FX’s The Veil Covers Well-Worn Spy Territory, but Gives Homeland Fans Something to Chew On

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FX’s The Veil Covers Well-Worn Spy Territory, but Gives Homeland Fans Something to Chew On

Way back in 2015, the same year that then-FX Networks Chief Executive John Landgraf was prophesying the popping of the Peak TV bubble, rival prestige channel Showtime aired the fifth season of its Emmy-winning espionage series Homeland.

That season saw Claire Danes’ wildcard of an international relations expert foiling a terrorist attack that would have released sarin into Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof train station. The climactic scene was made all the more chilling because it was filmed the day after actual ISIL terrorists went on a murderous rampage through Paris, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds more. 

This year, now-FX Networks chairman Landgraf told journalists during the winter Television Critics Association press tour that Peak TV was dead thanks in part to the prolonged writers’ and actors’ strikes in 2023 but also because of a business model that focused the “realignment of industry priorities from streaming scale at any cost to profitability.” That same press tour, FX Networks promoted its FX Productions-produced The Veil, which is set to premiere the first two of its six episodes April 30th on Hulu. 

This miniseries, which is created by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, stars Elisabeth Moss as Imogen Salter, an obsessive and maverick MI6 agent who just gets these hunches about people, ya know? In this case, she’s tasked with bringing in Yumna Marwan’s Adilah El Idrissi from a Turkish refugee camp on the Syrian border. Is Adilah simply a mother trying to get home to her 10-year-old daughter in Paris? Or is she actually a senior ISIS commander named Sabaine Al Kubaisi who is involved in a clandestine operation that could kill thousands of people? And is Imogen simply an agent who is super dedicated to her work? Or does she have her own secret demons? Is her loyalty even just to MI6?

Obviously Imogen goes rogue and opts to take a road less traveled into Paris, resulting in a half dozen episodes of a cat-and-mouse game of trust exercises, passport forgery, a chase sequence through Père Lachaise, an office that borrows paintings from the Louvre, and references to both William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the Arabic manuscript Kitab al-Bulhan, or The Book of Surprises. The shenanigans also bring in Josh Charles’ smirking Max, a CIA official described at one point as “the most American American America has ever produced,” which means we’re supposed to hate him. (And, truth be told, he is pretty obnoxious). 

For fans of series like Homeland, this is all well-worn territory, even if this story changes it up a bit by having one of America’s greatest living blonde actresses pretend to be British. But the show is also coming out more than six months after Hamas’ attack on Israel, which brought attention to a whole mess of other global disruption and warfare. So it’s not like the subject of defusing a covert sleeper cell operation before it’s too late is no longer topical.

(That The Veil is being billed as a limited series also suggests an ending to this story, which unfortunately cannot be said for current world events.) 

The question is whether anyone wants to sit through this again when it’s fiction and not CNN. The Veil is well-acted and directed with some clever moments (Moss’s Imogen donning the accent of someone who’d wear a scrunchie to a hip New York restaurant and screaming in a brasserie that she’d gotten engaged just to prove a point to her handler/lover, Dali Benssalah’s Malik, for one). And, sure, yeah, I’m happy to see a fight sequence where Moss, clad in a motorcycle jacket, black mini dress, and heeled knee-high boots, totally thwarts an assassination attack with as much chill as she would have herding drunk friends out of a pub after a bachelorette party and confirming her address to an Uber driver.

But even with its pleasant elements, there isn’t much particularly new or fresh about this story. It has its merits as a Homeland-type series for those of us craving more heart-pounding, international spy fare, but more than anything, it may just be proof that the Peak TV bubble has most certainly popped. 

The Veil premieres Tuesday, April 30th on FX, streaming on Hulu.

Whitney Friedlander is an entertainment journalist with, what some may argue, an unhealthy love affair with her TV. A former staff writer at both Los Angeles Times and Variety, her writing has also appeared in CosmopolitanVultureThe Washington Post and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and three daughters (two of whom are cats).

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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