The Veil TV Review

Elisabeth Moss once again steals the show as a spy on a mission in this limited series from Peaky Binders creator Steven Knight.

The Veil review

PLOT: Explores the surprising and fraught relationship between two women who play a deadly game of truth and lies on the road from Istanbul to Paris and London. One woman has a secret, the other a mission to reveal it before thousands of lives are lost. In the shadows, mission controllers at the CIA and French DGSE must put differences aside and work together to avert potential disaster.

REVIEW: Since her breakout role in Mad Men as Peggy Olsen, Elisabeth Moss has turned in stellar performance after performance. With The Handmaid’s Tale and The Invisible Man, Moss has shown her range in playing strong characters in distinct situations and genres. Still, her latest project, The Veil, puts her into a role that we would commonly expect to see from male actors in action-heavy projects. Created by Steven Knight, The Veil is far from Mission: Impossible or James Bond but still presents a tense espionage narrative about two women who could very well stop a massive event from claiming many people’s lives. While the series could benefit from added speed, the short episode count keeps the story moving and the secrets unraveling.

The Veil opens with a shot of Elisabeth Moss’ legs as she walks towards a man in the airport. Clad in heels and sporting a British accent, it seems at first that we will see Moss undercover, but within sixty seconds, she reveals Interpol arrests her ruse and the man. Walking away, Moss’ character requests her handler send her back to London and that her next name be Imogen. It is a quick scene that sets the tone of who Imogen is and her commanding presence, something that we glimpse more and more as the series progresses. But, as she heads back to England, she is waylaid at the Syrian border at a refugee camp. There, she meets Adilah (Yumna Marwan), a woman accused of being ISIS and hated by the other refugees. The first episode spends time building a rocky alliance between Imogen and Adilah as they reveal some criminal acts at the camp. As the episode wraps, we realize there is more to the meeting of these two women than circumstance.

Over the remaining five episodes, the reason Imogen is the way she is comes to light, as does how Adilah arrived at the refugee camp and what her importance is to international agencies. It is a small-scale series focused on character development but with a global bend that shifts the action from European cities to isolated mountain roads as Imogen and Adilah traverse the continent toward their ultimate goal. What that is, I won’t spoil here, but it is a well-constructed yet convoluted plot structure that kept me interested for all six episodes. What works to allow the viewer to invest in this series is the performance from Moss and Marwan. Moss, whose British accent is subtle but believable, plays Imogen as a series of masks overlaying the real MI6 agent underneath. Using her guile and coquettish smile to ingratiate herself with targets, Imogen is a broken person underneath who only reveals her true self to handler Malik (Dali Benssalah). She also has something of a nemesis in her CIA liaison, Max (Josh Charles), whose motivations seem anything but altruistic.

The Veil review

The other major component that makes The Veil work is Yumna Marwan. An experienced actress with credits over the last decade, Marwan almost steals the show from Moss here. Adilah is another layered character and one who holds her own opposite the skilled Imogen. Since this series primarily centers on Moss as Imogen, Marwan can slowly parse out details of who Adilah is, allowing Imogen to learn then as the audience does. Of course, both women know they cannot fully trust one another and we are given the insight to know who is keeping what from the other. Moss and Marwan work very well together, complimenting one another’s take on the characters without turning this story into something aligned with a partnership narrative. These two women have agendas and align their paths when needed, but each has a goal in mind that may or may not be in the best interest of the other.

Steven Knight has had a steady career of successful series, many of which have debuted on FX or Hulu. While Peaky Blinders may be his best-known project, Knight’s work on Taboo, See, Great Expectations, and All The Light We Cannot See, along with big screen projects like Locke and Eastern Promises, all show his character-based approach to storytelling. Knight has created a female-led series with The Veil, something he has not often built around. Still, he does a phenomenal job of making Imogen and Adilah three-dimensional characters not based solely on their gender. It also helps that this limited series only relies on two filmmakers rather than an entire team of directors. Daina Reed helmed the first three chapters, while Damon Thomas handled the last three. The consistency in filmmakers helps keep the tone and approach to the story uniform across all chapters, but the hand-off between three and four struggles due to Knight’s scripts weighed down by so much going on.

While The Veil does not boast massive running scenes, gigantic explosions of nuclear fallout, or even mountaintop helicopter crashes, this series is full of tense moments that rival big-screen spy movies. But, to invest in a series like this you either need a great deal of patience or a love of the talent involved. I binged The Veil, based solely on Elisabeth Moss and Steven Knight, and I found it an enjoyable series, even if it drags slightly in the middle. This is a performance-based story with two capable leads, including Yumna Marwan, who should land countless roles in English-language projects after this series debuts. The Veil is a thinking person’s spy story and will require you to pay attention as you follow the countless tangled threads that come together and rip apart as this story unfolds.

The Veil premieres with two episodes on April 30th on FX on Hulu.

The Veil




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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.