The Spy Season 1 Review: Netflix Series Is An Incredible True Story

By Daniel Hart
Published: September 5, 2019 (Last updated: December 3, 2023)
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Netflix Limited Series The Spy - Starring Sacha Baron Cohen


Starring Sacha Baron Cohen to test his range, Netflix Limited Series The Spy is a fantastic piece of work, highlighting the incredible story of Eli Cohen.

This review of Netflix Limited Series The Spy starring Sacha Baron Cohen contains NO spoilers. We provided extensive coverage on the series, and you can read the recap of Episode 1 by clicking these words. 

Of course, it is easy to be cynical when Netflix announced The Spy; a deep espionage story with the lead being Sacha Baron Cohen. Does the highly political comedian-actor have the scope to take on the story of the famous Israeli spy Eli Cohen? He certainly has the range to surprise us.

In the first two chapters, I grasped the uncanniness of his role, believing that it almost felt satirical. Surprisingly, that’s the beauty of The Spy. Sacha Baron Cohen bumbles through the opening chapters, seemingly on purpose, to demonstrate the kindness, yet tepidness of Eli Cohen. The dialogue felt flagrantly on-the-nose, but the direction of the scenes is profoundly brilliant.

And you soon realise that Netflix Limited Series The Spy is purposefully pulling you down a road to provide the worthy impact of an incredible true story of an Israeli spy that successfully infiltrated the Syrian Government for years. The story was no small feat, and if you are entirely unaware of the story, like me, you will be placed on a journey that leaves you feeling tense throughout, during an unprecedented time between 1961-1965.

Despite the depth in each episode, and plenty of conversations whereby Eli Cohen masters his new life in Damascus, The Spy is highly addictive for a limited Netflix series. It spans 6 episodes, but you feel left wanting more despite nowhere to go. Each chapter keeps you aware and on tenterhooks about the scenario facing Eli Cohen. While the action and spy elements are not the industry-best, the characters feel deeply embedded from the start. You feel aware of Sacha Baron Cohen, but he manages to ensure his style deeply appreciates each person he comes across. He elevates them; they are essential, so the audience should think they are important.

Praise must be directed at Hadar Ratzon Rotem, who plays Eli Cohen’s wife, Nadia. Her perspective, her reality, manages to convey to the audience the real danger of the spy’s situation. It’s easy to be consumed by Eli Cohen’s activities when he is out roaming amongst various dangerous acquaintances, but Nadia settles the story, bringing normalcy to a seeming bat-crazed career that only a mad man would wish upon themselves. There are certain scenes where Nadia does not require to speak much; her struggle is defined by not knowing, and being completely unaware.

Gideon Raff has created a series that tells a story some generations will not know about. It teaches us about a divide between two countries without uselessly ramming it down the audience’s throat. The Spy has its own, unique, quirky way of telling the incredible true story, and it surprisingly works.

But back to the original question; does Sacha Baron Cohen have the scope? When I watched Foxcatcher, I was expecting Steve Carell from The Office US to burst out laughing and exclaim, “that’s what she said” at any moment. What I suddenly realised is that Steve Carell is a multi-dimensional and talented actor, and I’ve taken him seriously since. The same can be said about Sacha Baron Cohen. Netflix series The Spy is well worth your time.

Netflix, TV Reviews
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