Do you know what I love most about running this site? Well, firstly it gives me an outlet to talk about TV. If I couldn’t vent my disappointment or rave about something I loved here I could see myself becoming one of those people who jabbers incoherently to themselves at a bus stop or whilst wondering around a crowded shopping centre. Secondly, and most importantly, it allows me to discover TV that may be so far under most people’s radar that it passes them by entirely. This most definitely the case with Israeli drama Hostages which has been quietly playing in BBC Four’s foreign drama slot on Saturdays. This slot has been home to some of the biggest names in foreign drama from The Killing to The Bridge now Hostages.
A huge hit in its native Israel, Bnei Aruba (Hostages) is one of the most pleasant surprises TV has thrown my way in a long time. I’d like to say I’m well versed in subtitled drama, but to be truthful I was so late to the party when the cool people where going on about the wonder of Nordic Noir that the buffet had finished and the DJ had packed his flashing lights away. So Hostages was my first proper foray into the subtitled drama.
The 10-part series centers around top surgeon Yael Danon (Ayelet Zurerwhose) whose job puts her whole family in danger when she chosen to perform a routine operation on the Prime Minister. If the premise rings a bell it may be because Channel 4 showed the quite frankly god awful US version a few years ago. That version was quickly shelved by American network CBS and those who saw it will understand why. Luckily the original Israeli version is everything the American abomination wasn’t. The characters are well developed, likeable and it’s full of twists, turns and truly edge of the sofa moments.
When news spreads when Yael is going to perform the operation, and security tightens at the hospital it’s clear the doctor’s family is under surveillance. It’s then we meet the family. There’s Yael’s husband Eyal, he’s the headmaster at the local school where computer hacker extraordinaire son Assaf has been caught hacking into the computers to give out the answers to the tests. Then there’s daughter Noa who arrives home burdened with a secret she’s reluctant to share.
What makes Hostages so utterly gripping is the fact that it wastes no time. As soon as the four menacing hostage takers disable the family dog and enter the family home. Cloaked in black and brandishing guns they quickly gag and tie up the family before issuing their demands to Yael. They want her to administer a drug to the Prime Minister that will shut down vital organs and declare him dead. If she refuses, the gunmen say they her family won’t survive. What follows is truly the most exciting piece of TV I’ve seen for a long long time with a myriad of twists and turns and genuine ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments. The tension lies in the contrast of two universally relatable themes – the choice between a very personal dilemma faced by everyday characters, and a greater moral issue of a wide-scale social and national conspiracy – and it makes me for addictive viewing.
Because the entire 10-part series takes place over a few days and doesn’t often move from the close confines of the family house it’s perfect for binge-watching. In fact by the end of episode two you’ll be dying to know what happens next. Interesting alliances are formed as the family struggles to stay alive and keep their captors onside whilst also trying to get help or escape their awful situation.
Ayelet Zurerwhose who plays Doctor Yael Danon and her seventeen year old daughter Noa played by Dar Zuzovsky were the real standouts for me though the entire cast is hugely believable. I don’t want to harp on too much about how enjoyable it was, but by the time the last episode rolled around I was literally on the edge of my seat. The pacing is so relentless that I took a huge breath of relief by the time those final credits ran. This show isn’t just for fans of nordic or subtitled drama, it’s a show for anyone who loves a good drama. It’s a such a shame it doesn’t seem to have garnered the same buzz of other foreign shows in that Saturday night slot but I’m blaming the awful American remake for that. I urge to buy the DVD and indulge in this series, the only problem you might have is that you’re likely to lose an afternoon!
Hostages is released on DVD and Digital Download
via Arrow Films March 16th,
the series finale airs on BBC4 Saturday at 9pm.