The Honorable Woman: A well-timed tale of middle eastern politics (for mature viewers)



I’m just going to rave for a few paragraphs: I’m enamored of an original 8-part miniseries from Sundance TV and am heart-broken that it will end this week with the final installment of what has been a spell-binding tour of London and Gaza. Tried and true binge TV watchers will appreciate a television show that takes its time to unravel a complex story. And lovers of suspense will relish a tale that twists back on itself incessantly, employs dynamic flashbacks, and revels in wonderful character actors with the flair of a classic Le Carre tale.

The Honorable Woman stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steven Rea, Janet McTeer, and a host of other terrific actors. It is directed with blistering power by Hugo Blick. Head to your DVR immediately, and soon you will be able to enjoy hours of excellent, suspenseful filmmaking. ( (Thursday at 10 PM – Time Warner subscribers can download past episodes).

Ms. Gyllenhall plays a British baroness, Nessa Stein, whose family is intricately enmeshed in the politics of the Middle East. Her father was an Israeli arms dealer, and after his violent death she and her brother inherited his considerable fortune. Despite her father’s Zionism, Nessa is determined to build bridges between Israel and Palestine – tunnels with fiber optic wire that she sees as a very simple way “to just talk to one another”.

Nessa’s stubborn desire to lead her family’s multi-billion dollar business through the quagmire of the region’s enflamed politics is at once noble and astonishingly futile, and her heart is torn in pieces in every episode.  She’s both cold as stone and an endearingly fragile character — Gyllenhall accomplishes this all while wearing enviable suits from Stella McCarthy and speaking with an impeccable British accent.

The Honorable Woman a brilliant, but unmistakably violent piece of storytelling – characters are brutally murdered in each episode, and the tension that builds from episode to episode is akin to that in HBO’s Homeland. The script portrays all the players – Israeli and Palestinian – as equally culpable, with blame pointed in a more abstract direction, to an overt theme of “secrecy”. The plot’s twists and the fine acting all around make for excellent television, the likes of which we may not see again this fall.

Warning: The Honorable Woman contains extremely mature content – from rape, to murder, with often upsetting sexual predicaments. It is for adults only.