Life & Culture

Munich Games TV review: Deadly games bring history up to date

A tense spy thriller where the echoes of the past reverberate with the repetitions of the present


Jackie Igelski, the owner of the Israeli football club, is blackmailed and the case's main suspect escapes from LKA's watch. Strong language/mature themes.

Munich Games
Sky Atlantic | ★★★★★

After films like One Day in September and Munich, I was somewhat apprehensive switching on Sky’s Munich Games.

Going in cold, I’d assumed it to be a retelling of the slaughter 50 years ago of 11 Israelis during the Munich Olympics, where you can’t help but get incensed by the actions of Black September, but also with the multiple failures of the German authorities.

However, this is a contemporary fiction series, albeit one where those real-world events loom over everything.

Marking the anniversary of the tragedy, an Israeli football team is flying in for a friendly in the Olympic stadium, an event seized upon by recent immigrants from the Middle East.

On the discovery of a violent computer game mimicking a terrorist assault, which includes recent security details, the race is on to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Leading the charge is computer-specialist Mossad agent Oren, who discovers the programme on one of the Israel-hating forums he trawls. He’s working with Maria, a local German security officer of Lebanese descent.

Portrayed in turn by the equally excellent Yousef Sweid and Sayneb Saleh, this is essentially a buddy-cop story.

And while the usual mismatch is there, it’s in a fascinating configuration I’ve never seen before. Man/woman, office/field agent, awkward/fluid, Israeli/German, Jew/Arab, a unique dynamic of distrust and wariness is present among the grunts and barbed remarks. Beverly Hills Cop this isn’t, with no wisecracks or humorous cultural conflict, just two driven people with their own demons forced to tolerate each other in order to prevent a terrorist attack.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay the series and its creator Michal Aviram, of Fauda fame, is that although the writing seems split among established Israeli and German writers, it treats you like an adult.

Plot points aren’t hammered home, character motivation isn’t stated aloud. Instead they follow the directive “show don’t tell”, and it’s only when you see it so expertly deployed in action here with a glance, grimace, or background action, do you realise how rare that it’s utilised nowadays, and how much you’ve missed it.

This televisual maturity extends to its clear and relevant depiction of today’s world, in particular the unique position Jews find themselves in modern Europe, squeezed between the racism from parts of the Arab migrant community and the neo-Nazi far-right.

Rather than “both-side” the prejudice or explain it away by justifying and victim-blaming, it states and starts from the fact of the hatred and violence directed towards Zionists aka Israelis aka Jews aka Zionists aka Israelis etc.

Whether it’s being set upon by a group of council-estate youths after they have seen you texting messages in Hebrew, or a quiet reminder from a concerned loved one as you go out for a walk to not speak Hebrew, within the format of a tense spy thriller you have a show where the echoes of the past reverberate with the repetitions of the present.

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