‘Tehran’ debuts globally, sets critics talking

The website Decider, known for its “Stream it or Skip it” advice, had a clear verdict: “Stream it.”

NIV SULTAN as a Mossad agent in ‘Tehran.’  (photo credit: COURTESY KAN 11)
NIV SULTAN as a Mossad agent in ‘Tehran.’
(photo credit: COURTESY KAN 11)
Tehran, the hit Israeli spy show, debuted in the US on Apple + TV last week, and there’s no shortage of reactions and buzz in American media.
The thriller series, produced by KAN 11 and created by several of Israel’s top professionals – including one of Fauda’s writers, Moshe Zonder – was a huge hit in Israel when it was first shown starting in June. The plot focuses on a young, female Mossad agent (Niv Sultan) of Iranian descent who is sent into Tehran to disable the Iranian nuclear program.
It already received a 92% fresh rating from critics on RottenTomatoes.com, with audiences giving it an 81% fresh score. But it’s important to note how quickly these scores went up. The site does not give a rating until a critical mass of viewers have weighed in, and it can often take weeks or even months for a series or movie to get enough votes to have a rating; but for Tehran, the numbers went up within days.
The website Decider, known for its “Stream it or Skip it” advice, had a clear verdict: “Stream it.”
Dominic Patten of Deadline praised it, calling it “wonderful” and saying that “preconceptions and stereotypes crumble” as its twisty plot unfolds. Many reviewers noted that this is one of the first depictions in entertainment of the Iranian dissidents, and it shows the diversity of points of view toward politics, religion and culture among Iranians.
The Wall Street Journal, in a review by Dorothy Rabinowitz, said, “Improbable though it is as a spy story, Tehran maintains its suspense throughout, possibly because it’s about more than spying. It’s a tale that incorporates the drama of lost cultures and identities...”
Variety gave it a mixed review, with its critic Daniel D’Addario writing, “At least a few episodes too long, lacking plausibility or tension, turgid when it wants to be zippy.” But there are so many new series coming out every week that even Variety, one of the most important show business industry publications, can review only a small fraction of them, so it’s significant that it has already published its Tehran review.
Sultan and Iranian-Jewish actor Shaun Toub, who plays the Iranian agent tasked with tracking her down, were singled out for praise from critics. The two stars were interviewed far and wide, including by Hindustan Times in India, to talk about their approaches to their characters and how the show compares to Homeland, in which Toub also appeared.
Perhaps the clearest sign of the series’ success abroad is that Sultan was interviewed by the American fashion magazine/website W about her beauty routine.
The magazine dubbed her beauty habits “low key,” and she said that her favorite conditioner is the Israeli brand Careline.
In the interview, the magazine wrote, “Sultan pokes fun at her own lack of beauty knowledge, shares makeup secrets from the set of Tehran, and discusses why the Tel Aviv air is the best dryer for her hair.”