The Golden Hour is a tense Dutch terrorism thriller on Netflix about an insubordinate but successful detective in the National Police Force who runs afoul of the Dutch Intelligence Service while trying to stop cascading terrorist attacks. Veteran detective Mardik Sardagh (Nasrdin Dchar) was born in Afghanistan and came to the Netherlands when he was 6. In what they claim is a routine security screening, AIVD, the Dutch Intelligence Service, interviews Mardik about his recent trip to Afghanistan. Offended, Mardik digs in and remains silent. The next day, a terrorist attack at a local market is perpetrated by Afghans. While Mardik works off-book with his Afghan network in town, the AIVD names him as a suspect, forcing him to hide out as he tries desperately to find the terrorist leader before another attack occurs. What makes The Golden Hour interesting is that we are never 100% sure of Mardik’s innocence.
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Mardik, Fardin and Faysal
Mardik’s daughter plays sports at a facility where the kindly elder Malik Fardin (Payam Madjlessi) works. Fardin and Mardik are friendly, as they knew each other back in Afghanistan when Mardik was a boy. In flashbacks, we learn that Mardik had a best friend, Faysal (Abbas Fasaei), whose family leaves abruptly due to the increasing violence in their village. As Faysal’s family drives away, Mardik chases them, bereft. He witnesses Faysal’s family being gunned down by Afghan soldiers. Later that night Fardin looks for Faysal, who is not among the dead bodies with his family, but can’t find him. In the present day, Faysal is a ruthless terrorist who has arrived in Amsterdam to wreak havoc on the West, whom he feels destroyed his life and country. Faysal pays a surprise visit to a regretful Fardin, who clocks that something is off and alerts Mardik. That’s when Mardik goes rogue, frantically searching for Faysal as terrorist attacks unfold across the city. It’s definitely suspicious that Mardik doesn’t work or communicate with his fellow detectives, so he becomes a person of interest in the attacks.
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Joelle and Ilja
Joelle (Ellen Parren) and Ilja (Matteo van der Grijn) work for the AIVD. After doing some digging, I figured out what they do. Their division conducts security screenings, or vetting, of anyone who will be serving in a position that involves classified information, such as National Police detectives. The process is very invasive, as they need to ascertain the corruptability or security risk of the candidate. But Mardik is a veteran detective, not a candidate, and the cover story of “it’s just routine” is thin. Joelle is the agent doing the screening, and she ticks Mardik off immediately by intimating that he’s hiding something about his Afghan background. But she is not easily cowed. Her boss, Ilja, is the resident Afghanistan expert. Unfortunately, he is a ham-fisted bad guy who behaves in increasingly unlikely ways. For example, he homes in on Mardik as a suspect in the terrorist attacks, refuses to consider any other avenue, and resorts to extra-legal tactics to draw Mardik in.
Our Take on The Golden Hour
Despite our beef with the Ilja character, The Golden Hour is a bingeable series. It has some pacing issues, moving from gut churning suspense to shocking violence to draggy terrorist attack sequences, and it spends some time introducing us to small side characters that don’t really matter. But the main story about Mardik tracking his old childhood friend is solid. And Mardik and his wife are dark horses. For example, he has a go-bag with passports and burners at the ready. Why? His steely Dutch wife Michelle (Sophie Veldhuizen) doesn’t bend in the face of an invasive AIVD interview session and possibly even lies on Mardik’s behalf. This is the strength of the series: that even at the very end, which is a set up for season 2, we genuinely don’t know if Mardik is a good guy or bad guy here. If you can stomach extended gun violence and are looking for a gripping series, The Golden Hour is for you.
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