Friday, September 6, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Spy' - Eli Cohen Undergoes Training to Become a Spy for the Israeli Government in 'The Immigrant'

Netflix's The Spy - Episode 1.01 "The Immigrant"

Desperate to get an agent inside Syria, Mossad recruits Egyptian-born Eli and puts him through a crash course in spycraft.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's The Spy.

"The Immigrant" was written by Gideon Raff and directed by Gideon Raff

This premiere focuses intensely on the need to get an Israeli spy inside the Syrian government. As such, Eli Cohen goes through a crash course over six months in order to learn the skills necessary to succeed in this profession. It's what he has long wanted from his life. When he is out socializing with his wife Nadia, he laments how no one has any respect for the work he did for the Jewish immigrant community from Egypt. He helped thousands of people escape to a better life in Israel. He chose to stay behind even after his family had already left. He will proudly serve for his country. It's not even a choice for him. Sure, he pauses for a second over the idea of having to cut off all communication with Nadia. He may not be able to leave her behind in order to embrace this profession. But he also justifies it all by saying if he puts in the work now then he will be treated with the respect he has long deserved. He fantasizes about a life as an ambassador. That is a title that would be absolutely life-changing while fulfilling him in a way he has always wanted in this world. But it also means leaving so much behind. He doesn't even tell Nadia that he is undergoing this training for months. She shows up at his office one day and is stunned to learn that he hasn't worked there in a long time. After she confronts him about that, he is honest with her. It just also comes at a time when she is pregnant. She realizes that she will have to raise their family all by herself simply because she can't stand in the way of his ambitions. The two of them have such a loving dynamic. It's sweet to see the notes being passed between them and the inside jokes written within them. It's a nice way to romanticize this relationship in a way that is immediately understood. It's so compassionate and may even allow their bond to continue. It's a way for them to get a surprise from their partner when they least expect it. It brightens Eli's day when he makes the transition into his new cover identity. And yet, he has to lock it away with the rest of the reminders of his former life. This is what Mossad has trained him to do. All of that is portrayed through a montage that highlights that he may be a better agent than anyone else on Dan's team. That is shocking considering the condensed time frame. This isn't an operation that should work in the slightest. The Israeli government simply feels the pressure to infiltrate Syria and understand what they are planning. They have to rely on American intelligence in order to get feint glimpses of what could be going on in the Golan Heights. Eli could become such an important asset in the field. It's very dangerous with it all inevitably ending in disaster for him. The show is already teasing that he gets in too deep and can no longer remember the life he used to live. That is always a fear present in this kind of undercover work especially as it's depicted in this particular medium. As such, the pressure is on the show to truly show just how brilliant Eli's transformation has been. He has to be effective to ensure his country succeeds in the growing conflict. The action has been built up in this premiere. Now, it's time for him to enter the field. He heads to Argentina to begin his new life. It's a world full of possibilities. But it's all built on a lie that will consume everything. It won't matter how well an agent he will be. He will still have lost something significant as a result of all of this training and field work. That is inherently tragic. The creative team already understands the fatal cost of this brutal conflict. It too feels the pressure to point that out as well as the beauty of the countryside whenever it can. That's significant especially in a world that increasingly seems grey and colorless.