TV: The Veil

For a show with every tool at its disposal, The Veil is curiously ineffective, a spy drama that fails to capitalize on many promising elements. Elisabeth Moss stars as “Imogen Salter,” an MI6 agent with expertise in clandestine undercover work. Imogen’s mission begins at a refugee camp in Syria, where suspected ISIS terrorist Adilah El Idrissi (Yumwa Marwan)—recognized by other refugees for her crimes—has been sequestered under guard. Imogen is convinced that Adilah is planning something, but Adilah claims merely to wish to return to Paris to be reunited with her young daughter. Secretly collaborating with the French DGSE, Imogen helps Adilah escape custody, promising to escort her to Paris, all the while trying to gain Adilah’s trust and uncover her secrets. Is Adilah a terrorist, or a victim? Imogen, who specializes in breaking people, is convinced she can learn the truth. But unfortunately an arrogant American CIA officer, Max Peterson (Josh Charles), steps in, and his intervention threatens to derail the operation.

An espionage travelogue that carries its dubious duo from Syria to Turkey, France to England—north by northwest?—The Veil is confidently produced, at any rate. The international look is attractive and convincing, and the premise has potential. But in an increasingly crowded genre, the whole affair feels disappointingly reheated. As usual, Moss is good here; not sure how convincing her English accent is, but she does emotional intensity as well as anyone. Unfortunately, like most of the show’s characters, Imogen is a tired genre trope: the loose-cannon know-it-all who kicks ass, breaks rules, and gets shit done. Marwan is somehow both more and less interesting as the shifty Adilah: more, in that her inscrutable guise keeps the viewer guessing, less, in that her guise isn’t scrutable enough to make her accessible. The Veil relies on their buddy road-trip chemistry, but it doesn’t materialize, as Imogen’s motives are too transparent and Adilah’s too opaque. The plot doesn’t surround them with much interesting support, either. Dali Benssalah does well with a thankless role as Imogen’s enamored DGSE handler, Thibault de Montalembert the same as a French intel chief. Charles, meanwhile, leans rather heavily into the script’s ugly American shtick, which might have been fun if it weren’t so expected. By the time James Purefoy glides in to provide the ultimate episode with an interesting thing or two to say, it’s too late. Twenty years ago, The Veil might have been a welcome new entry in the genre, but given that genre’s recent strength, it’s rather underwhelming.

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