“Amal’s Illusions” is a study of a close-knit family experiencing loss, but it doesn’t take long to suggest foul play.
This recap of Whispers season 1, episode 1, “Amal’s Illusions”, contains spoilers.
While the pre-title sequence of Whispers episode 1 shows a man tangled up in the wreckage of an overturned car, what follows is mostly quiet and still; a melancholy study of a close-knit family left ruptured by loss. Until the phone calls start, that is, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The titular Amal was married to Hassan, the victim of that car accident. She’s the matriarch of a well-off family that includes two children — the faintly antagonistic Sawsan and the younger Waad, who speaks entirely through a text-to-voice app on her phone for reasons that are as yet unexplained. They’re wealthy enough to have a housekeeper and driver. But they’re all navigating new emotional territory. They’re grieving and trying to figure out what shape their lives will take in Hassan’s absence.
Whispers episode 1 doesn’t take long for the weird behavior to begin. Amal hears noises around the house. She sees Hassan everywhere in vivid memories, some of which suggest they were happy, some less so. And then Hassan calls her. He calls Waad. These aren’t imaginings, but someone using Hassan’s phone to torment his widow and children. The calls are coming from his personal number, and nobody seems to know where the phone is. Amal calls Hassan’s business partner, Arwa, and asks after it; a laptop is coming in its absence.
On their own laptop, Hassan left Amal a personal video message explaining that he has given her access to his files, but they’re locked with a password only she can crack — a personal memory that she’ll have to dredge up. Shaimaa Al Fadl is excellent as Amal, as she expresses a mounting sense of confusion and despair, especially when investigative reporters start calling about the effect Hassan’s death might have on his business ventures.
In more flashbacks, we get the sense of Hassan as a workaholic, and perhaps as someone who keeps things from his wife. When Amal is awoken by Waad, who shows her that they’ve both received a bunch of pictures of Hassan with another woman, Amal decides to call the police and explain to them what’s going on. Sawsan thinks this might be a bad idea, which is immediately suspicious to me.
Whispers season 1, episode 1, also sees the arrival of the glam Aunt Lama, and there’s a suggestion that there might have been a weird relationship between her and Hassan. Lama also, apparently, knows the woman in the photos with Hassan, but since the laptop arrives we don’t learn that information in “Amal’s Illusions”. Instead, Amal and Waad try to crack the laptop’s password with the clue Hassan gave them. Amal has no luck, but Waad, after a few attempts, is able to get inside. The details reveal that Hassan intended to make some changes involving company shares. She goes downstairs and announces that someone present is responsible for Hassan’s death.
Is Amal making a bit of a leap in the throes of grief here? Or does the evidence support it? Many questions are raised by this opening episode.
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