In Tehran, even a pool party is drenched in deception [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

In Tehran, even a pool party is drenched in deception [Apple TV+ recap]

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Tehran recap ★★☆☆☆
A pool party is just another chance to dip your toes in deceit.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ spy thriller Tehran throws a sexy and tense pool party so Mossad agent Tamar can get one over on her targets: the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and his tech bro son. She has to play a game of cat and mouse with a couple of rich, violent people to get close enough to deploy a decoy that will give her the upper hand — and maybe kill the man responsible for the deaths of her family.

Of course, she put them in danger in the first place, something the show isn’t interested in exploring anymore now that there’s a new spy game afoot. But no matter. Once more unto the breach.

Tehran Season 2 Episode 4 recap: ‘The Rich Kids’

On this week’s episode, entitled “The Rich Kids,” Tamar Rabinyan (played by Niv Sultan) has just been given explosives to take out Qassem Mohammadi (Vassilis Koukalani). Tamar’s increasingly squeamish and freaked-out boyfriend, Milad Kahani (Shervin Alenabi), doesn’t like the sound of that at all. But he’s clinging desperately to the hope that if they go through with this, then Mossad will let them leave the country in peace.

Best laid plans, and all that. Tamar’s handler, Marjan Montazemi (Glenn Close), doesn’t strike me as someone who’d have any problem whatsoever killing Milad if he keeps up his conscientious objector act.

First things first: Tamar needs to get in good with Mohammadi’s son, Peyman (Darius Homayoun), who’s chafing at his father’s new position as head of the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran. Peyman wants to be left alone to conduct his (probably illegal) business without a secret service detail getting in the way and scaring off potential investors or pretty girls like Tamar. As it happens, he’s due at a pool party at Vahid Nemati’s (Sia Alipour) place right now. And who should be mingling there, in a revealing bathing suit, but Tamar?

This is no regular pool party

Tamar waits for a distraction (Vahid and Peyman wrestling in the pool to show off for the girls present), then steals Peyman’s phone to replace it with one with explosives built into it. But first, they must transfer Peyman’s data to the dummy phone so he’ll think he’s using his phone, until the moment they feel confident they can detonate it and kill him and his dad at the same time.

Naturally, this goes south. The data backup takes way too long and Peyman catches her holding his phone. She convinces him it’s a harmless misunderstanding (after all, she has a phone exactly like his…). And Peyman is sufficiently charmed by her that he follows her around the party. This allows them to keep the data sync going because it means the phones are right next to each other.

Despite initial protestations, Faraz Kamali’s (Shaun Toub) wife Naahid (Shila Ommi) resumes her therapy with Marjan. She shares dark dreams and bad memories with the soothing psychiatrist. She doesn’t know that every time Marjan gets up to use the bathroom, she’s calling her contacts or planting more bugs in their apartment.

Knowing that Faraz is about to show up at the pool party, Marjan fixes up another distraction: Get Naahid to conquer her agoraphobia by going across the street to a park and then calling Faraz to ask him to join her. This backfires because Faraz is hellbent on breaking up the party to interrogate Vahid. Suddenly, Marjan has another fire to put out with the very sensitive Naahid.

Dandy little parasite

This episode of Tehran is all plot, very little characterization. Basically, everyone comes off badly in this one. Faraz’s temper gets the better of him after he’s given the brush-off by Peyman, so Naahid says he should just let Peyman die. Tamar is three levels deep into her cover, which means now she’s playing Peyman (who has a girlfriend) against Vahid while Milad watches, mad with jealousy and increasingly frayed nerves.

Vahid plants drugs on Milad. Then tells the cops to pick up Milad so he’ll stop following Vahid and Tamar around. Vahid thinks Milad is Tamar’s brother, so he’s just weirded out by the little creep always turning up wherever Tamar shows up.

We also see lots of casual sadism this episode: Vahid planting the drugs on Milad. Faraz’s deputy, Ali (Arash Marandi), dropping some homophobic slurs about Peyman. Faraz ignoring his wife in a moment of psychological vulnerability knowing what he knows about her condition.

This is becoming a rather oppressive place to spend time — and not in the way I think Tehran’s writers intend. Even with the tight thriller mechanics on display, I’d like it if just one person on this show (other than the consistently vilified drug dealer Milad) went near the brake pedal every now and again.

I get that the point is we’re supposed to be inured to the bad behavior by now. These are bad people trying to kill other people. But Tehran seems, as always, more on Tamar’s side than anyone else’s, despite the fact that she’s a foreign agent seducing people to kill a head of state.

★★☆☆☆

Watch Tehran on Apple TV+

New episodes of Tehran arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

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.