‘Tehran’ Review: Not Your Typical Spy Thriller

Tehran is a fresh, modern take on spy thrillers that lodges a large chunk of diversity into the Apple TV+ portfolio. Are there spies? Yes. Are there thrills? Yes. But this show is different than what’s typically presented to American audiences.

For starters, our spy, Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan), is an Israeli-operative that sneaks into the Iranian capital of Tehran. The overall mission to disarm the “nukes” relies heavily on the success of her mission: nullifying Iran’s defenses.

Within the first 15 minutes of the series, it’s easy to notice a laundry list of things that standout from your typical tale of espionage. Normally, the protagonist would be white, male, and from either the UK or the USA. Series creator Moshe Zonder wasn’t having any of that. Tamar, a woman, is a Mossad agent whose background has taken her through Israel, Qatar, and Iran. Often donning a hijab, we see her defend herself via hand-to-hand combat as well as guns, but her specialty is tech. A proud hacker, she’s no stranger to the dark web, managing a network of other hackers, and using her intelligence to get what she wants. Not at all typical.

One of the great things about fresh, new, original content, is the introduction of new actors (new in the sense of familiarity). Niv Sultan and Shervin Alenabi were excellent in their respective roles as Tamar and Milad. More familiar faces, Shaun Toub (Scandal, Homeland, Snowpiercer) and Navid Negahban (Homeland, Castlevania, Legion), rounded out a diverse cast that clearly left an imprint on audiences worldwide as the series was renewed for a second season.

Navid Negahban in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

For those stuck on the USA/European archetype, Tehran is more thought and purpose than violence and more violence. In Tehran, conflict is handled with a more pragmatic approach, which is a welcome shift from the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mindset that’s normally presented. While there’s plenty of conflict, violence, and suspense to go ’round, there’s a great bit of chatter that takes away from the excitement. Granted, conversations need to be had for context and backstory, but there was a good helping of extraneous dialogue that had no place in the series (causing slow parts to drag even more).

Zonder and Co. get a 9 out of 10 for Tehran. Throughout the entire first season, Tamar radiated an air of calm that was visible from the first episode. With a fresh angle and cast in support, there’s no doubt that Tehran is set to takeoff into unexplored territory.

Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app in over 100 countries and regions, on over 1 billion screens, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month (with a seven-day free trial).

-Jon J.

Photos: Courtesy of Apple TV+

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