REVIEW: Baghdad Central (S1 E3/6)

It’s been hectic again in the real world, so I’m taking the opportunity to catch up with this impactful and intelligent procedural set in Baghdad around the time of the second Gulf War in 2003.

Muhsin Kadr al-Khafaji has entered the dragon’s lair and committed to help Temple, even though his real motive is to find his daughter Sawsan.

At the end of episode two, Candy (or Zahra), was being kept under close watch in an American military hospital after attempting to ram her was inside the Green Zone with an SUV.

But the action in this episode really kicked off when al-Khafaji visited Professor Rashid at her residence. He remonstrated with her for information about Zahra, and when it was clear that she had something to do with Zahra, pleaded with her to let him know where his daughter was. He did not know, he said, why she would not help him.

Make no mistake, Rashid is playing a dangerous game, it’s just that we don’t know – at the moment – what her game is.

al-Khafaji then had to rush out into a back room, because Temple showed up, demanding to know more or less the same thing: who was Zahra? He told Rashid: “She was employed by me under your recommendation.”

As al-Khafaji was pondering this, he noticed a figure slinking about on the CCTV outside. It was Sawsan.

It’s interesting to see in series when a big reveal like this is staged, and here it happened slap-bang in the middle of the run.

Knowing that his daughter was alive, al-Khafaji intensified his efforts, which meant playing games of his own. He was prepared to play Parodi and Temple off against each other in order to interview Zahra. He wanted to do it along so he could ask questions about Sawsan, but the army fellas wanted to listen in. He had to be careful, very careful, so as not to give his game away.

al-Khafaji is a skilled detective and while he made sure his interview contained tidbits of what the occupiers wanted to hear, there was another, almost subliminal interview taking place – at the end, Zahra nodded to al-Khafaji, although what this confirmed I wasn’t sure. Perhaps that she confirmed that she knew his daughter?

Increasingly throughout this, Temple’s secretary Miss Ford was dropping information behind her boss’s back, and seemed to be working with Parodi… also behind her boss’s back. It’s a nest of politics, conflicting loyalties and power dynamics and it’s riveting to watch.

Caught in the middle, of course, is al-Khafaji, who, everywhere he went gets more and more confirmation that his daughter is alive and active, and was working alongside other girls. As ‘translators’? As prostitutes? As insurgents?

We don’t know yet, but al-Khafaji’s desperation was also giving him confidence, and there was a great scene where he wound up Temple like a coiled spring. It was hilarious, but also menacing – Temple is an interesting character, nervous, officious and arrogant, yes, but beneath it all, there’s something else lurking. Something quite dangerous.

Something else was indeed lurking: the final scene saw al-Khafaji steal into Temple’s lodging where he found a bag full of cash.

Not only does he find the cash, but he also walks off with it and uses some of it buy his gun back.

Bloody hell al-Khafaji!

Paul Hirons






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