‘The Girl From Oslo’ is nothing to write home about - opinion

"The Girl from Oslo" is not worth the time to watch, unless you like watching multi-car accidents.

 EXPOSING RED brick walls exposes the writers’ and directors’ complete detachment from reality. (photo credit: UNSPLASH)
EXPOSING RED brick walls exposes the writers’ and directors’ complete detachment from reality.
(photo credit: UNSPLASH)

People have been talking about a new Netflix series, The Girl from Oslo, with enough positive reviews that my family decided to watch it. It’s being referred to as a “hit.” Having seen it, I’m not sure why anyone is saying anything other than it’s ridiculous. 

Here’s the story on one foot: Pia, a young Norwegian tourist, has been kidnapped by ISIS in Sinai along with an Israeli brother-sister pair. ISIS threatens to murder them and tries to negotiate their release for ISIS prisoners in Israel and Norway. Pia’s mother, Alex, immediately flies to Israel as any concerned mother would do, to try to use her convenient connections in both Israel and Gaza that she made as part of negotiating the Oslo Accords. 

We learn that an Israeli security minister, Arik, is Pia’s biological father, and that Pia has come to Israel to find him. In desperation Alex employs backstabbing negotiating tactics, playing the Israeli security minister off the leader of Hamas, and vise versa, completely disregarding the implications of the collateral damage on the lives of the people with whom she’s interfacing, or the consequences in their respective communities. 

It’s one thing to dramatize stories, whether based on reality or not, and another to make up an overreaching and immature storyline, with plots and characters that are completely implausible. Did I already say it was ridiculous? 

True, in recent years Israel has produced some outstanding dramatic shows from Shtisel to Fauda to Tehran. Signifying what’s a real hit, the Israeli production company that makes Fauda was just sold for millions, and Fauda’s fourth season is set to release soon. I really hope Tehran will come back soon for a second season interrupted by the pandemic. 

Putting high hopes on the wave of genuine Israeli hits, The Girl from Oslo is a hybrid Israeli-Norwegian production that just doesn’t work. It’s worse than another never-thought-of hybrid: encrusting a good piece of Norwegian salmon in falafel mix and deep-frying, though I suspect that now some will try that. 

There are so many things wrong with this series. To me, the most telling as to how detached from reality it is, was a scene in an underground Hamas prison cell. To make the facility look authentically run down, even besieged, one of the walls’ peeling plaster reveals a brick foundation behind it. Anyone producing a series that depicts authenticity in Israel should know that it’s rare to use brick. Most construction involves poured concrete. Hamas certainly does not import red brick for its underground bunkers and terror tunnels. Exposing red brick walls exposes the writers’ and directors’ complete detachment from reality. And it just gets worse. 

Generally, the dialogue is silly, and the acting mediocre. Rather than having meaningful dialogue, too often one character simply interjects a stilted verbal cue to prompt the made-up point the writers are trying to reach. It’s really too bad the local high school drama class was not available. The writing and acting would have been dramatically better than that of this so-called “hit.”

It’s entertaining that in a few instances, some of the characters seem to be magically transported between Jerusalem and Gaza, and Oslo and Jerusalem, in real-time, as if they were next door. This gives new meaning to a previous genuine TV hit’s mode of transport, “Beam me up Scotty.” Captain Kirk and Spock would be proud. 

THE KEY pillar of the “plot” is that Pia ostensibly comes to Israel to find her biological father. She learned that she’s the product of a fling between an Orthodox Jewish man who was part of the Israeli team during the negotiations of the Oslo accords in the ’90s, and her Norwegian mother who played some undetermined role in these negotiations. Of course, it’s plausible that in the search for her father, Pia would take a detour to Sinai with an Israeli brother and sister where they are kidnapped by ISIS. 

Adding to the ridiculousness, there’s simply nothing real about how the respective spouses of the two lead characters, Arik (Orthodox Israeli Jew) and Alex (Norwegian mother), react after suddenly learning of their spouses’ Oslo love child. 

I’m not a terrorist and I don’t play one on TV, but the fantasy continues in how the wheelchair-bound Hamas leader Bashir responds to two of its members straying to support ISIS, and then coming back to loyalty in Hamas. Typically, Hamas traitors end up lynched or with a bullet in the head. But Bashir is in a forgiving mood. Praise Allah. 

It’s also ludicrous that Leila, the wife of a presumably martyred Hamas member, was ever part of the Palestinian Arabs’ negotiating team in Oslo. Hamas was not part of that process and in fact rejects it, and the Palestinian Arab leaders of the time would not have selected a Hamas leader’s wife to be in Oslo. 

But as long as the writers take us down that path, it then makes complete sense for Leila (who notes that she’s lost her faith) to become Hamas leader Bashir’s representative in face-to-face negotiations with Israeli security minister, Arik. If you buy all that, I have a terror tunnel I’d like to sell you. 

One cannot help but wonder if the real plot of the series was it meant to be some sort of redemption from the failed Oslo process. 

I read someone’s criticism of the worst part of this series being “the lazy reliance on stereotypes. The ISIS and Hamas figures are flat, sinister and aggressive villains.” Duh. 

Actually, that’s the only part where there’s any semblance of reality. Anyone who thinks that whitewashing ISIS and Hamas as anything other than the extremist Islamic terror groups that they are, is as detached from reality as the decorator of the Hamas prison cell. 

What’s really ridiculous is the knee-jerk projection of Gaza being under daily and indiscriminate bombing from Israel, whether as a standard policy or negotiating tactic. That almost every scene in Gaza depicts this is not just absurd, but detached from reality and offensive. 

Spoiler alert, The Girl from Oslo is not worth the time to watch, unless you like watching multi-car accidents. But the cliffhanger ending the first (and hopefully last) season, depicting the head of Hamas calling Arik on his personal phone, should be buried like the dead Israeli captive, in an unmarked desert grave.