When the Israeli series Tehran debuted its first episode on Apple TV+ two years ago, it felt like it would be hard to top the pacing and intrigue. An Israeli agent working undercover in Iran who nearly had her cover blown when an Israeli tourist recognized her from their time together in the army? That start was thrilling and enticing, and it only continued to become more engaging and interesting as its lead character, Tamar (Niv Sultan), mined and got closer to a source, Milad (Shervin Alenabi), while the Iranian investigator Faraz (Shaun Toub) showed that he would stop at nothing to find her.
After an intense conclusion to the first season, Tehran is back for more, and it’s just as worthwhile and high-octane. TV and film characters have a tendency to reject the easy way out, and so it is for Tamar, who, given the chance to leave Iran behind and head on to a next mission that likely wouldn’t be anywhere near as dangerous, chooses to stay there and continue because she believes she can bring down the new regime. Though it has its share of hand-to-hand combat and chase scenes, what really defines this show is the scope of its protagonist’s uphill battle and her desire to persevere despite brutal odds.
The relationships Tamar has with the two leading men on the show are also informative and interesting. Milad has fallen for Tamar and wants to be with her even though he knows that she is an Israeli, but she also doesn’t read him into everything, and her supervisors don’t believe that they can trust him – or that they need him. Faraz’s obsession with Tamar continues, and even though it might have seemed like he had started to develop a soft spot for the target of his pursuit, he remains committed to doing his duty, something he values above all, to the detriment of his own fractured relationship with his wife following the events of season one.
Though this viewer, and surely many others, would have tuned in again solely on the merits of the quality of the first season, it’s understandable that the creative talent behind the camera would want a hook to draw in a new audience. Enter Glenn Close, an eight-time Oscar nominee with considerable television experience, including her Emmy-winning turn on Damages. Close has joined a show well into its run before, added to the cast of The Shield in its fourth season for a short-lived but impactful gig. She’s formidable in any role, and puts on an accent to play a mysterious contact who knows plenty about Tamar and appears to be her best ally in her newest mission.
It’s easy to root for Tamar in her fight to take down a totalitarian regime that uses torture and public hangings as a way to curb its people into submission. Yet that content remains quite disturbing, and this show does not shy away from portraying it on-screen. The violence does not feel gratuitous, yet it may be triggering for some viewers and surely unsettling for all. It also serves to enhance the magnitude of what Tamar and those working with her face, since being caught will result, as it has already for fallen allies, in certain and painful death, and brutal consequences for anyone tangentially involved.
Season two of Tehran will run eight episodes, with two available at launch and a new installment premiering each week. Spacing them out rather than binging feels like the right option given that each delivers strongly enough on its own. Those seeking to access season two as if it was a new show will likely be lost, and the eight episodes of season one are worth catching up on before diving in. This is a format that works very well, an unusual instance of appointment television on a streaming service that might just be under-the-radar enough to get into at any point without knowing too much about it.
New episodes of Tehran premiere weekly on Fridays on Apple TV+.