People who know I review film and TV often ask me, “have you seen this series?” Or they tell me, “You’ve got to see XYZ!” I’m not aware of a show titled XYZ, but there is so much content out there it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a show with this title or one soon to come.
The days when 100 million Americans watched the M.A.S.H finale are gone. There were three networks back then, and Dallas and Dynasty were household mainstays, with little other choice. Now, not only do we have the networks, but there’s also cable and streaming and stuff my kids watch exclusively on their phones or tablets such as Dhar Mann. I don’t even know if Dhar Mann is a person or the name of the series.
Point being, there is so much out there it’s impossible to keep up with, so generally I pick one or two series a year to watch, and if I’m intrigued, whether for good or for a guilty pleasure, I’ll keep up with the show it if renews.
Sometimes this causes pain. I stuck with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul for more than a decade. These two shows, though great in many ways, both had their share of weaknesses, the latter far more than the former. I absolutely punished myself by keeping up with Cobra Kai, which is now beyond parody. Even Mr. Miyagi wouldn’t have a technique or a wise word to extricate this series from the beat down the show is laying on viewers.
On the flip side, some series are continually excellent. The Crown, Mindhunter, and Downtown Abbey are a few that managed to be excellent in each of its iterations. And of course The Wire tops them all.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this is Fauda, a series airing on Netflix about an Israeli special forces unit whose members speak perfect Arabic and know every Muslim social and religious custom. They can blend in at weddings and in mosques, usually to ferret out a Palestinian bent on doing the Jewish State harm.
Your feelings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will certainly color your reaction to the series. There’s a lot of blood and guts for sure, but both sides are given compassionate and nuanced characters, often put in impossible situations. Neither Israelis or Palestinians are shown as simply killing machines, but there is no doubt you are meant to root for the Israeli squad and cause.
Fauda is a good series but not great. It will keep you on the edge of your seat but it’s redundant. One of the problems for some of these series is their seasons are released quite far apart. Fauda, season one, debuted in 2015, and season four wrapped up its run in 2023. Though I was a fan, it was hard to remember the details of the previous three seasons. But in a sense, you didn’t have to because the series is plot driven, and the plot is always the same. The terrorists are up to no good, and it’s up to the special team to thwart the plot or strike back. That’s all you need to know.
Despite this flaw, the show manages to suck you in and make you care. It’s plot driven to be sure, but there is enough character work, on both sides, that it never feels like mindless action (though action is surely the focus).
Israel is producing many fine series these days, so if terrorism and counterterrorism is not for you, look into Shtisel. It’s about as far different an Israeli as you could find compared to Fauda. It concerns a family of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredi) in Jerusalem and their tribulations. It ran for three seasons, and I think is concluded. But it’s worth going back to watch.
Fauda seems set up for a fifth season. I’m not sure they can produce anything other than what they have. A la The Sopranos, whenever more conflict was needed, they simply released a mafia member from jail or a new one showed up, and Tony had to deal with the trouble this caused. So with Fauda, undoubtedly, there will be another terrorist threat to confront, and though trite, the producers have managed to make each season just interesting enough that you forget you’re watching the same wheel go round.
Fauda, an Arabic word which roughly translates to ‘chaos,’ is the team’s code word. If a mission is about to fall apart they scream ‘fauda,’ and go into red alert. The landscape of TV series itself is quite chaotic, with so many choices and platforms from which to choose, if you ask me at any given time what I’m watching or tell me what I must watch, you might just hear me blurt “Fauda,” both from the standpoint of feeling overwhelmed by content and a series recommendation.