Apple TV+ show Tehran puts its second-season plot in motion this week, but the Israeli espionage drama keeps making bizarre missteps in its pursuit of pulse-pounding thrills, twists and turns.
Manjar steps into Farraz’s home in the perfect disguise, Tamar tries out her new character, Milad almost screws everything up for all of them.
Everybody’s tense and everybody’s guilty, as usual. And Tehran continues to benefit from good performances, tight editing and solid music and sound design, which keep every nail-biting scene running efficiently. But is that enough to save the show from an increasingly blinkered perspective?
Tehran recap: ‘PTSD’
In this week’s episode of Tehran, entitled “PTSD,” Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan (played by Niv Sultan) is ready to put the next phase of her plan into action. She plans to get in good with thug Vahid Nemati (Sia Alipour), so she can edge closer to Peyman Mohammadi (Darius Homayoun), the son of Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Mohammadi (Vassilis Koukalani). Then she will kill Qassem and presumably retire.
Of course, we all know how that story tends to go. Before she’s even started on her plan to cozy up to the criminal element that will be her ticket to salvation, there’s a fly in the ointment: Her boyfriend Milad Kahani (Shervin Alenabi).
Last week, Milad killed a low-level drug pusher. The Iranians put the squeeze on the dealer, who then ran to punish Milad for involving him in the situation. So now there’s a body to bury. Milad’s wigging out because he feels guilty, and Tamar’s handler Marjan Montazemi (Glenn Close) doesn’t trust him.
Thankfully Marjan’s got her own operation going to keep her busy. Namely pretending to be from Veterans Affairs so she can act as Faraz Kamali’s (Shaun Toub) and his wife Naahid’s (Shila Ommi) psychiatrist. Naahid’s been going out of her mind lately due to Faraz’s firing (and the sense that her safety and sanity come last to him).
It takes Naahid a minute to admit it and let her guard down but she’s grateful for the opportunity to talk. Faraz is immediately suspicious, but naturally, Marjan’s been working her alias for years, so it’s meant to look watertight when he does a background check on her.
Tamar’s first stop is the gym where Vahid works, and in zero time flat she’s got an invite to lunch at his place. She charmed him when he visited their apartment enough that she can afford to become point man in the operation, allowing Milad more time to fret at home.
Finally, Milad goes to his murder victim’s apartment, loots his safe and steals his dog and car. Faraz doesn’t arrive in time to catch him. Then, Milad shows up at Vahid’s house with the money (blowing her cover in front of him), thinking that with the money they can vanish, without knowing (or not wanting to put it together) that they’re in way too deep to get out now.
Iran and England is not exactly a love story, is it?
This episode of Tehran has its fair share of big problems. The Iranian cops sent to chase Milad and Tamar in the stolen car wind up shooting the cute little French bulldog because it won’t stop barking. I don’t buy that for a second — the thing is the size of a squirrel. It just seems like another opportunity to paint the Iranians as the real villains of the show, even though our “hero” is trying to assassinate the head of the Iranian military.
Tehran hasn’t completely abandoned the “both sides are bad” perspective on paper. However, it does take every opportunity to paint the Iranians as a little more stupid, and a little more violent, than the Israeli agents at the heart of the show.
And then Milad leaves the stolen money in the car when they flee. That’s a lot of convenience. Plus, when Marjan is interviewing Naahid, the writers make a pretty odd language mistake. She asks Naahid about Farraz taking his old job the second Mohammadi asked him to.
“He could have said no … couldn’t’ve he?” she asks Naahid. That’s torturous, even for TV writers. Glenn Close is always a welcome addition to any ensemble (and indeed she’s been doing typically great work otherwise). But she’s usually got slightly better instincts than to let something like that go.
How convenient …
The episode also suffers from plot convenience of the highest order. Within one episode of announcing her intentions to use Milad to get to Vahid to get to Peyman to get to Qassem, Tamar’s already three-quarters of the way to her objective.
It’s not that I don’t buy rich guys are horndog idiots who’d let a pretty girl do anything. It’s just that the show makes the world of Iranian politics much much smaller than I imagine it actually feels. I could have used a little more in the way of active obstacles instead of behavioral ones (like Milad’s insistence, stubbornness, idiocy and jealousy – again a lot).
Still, I won’t lie and say I don’t want to know what happens in next week’s episode of Tehran.
Watch Tehran on Apple TV+
New episodes of Tehran arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.