May 9, 2021

The Honorable Woman on Netflix

Every so often, a television series comes along that is incredibly complex and smart, yet engrosses the viewer with its passionate writing and acting. “The Honorable Woman,” a BBC and Sundance co-production currently streaming on Netflix fits that description perfectly. Maggie Gyllenhaal has been justly nominated for best actress awards for her many-layered portrayal of Nessa Stein, a woman who is not only a life peer Baroness, an Anglo-Israeli living in both Great Britain and the Middle East but also the driving force behind a global telecommunications firm started by her assassinated father. I looked up this Parliamentary title so you don’t have to: a life peerage, as opposed to a hereditary peerage, can be awarded for achievement, in Nessa Stein’s case, for her work towards peace in the Middle East.

Kidnapping, murder, rape, adultery and duplicity figure into the plot as we are introduced to Nessa’s brother, Ephra Stein, her sister-in-law Rachel and Atika, the devoted Stein family nanny played by Lubna Azabal. We also meet the Stein Israeli and Palestinian business partners and a whole network of spies both benign and deadly. Janet McTeer plays the ballsy head of MI6; Stephen Rea (Crying Game) plays “an old dog” head of the MI6 Middle East desk; Eve West (Nurse Jackie) plays a cut-throat operative working with both British and American covert entities. Tobias Menzies (Outlander) is Nessa Stein’s heroic personal bodyguard. Flashbacks take us back 8 years when Nessa and Atika were held captive in Gaza by Palestinian activists. They become chess pawns as the Israelis, Brits, Palestinians and Americans play the “long game.” This series is reminiscent of “Prisoners of War,” the stunning Israeli series that inspired Showtime’s “Homeland.”

The historical, political and emotional terrain covered in this 8 episode series may be daunting at times, but this show has a good chance of resonating with you long after the final episode has finished. If “The Honorable Woman” were food, it would definitely not be cotton candy, but rather a big juicy T-Bone steak with peppercorn sauce.

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