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The Veil





Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

Let me talk to you about the most wanted woman in the world. Sabaine Al Kubaisi is a French Algerian from Marseilles. A senior ISIS commander, she’s one of the few females to have risen through the terrorist group’s ranks. Her nickname is the “Djinn Al Raqqa” or the “Genie of Raqqa,” so called because of her near-supernatural abilities to change her name and appearance to blend in wherever she goes.

And allegedly, she’s currently sitting in a refugee camp on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Imogen, an agent for MI6 ordered to bring the woman in for positive identification, isn’t sure if the person she’s transporting, Adilah El Idrissi, is Sabaine or not. Yes, Adilah is a former member of ISIS. She’s French Algerian. And she’s been positively identified by multiple witnesses as the woman who led a notorious attack on Raqqa.

But Adilah can’t even definitively say why she allowed herself to become radicalized. The daughter of intellectuals and granddaughter of communists, Adilah was smart and had the opportunity to become an engineer. But she left school to become a model in Paris instead. Then, she left Paris (and her daughter) behind to take a flight, cross borders and walk up a mountain to join (as Imogen puts it) the “ugly, brutal circus” that is ISIS.

Imogen wants to help Adilah, but she also wants the truth. And if this woman is Sabaine, then Imogen needs to find out. Because in seven to 10 days, ISIS is launching an attack formulated by Sabaine. And if Adilah and Sabaine are one and the same, then she might be the only one who can stop it.

Unveiled Truths

Imogen and Adilah are both highly trained in martial arts, so they don’t pull their punches. And neither does Hulu’s The Veil.

Language and violence are the main offenders in this spy-thriller miniseries. The f-word is heard about two dozen times per episode. We hear about the atrocities committed by ISIS insurgents (namely rape and murder). And early on, a woman is lynched and strung up by a mob.

Since this is a story about spies, we witness quite a bit of lying and subterfuge, too. Different intelligence agencies compete against each other to be the first to capture Sabaine. And it seems the Americans, at least, aren’t above kidnapping Adilah’s daughter to achieve their objectives.

We also hear about Adilah’s faith. Imogen asks the woman why she allowed herself to be swept up by the insurgents, and Adilah responds that it wasn’t a man (though many people seem to believe that’s the primary cause) but rather an elderly woman who played that key role in her conversion. She’d been told that she could have a more pure life with God, away from Western corruption of faith—though it’s unclear if she still carries those beliefs.

The unveiled truth here is that The Veil is rated TV-MA for a reason. And this tale about what drives a person to commit unimaginable brutalities in the name of religion isn’t one that will be palatable to most viewers.

Episode Reviews

Apr. 30, 2024 – S1, E1: “The Camp”

Imogen travels to a refugee camp on Syria’s border to transport a suspected ISIS operative to Turkey.

When Adilah is identified by another woman as the Genie of Raqqa, a mob attacks Adilah. She’s beaten (her face bleeds heavily) then hung by a rope for several moments before armed military personnel fire their weapons into the air to scare the crowd away, thus saving her life. We later learn she was stabbed during this attack, as well.

Thereafter, Adilah’s tent is guarded. But we’re told the guards often sneak away at night to get warm. Imogen easily convinces the guard to abandon his post so she and Adilah can speak in private. But while he’s gone, several women from the camp attack them with knives. Imogen and Adilah defend themselves, even stabbing a few of their attackers before getting chased into the makeshift street. One woman tries to fire a gun on them, but Imogen disarms her and uses the weapon to frighten off the rest.

We’re told about the attack on Raqqa. Men and boys were taken away and killed, even infants. Meanwhile women and girls were locked in a hanger where many were raped by ISIS soldiers. And some female insurgents put heads up on spikes near the school.

Many people express that Adilah should be killed for allegedly leading this attack. (Adilah maintains her innocence, stating that she was telling soldiers to stop, not egging them on, and that she freed the women from the garage where they were being held hostage.) And Adilah fears that she’ll be killed.

Intelligence agents from different countries, including the United States, bicker, rolling off stereotypes. Two get into a physical altercation. They all say they’re trying to stop an impending ISIS attack, but they refuse to cooperate. And the Americans put Imogen (a British agent aiding the French) in danger when they seize control of the operation.

Flashbacks show a couple kissing and lying in bed. We learn an aid worker takes advantage of the women staying in the refugee camp. Adilah says she was disowned by her family after becoming pregnant with her daughter out of wedlock. A French intelligence agent is reprimanded for having a past sexual relationship with Imogen.

Folks drink champagne in celebration. Imogen and others smoke cigarettes frequently, even when others ask them not to (though Imogen’s habit seems to be part of her cover). Adilah recounts a past where she drank “too much” and got involved in drugs.

As a spy, Imogen lies often to gain the trust of her targets. Other people lie, too. Blackmail is also common. And a woman disobeys her directive.

The f-word is heard 20 times, once in German. We also hear a couple of uses each of the s-word, “b–ch,” “h—” and the British profanity “w-nker.” God’s and Christ’s names are each abused once.

Imogen struggles to understand why Adilah abandoned her daughter in the first place since the woman seems determined to get back to her. When a truck carrying food to refugees stalls, people panic and begin removing the sacks of grain. Despite the chaos, Adilah tries to ensure that women with children under the age of 5 are served first. A woman says she used to rescue worms when she was a child.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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