Do you like NCIS? Love a bit of James Bond? Then you’ll adore Mossad 101.
Called HaMidrasha (or The Seminary) in Hebrew, the language in which it is predominantly filmed, Mossad 101 follows the selection process and training of a bunch of would-be Mossad agents. They come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of dark secrets – an Iranian man with a gambling problem, a secretive but beautiful Brazilian woman, and an Arab-hating French-Israeli extremist to name just three.
Trained by the enigmatic Yona Harari, played by Yehuda Levi, the course and the series get off to a very exciting start. The trainees are at a course commencement party when armed men suddenly storm the beachhouse, sending them fleeing into the night. They have to get to the Seminary, where the course will be taught, before their time runs out, without being arrested by police (unless, of course, you turn that into your strategy, as one of the trainees did). Real bullets are flying, real injuries sustained, and the course commanders immediately get into conflict with each other.
In addition to the interesting missions and personal development of the trainees, we also learn about the fascinating backstory of Yona Harari, aka Kinder. He used to date Abigail Lerman (Liron Vaisman), who is the course commander by the end of the episode. She’s now having a fling with the Deputy of Mossad, Micha (Shai Avivi). Kinder is the jealous possessive type with either a serious personality problem or just standard male entitlement warped beyond control by his life as a spy, so his behaviour degenerates to straight-up stalking within the first episode. Micha becomes similarly problematic down the track, and the ground is set for jealous enmity between the two.
We also discover that Kinder has been assigned to the training course because a mission went wrong in Bulgaria, and it was his fault. The oldest trainee, Doris, is the wife of a Mossad agent (Aaron) who died as a result. As the series progresses, we get to Kinder doing a lot of stone-cold badassery, but we also see him obfuscating about what actually happened on that mission. Eventually, all the remaining trainees get suspicious, and then the action really kicks off. I won’t give you any more spoilers.
This is an enthralling show. Each character is unique and fascinating (with the possible exception of the two American-Israeli brothers in the course, who are interesting but very similar to each other). They all have some sort of secret that no one else knows. Most interestingly, you cannot predict who will go and who will stay. I thought one character was strong-willed, clever, interesting and fun, but they got eliminated relatively early. Others I thought were sure to go made it to the end. The show constantly keeps you guessing.
The show also puts viewers in a weird place about Kinder. He is likeable, charming, funny and quite supportive of Abigail on one occasion when she is clearly having a hard time. However, he is also possessive and manipulative in the extreme. One moment you think he is an awful person; the next he kind of redeems himself. In one way, it is realistic to show a handsome, charming man with such a dark side, because domestic violence can be perpetrated by handsome charming men with perhaps even greater ease than ugly, socially-awkward ones. On the other hand, making Kinder so likeable seems almost like a way of excusing his awful behaviour, particularly with the way the show ends (watch it and you’ll see what I mean. It’s too good for me to spoil it). It is vaguely satisfying to see him get punched in the throat by Micha a few episodes in.
Kinder’s handsome face and stalker qualities aside, Mossad 101 has incredible pacing. It’s not like 24, where I find myself constantly on the edge of my seat, but there are some incredibly tense moments. The action keeps driving forward and, despite most episodes having a cathartic ending with a bit of room to breathe, curiosity drives you on to watch the next one.
If you like TV shows about agencies like NCIS or police dramas, but also enjoy reality tv with eliminations, but also want to watch a spy movie, Mossad 101 has something for you. By its nature it can be graphic and cover some disturbing stuff, including testing the characters to break their own moral and religious codes in multiple ways, but it would be far less realistic without that.
I want more people to watch this show so I have more people to talk about it with! So get yourself onto Netflix and binge Season 1 – Season 2 has just come out and it promises to be a cracker.
Have you watched this show? What else on Netflix has you hooked right now? Any foreign-language dramas? Let me know in the comments!