Baghdad Central on Hulu is a British series about a former inspector from the Iraqi police force who, 6 months after the US invasion of Iraq, agrees to work for the US-led coalition forces in Baghdad in exchange for dialysis treatment for his younger daughter. Meanwhile, he searches for his older daughter who has gone missing, most likely to become an insurgent fighter against the coalition.

Baghdad Central’s Tense Coalition

It’s 2003, 6 months after the invasion of Iraq, and the US-led coalition forces have taken over Baghdad and created the Green Zone, which is a protected area housing military HQ, a hospital and more. There is a queasy brew of people there-American military, British military, civilian personnel made up of Iraqis and other nationalities, and mercenaries from around the world. The atmosphere is especially tense between an American MP Captain John Parodi (Corey Stoll), who is tasked with keeping coalition forces on the straight and narrow, and British ex-cop Frank Temple (Bertie Carvel) sent there to rebuild the Iraqi police force but may have more nefarious activities going on. When an Iraqi translator is raped by foreigners, it sets off a retaliation by the Iraqi insurgents. Temple decides it’s time to bring in an Iraqi cop from before the occupation to find the insurgents. So, using questionable tactics, he strong-arms the widowed Inspector Muhsin al-Khafaji (Waleed Zuaiter) to help him in exchange for health care for his ailing daughter.

A Lawless Baghdad

But al-Khafaji has his own agenda. His distaste for cooperating with the “invaders”, as he refers to them, is jettisoned by his need to find his older daughter who was working as a translator in the Green Zone, but is now missing. He slyly plays the Americans against the British to further that agenda. Meanwhile, al-Khafaji, a former authority figure, must navigate a new lawless Baghdad. Among his frustrations are the young punks with big guns who threaten him daily, the loss of respect for elders, a daughter who is willfully disobeying her father by fighting with insurgents, and the utter ignorance of coalition forces regarding Iraqi people and culture. At one point al-Khafaji yells in frustration, “Is there not one American here who understands our country?” The al-Khafaji character is intriguing, especially as we get a glimpse of the power he had in his past life. I’d frankly like to see his story in a prequel to Baghdad Central.

Baghdad Central‘s Unique POV

While it doesn’t have the white knuckle pace of Fauda, Baghdad Central on Hulu is compelling drama. It’s a fascinating look at a country in turmoil, and how badly the coalition blew the “liberation” of Iraq, from a unique point of view. The series would have been enhanced by a more authentic feeling of the locale, like Delhi Crime, say, but since much of the action takes place in the uncanny valley of the Green Zone, I can’t complain too much. Waleed Zuaiter as al-Khafaji is so excellent that I hope we get many more series with his character. Season 1 ended with a nod to future possibilities.

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