Did we like it?
Topical, intelligent (for the most part), well-written, suspenseful drama from the US Showtime channel – what’s not to like?
This LA-set series concerns Darwyn Al Sayeed, a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates the Sleeper Cell of the title. In a twist, the leader of the cell – Faris al Farik – is posing as a Jew. This series is the first US show to have a Muslim as the heroic central character.
Don’t worry about political correctness though – first and foremost it’s a cracking thriller. This one is going on Series Link…..
What was good about it?
• It is extremely topical and very well-acted – coming across as a more believable and uncompromising sibling of 24. Thankfully there’s no Kim Bauer equivalent getting kidnapped every five minutes.
• There are no easy cop-outs. Darwyn is prepared to maintain his cover even if it means shooting the member of the cell that he’d grown closest to in the head.
• Farik is a refreshingly unpleasant character. In this first episode, he murders a Yemeni girl who had brought shame on her family by having an American boyfriend (and dressing like an American teen) and goes to extreme lengths to make sure that the cell member who had been bragging to his uncle in Egypt about the terrors to be visited on LA, won’t be talking out of turn again. His solution? Take the guy out to the desert, bury him up to his neck and let the rest of the cell take it in turns with a pile of rocks. That’s gotta hurt….
• There’s some pretty raw dialogue. When the equally unpleasant former French National Front member, turned Islamic terrorist, Christian says, “I want to f*ck Britney Spears!” Farik retorts, “You can f*ck her corpse!”
• The atmosphere of menace and suspicion is ramped up throughout the episode, culminating in the (extremely difficult to watch) stoning in the desert.
What was bad about it?
• Unsurprisingly, Darwyn is good looking with big blue eyes, whilst Farik was handsome in a slimy sort of way – following the convention of a thousand thrillers before it.
• When Darwyn meets love interest Gayle at a children’s party, he fesses up to having been in a federal penitentiary, “but I didn’t stab or shoot anybody”. Despite having her young kid around, she looks remarkably unfazed considering that he won’t say why he was in there. Murder, terrorism, GBH and kidnapping are about the only things that will get you into a federal penitentiary…. Sure enough, it’s only after they’ve slept together that she considers that her actions may have been a little foolish.
• Christian must be one of the few National Front members to remain tattoo-free.