Sundance’s new miniseries is a serious bummer

Maggie Gyllenhaal brings poise and grace to The Honorable Woman.

Two and a half stars

The Honorable Woman Thursdays, 10 p.m., Sundance TV.

At eight episodes, the Sundance TV miniseries The Honorable Woman (a co-production with the BBC) feels a bit like a solid two-hour movie stretched beyond its breaking point, with so many plot twists and character betrayals that it ends up with narrative whiplash. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a strong performance as the main character, British-Israeli heiress and businesswoman Nessa Stein, whose family and corporate interests are tied up in the endless conflict between Israel and Palestine. Conspiracies abound in Nessa’s various business and government dealings, all covering up nasty secrets that writer-director Hugo Blick doles out at convenient intervals.

Blick is better at generating suspense than he is at addressing geopolitical issues, and The Honorable Woman is a more effective spy thriller than a political drama. The show is also a decent character study, aided by Gyllenhaal’s nuanced work, although it’s more than a little disappointing for a story about a powerful, independent woman to end up hinging on an act of sexual violence. That act is emblematic of the show’s sometimes oppressively somber tone, with a muted color palette and lots of hushed conversations full of cryptic pronouncements. By the end, the self-conscious weightiness overshadows the thrills, leaving the audience as drained and numb as the characters.

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