What compels a man to lift up arms and wage war? Those who popularise it, do it to feel important or powerful. Validation of their existence. But a common man, a peace-loving man, a family man, often picks up weapons, because he is pushed off the limits that threaten his or the existence of his loved ones. A kind of Survival instinct and hope for a better future. La Unidad, translated as The Unit, is a Spanish crime drama, that not only deals with the chase and run between police and terrorists but also minutely hints/visualizes the grievances of both sides. Structured in a balanced narrative, La Unidad refuses to take sides. It only showcases the necessary steps needed to control or stop the bloodshed.
La Unidad season 1 incorporates 6 episodes of one hour long. The series is versed in Spanish and English subtitles could prove handy to world audiences. Directed by Dani de la Torre, La Unidad proves to be an important series of the hour when terrorism is increasing at an alerting rate. Spain is severely hit by it, and the series underlines the same plea. Though there are certain narrative flaws that make the drama run-of-the-mill. Before jumping to the flaws, let’s dig deep into the story first.
‘La Unidad’ Season 1 Summary
After the terrorist attack in Madrid in 2004, Spain instituted the largest number of operations against the internal jihadist terrorism, under the supervision of its national police unit, La Unidad (The Unit).
The series begins with two informers keeping a watch over a house in Melilla (Spanish city). Soon, an undercover raid is instigated by La Unidad, under the supervision of two senior police officers, Marcos (Michel Noher) and Sergio (Luis Zahera). In a successful operation, La Unidad captures Salah Al Garheeb, the most wanted terrorist of the world.
La Unidad further explores the dilemma of the officers of “The Unit” who are trying to solve the missing puzzle of why Al Garheeb came to Melilla alone, without any security. Marcos and Sergio interrogate Al Garheeb but all goes in vain as he refuses to speak. Due to the pressure from the Human Rights Association, the officers could not pursue extreme measures.
When the news of Al Garheeb’s capture reaches Syria, his son uses all his might to increase the terror in Spain. This includes a gang of three men, who are planning human bomb attacks in Spain. The Unit’s conflict is to figure out Al Garheeb’s intention and stop the monstrous attack he is planning, which is explored in the further episodes of the series.
A Repetitive Writing
La Unidad begins with an engaging exciting incident, the capture of Al Garheeb. The viewers are captivated and expect the series to maintain the pace and drama. However, it falls down steeply until it becomes boring enough. La Unidad covers a lot many layers, like the conflicting personal life of the officers, the pressure of the system and its flaws, and most significantly the other side of the terrorist story. While the series should be applauded for covering so many layers in a given narrative, it fails to execute or explore any with the required approach. It got strangled in a circle never really making an effort to go beyond it. In simple words, no new information was released, and even if it was delivered, the treatment and the mood of the scenes were monotonous.
The series had great potential. It showcases a variety of unique premises that makes it stand out, but regular writing and treatment spoil the broth.
Could have been An Excellent Snitch Story
La Unidad begins with two police informants keeping a watch over the suspects. The series even ends with a snitch, a Muslim woman, Amina. There are many other informers of La Unidad without whom the operation would be a complete disaster. These snitches are in short, the backbone of the police and a link between the unit and the militants. However, these snitches are the most vulnerable characters in the whole series as they are suppressed from both sides, and thus suffering greatly. It could have been more important, the story of the snitches, but the writing shied away from it as it held back many important layers.
The Militants Plea
The series doesn’t intend to put terrorists under the emotional light. However, through various characters, it showcases their sufferings. Spain and many other countries had been instrumental in creating the Syrian War. When the common people of Syria, the Arabs left their country and settled in other countries, they were looked upon as terrorists. They were discriminated against for being Arabs. Such bigotry created a sense of hate in those people who were already feeling alien and were having difficulties in adapting. When they weren’t accepted by love and respect, they thought violence would be the answer. It is often seen that anger and destruction act as a stimulus when the survival instinct in a human being is triggered.
A similar emotion is captured in a very haunting and depressing scene, where an Arab driver under emotional anger, drives a minivan over the walking Pedestrians. This particular scene and visual is the most evocative image. It might haunt you for days.
Such similar emotional breakdown and prejudices force these militants to pick up arms and become human bombs in the series. Though the series fails to show much light to the sensitive premise, it would have been great if the series would have taken the road that is less travelled.
‘La Unidad’ Season 1 Ending Explained
The Unit finally finds out that Al Garheeb came to Melilla to strike a chemical weapon deal. He was looking for a chemical compound called Sarin, dangerous enough to wipe out an entire city. Al Garheeb wanted to transport Sarin with the help of a drug trafficker Ismail Hamid, but before the deal could be worked out, Al Garheeb was captured. His son continues the plan and sends his men to Melilla to finish off the unfinished job. La Unidad terminates these jihadi militants and saves the city of Melilla. However, Al Garheeb kills himself in prison and Ismail Hamid flees to Syria. The unit’s informer Amina, wife of Ismail Hamid is confined by him. This particular information might lead to succeeding season 2 if there will be any.
It isn’t entirely bad. It’s just very repetitive, slow, and monotonous. At some point, it becomes utterly unbearable but then, that’s an opinion. A more resilient viewer might enjoy the slow-moving drama, but for me, it didn’t work. The series is hard to binge but it can be finished over a week, with an episode-a-day routine. In such a case, it is an exciting watch.
La Unidad Season 1 is streaming on HBO MAX.
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