One of Israel’s latest dramas, Line in the Sand, had its North American premiere at the 2022 Toronto Jewish Film Festival. This was an innovative addition to other Festival highlights. Starring Tsahi Halevi, of Fauda fame, the series has already been a win in Israel. Keshet 12 has already renewed Line in the Sand for a Season 2. Line in the Sand is sure to join the ranks of Fauda, Shitsel, and other Israeli dramas that have made an impact worldwide.
Line in the Sand manages to fit all of the classic police procedural tropes into eight episodes. It’s a simple enough, well-loved template. A cop returns to his small, charming hometown, to discover it’s been taken over by the mob. There’s a hint of a medical storyline, problems in marriages, and a good cop who ultimately just wants to be a good dad. The mob boss is equally sympathetic and hateable, which makes him devastatingly compelling to watch. If there is a textbook that has been written on writing police procedurals, the powers behind Line in the Sand definitely read it.
Even though the story is simple, it’s played to near perfection. While it may be obvious where the twists and turns are going, they’re no less enjoyable. Sometimes, this can be a great strength in a show. Rather than attempting to handle complicated plots, or introduce characters with over-the-top drama, Line in the Sand never deviates from the simple story it wants to tell. While this comes at a cost, when Line in the Sand is good, it’s excellent.
Alon Shenav is the perfect character to lead this rag-tag group of dirty cops using their powers for good. The fact that he’s played by Tsahi Halevi makes the character that much more fun to watch. This is the character that’s given the most depth. His emotional range may be stilted, and yet his motivations are clear. Even when he uses dishonorable methods to achieve his ends, he has a reason for continuing down his chosen path.
Maor Ezra (Shlomi Ifrah) makes a perfect villain to Shenav’s hero. He leads his mob with visceral brutality that makes him so captivating to watch. He never shows conflict for his choices, which makes him less relatable, but also just plain fun to follow. It would have been great to go further into his backstory, but his origins are compelling enough. It was a wise choice, to show him in the context of his relationships. Showing the fact that he can trust next to no one gives off a claustrophobia that permeates every scene this character is on-screen.
Line in the Sand is not without its faults, however. For one, there are not nearly enough women in this show. The women we’re introduced to are so obviously fascinating characters, and yet we spend precious little time with any of them. Tom (Aviv Buchler) in particular is incredibly sympathetic, and yet as the season continues, she’s given less and less to do outside of the men in her life. Even the women who save the day are not given near the spotlight they deserve. Indeed, they are continually sacrificed for the men of the series, to the show’s detriment.
Line in the Sand, like all cop shows, had ample opportunity to provide commentary on policing as an institution. However, it failed to fully commit to these chances each time they were presented. Police abusing their power was shown again and again. Yet, it was always shown to be in the service of the greater community. This was the incorrect approach. Instead, those who attempted to hold the individual police involved in this abuse are shown to be villainous. It’s one thing to show morally grey characters. It’s another to provide endless excuses for why a specific group of people are continually given outlandish amounts of power.
In truth, the inaugural season of Line in the Sand should have ended with Episode 7. Far too much plot was crammed into the season finale. The entire second season could have focused on the consequences of the rogue actions taken by the main characters. Ruti Asarsai’s character in particular deserved to have the focus shifted to her, as she attempted to bring justice to the actions taken that left so much damage, with all of their justifications. While it was great to see the door open for more stories with these characters, it was also possible to tell a complete story within one season.
All in all, Line in the Sand was a perfectly thrilling watch in spite of its flaws. It managed to combine all of the beloved tropes of cop shows, while putting new spins on familiar characters. It doesn’t always live up to its potential. However, knowing that the series is coming back is cause for hope that the mistakes of the first season can be rectified. Many of these characters are so loveable in so many ways. They deserve nothing but the best.
Line in the Sand Season 1 premiered at the 2022 Toronto Jewish Film Festival.