scenes - although there are some of those scattered throughout. I was very surprised and grateful, in fact, that it’s a very bloodless show, no gratuitous violence is shown. The real terror comes from the slow closing of a door, the knowledge of what could happen, how high the stakes are.

What I also enjoyed about the show is that I couldn’t work out who the bad guys were. I’ll hold my hands up and admit my knowledge of the Israel-Iran conflict is almost non-existent, which obviously didn’t help. But even if I did know more, I still really liked a lot of the characters - if liked is the right word. Quite often we find ourselves rooting for the wrong side, but I don’t think I’ve ever watched a TV show where I’ve wanted everyone to win and everyone to be okay and no one to get hurt.

The action takes place in, I think, three languages, and I like how seamlessly it switched between them - these are some really talented actors. It was a great adventure from start to finish, although there are loose ends still to be tied up and no season two has been announced as yet. I hope there is one, and I hope it’s just as nauseatingly tense as the first.

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