If you haven’t yet seen The Looming Tower (Amazon Prime) yet, stop reading this article and go watch it RIGHT NOW. No, no, no, I can’t, in good conscience, allow you to read this any further until you have seen, what is easily one of the most important political drama series made in recent times. Plus, we’ve already got your page view, so now all we need is your allegiance to the cause of great TV.
Because The Looming Tower is the kind of TV series that the Peak TV era was built for. It’s not the most consistent, or the best written or the tightest TV show, I’ll give you that, but it is one of the most relevant and timely ones. Based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, the mini series created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney and Wright, is an expansive, extensive and explosive revelation of the events that led up to 9/11. And one, that squarely finds fault within American politics for what was, as it puts forth, allowed to happen.
No, there are no crazy conspiracy theories of how 9/11 was an ‘inside job’, but it does detail how it was due to a collectively botched-up job on the inside, by several people in important positions of power, because, well, politics. Essentially, it is the incredible story of one man, John O’ Neill (played by the awesome Jeff Daniels), the chief of New York’s Counterterrorism Center, who did all he could to stop 9/11 from happening, and the impossible coincidence that led to his story’s end.
But the reason why this series is important, and can well be looked upon as ‘great’, is that, unlike so many ‘patriotic’ TV shows that end up being Islamophobic propaganda (*cough* 24 *cough*), this one isn’t angry, vindictive, jingoistic or anti-Muslim. In fact, through the parallel lead character of Ali Soufan (played by the find of the year, Taham Rahim), a Muslim American FBI agent, it takes a step back and reflects on how terrorism has always had little to do with religion, and so much more to do with circumstance, hate.. and policy.
The best scene in the series (and there are many fantastic ones), is a cross-interrogation between two Muslims, who both love Islam, but are on opposite ends of the table because of their different interpretations of it. While one interprets love, the other has been conditioned to believe in hate. And in that scene, for perhaps the first time in the post 9/11 TV world, you empathise with the Muslim whose religion has been hijacked by radicals who believe, not in serving God, but in being God.
Don’t miss this excellent series that delves on how patriotism may have blinded both sides of this war that no one wanted. And once you are done watching The Looming Tower, here are a few other excellent political TV dramas streaming in India that examine America – and the world – in the post 9/11 times:
1. The Night Of (Hotstar)
A gritty and terrifying series about what it means to be charged with a crime as a Muslim man in America, where a large part of the judicial system may still hold a grudge against an entire community of people, The Night Of is the kind of mini series that will keep you up at night.
2. The Good Fight (Amazon Prime)
The Good Fight is actually a post-Trump drama but it brilliantly captures the systemic racism and xenophobia in America that perhaps has existed silently for many years but has now reared its ugly head because, Trump. The fantastic Good Wife, that the show owes its origin to, often delved into the same themes but the passion with which this series takes on all that’s wrong with America, is remarkable.
3. Collateral (Netflix)
The anti-immigrant sentiment brought upon by global terrorism in the wake of the wars waged after 9/11 has mostly been relegated to news media and opinion pieces. Recently released British crime drama Collateral makes a valiant attempt at capturing the many, messy truths of the post-truth world and almost succeeds.
4. Homeland (Hotstar)
Homeland has undoubtedly been the most inconsistent good show of the peak TV era. After a nuanced and cathartic first season that empathized with all points of view, the show took a deep dive in the seasons to come, and became a parody of itself, in trying to not be everything 24 was. But the show is best when it takes a hard look at home, and has managed to become thrilling again.
5. The Newsroom (Hotstar)
No one is more hopeful about what the world can be, and should be, than the master storyteller Aaron Sorkin. The religion I follow is Sorkinism, because it believes there are no good or bad people, just good or bad circumstances. The best 9/11 episode I have seen so far was written by Sorkin for this show, and while the series has often wavered between ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ and ‘Oh God, no’, few have captured the complicated humanity of people post 9/11 as well as Sorkin has.