‘Dig’ is now my favorite prime-time thriller and here’s why


By Wendell Gaa

I don’t know if it is my love for archaeology-themed movies, such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” or that I love to travel and indulge myself in the history of such “ancient civilization” countries — which I’ve visited such as India, Turkey, Israel and Jordan — but I find something particularly mesmerizing and addictive about the USA network’s event series “Dig,” which has had me glued to watching every episode of it.

Co-created by the same co-producer of one of my favorite TV shows, Showtime’s “Homeland,” “Dig” is a unique historical thriller series that actually encompasses three intertwining storylines which all ultimately connect to some grand religious purpose that may change the face of the Middle East and human civilization forever.

The first and most prominent plotline plays out an American FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem named Peter Connelly, portrayed by British actor Jason Isaacs, popularly known as dark wizard Lucius Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” films. Along with his immediate superior at the U.S. Embassy (with whom he is also having an affair), played by Anne Heche, Connelly becomes engulfed in and obsessed with investigating the mysterious murder of a young American archaeology student who is revealed to have been researching archaic symbols connected with a religious cult attempting to fulfill a prophecy in rebuilding the ancient Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, an act that would potentially lead to massive political and social upheaval in the Middle East and around the world. Reluctantly assisting him in this investigation around Jerusalem and Israel is Golan, a headstrong agent of the Israeli police force, played by Israeli actor Ori Pfeffer.

The second plotline is about Avram, a young naïve Hasidic Jewish man who belongs to a group of ultra-religious Hasidic Jews bent on an enigmatic mission. Sent to a remote Norwegian farm, he is tasked to protect a recently born red calf for purposes as yet to be unraveled to him. A spiritually pious and devout youth, Avram is resolute to follow the orders of his group to the very end, in spite of the perplexing reasons. Fulfilling his mission soon turns out to be a lot more difficult and dangerous than he anticipated for, and he is forced to embark on a cross-continental journey through Europe all the way to Croatia in order to stay alive and carry out his religious task.

The third plotline focuses on a young member of a spiritual cult in Arizona named Debbie (Lauren Ambrose) who is tasked as a caretaker for a 13-year-old boy named Josh. Living within a walled complex in the middle of the Arizona desert operated by a morally ambiguous pastor, Debbie’s strong maternal protectiveness towards Josh begins to grow as she observes the cult’s treatment of the boy who is supposedly destined for some universe-changing event. As the pastor and his group’s intentions gradually become more sinister, and the fact that the walled complex becomes more of a prison than a spiritual refuge, Debbie’s inner spiritual and emotional conflict with the cult grows and she is forced to rely on her own moral code and gut instincts in order to save the lives of both Josh and herself.

While the series may have the typical qualities of an action-adventure serial drama, there is just some entrancing appeal to it which I can’t seem to discern yet. Whether it’s the fact that I’ve never before watched a series so brilliantly combining the espionage and archaeology genres, or because I personally visited Israel last year and toured a number of the historic sites featured in the series (such as Tel Megiddo, Jerusalem’s Old City, the Via Dolorosa), I must admit that I am now hooked onto what I would have to say is an extraordinary series.

“Dig” is a compelling contemporary drama which speaks as much about the current volatile political and religious tensions existing in the Middle East, as it does about the significance of human antiquity throughout the world. For this reason alone, I would definitely consider the series’ first storyline about agents Connelly and Golan to be the most engaging to watch. Observing their joint investigations around the old historic quarters of Jerusalem and Israel is an interesting window into the trends and mentality of current Israeli society, and to some extent the nation’s real-life relations with the Palestinians and the greater Arab Islamic world.

However, the other two plotlines in the series also provide gripping moments, particularly Debbie’s story. While Avram’s story is a little hard to digest with its morbid and puzzling references to such biblical patriarchs as Abraham, Debbie’s growth as a timid yet nurturing caretaker for Josh to a strong-willed defiant individual standing up to a cult with malevolent intentions is enthralling to see and something worth investing into.

While it may stir some controversy, I find “Dig” to be first-rate TV entertainment with relevant political and religious implications, and I would advise any fan of the history and spy thriller genres to unearth the treasures of this series.

Not on the set of ‘Dig,’ but this photo of the author was taken at the Tel Megiddo archaeological site in Israel. Wendell is a huge fan of thrillers and loves traveling to ancient civilization countries.

Not on the set of ‘Dig,’ but this photo of the author was taken at the Tel Megiddo archaeological site in Israel. Wendell is a huge fan of thrillers and loves traveling to ancient civilization countries.

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