Spoiler Alert: this article contains a thorough recap of “9/11,” the final episode of “The Looming Tower”
The finale of Hulu’s new, 10-episode drama, “The Looming Tower,” was anticlimactic, muddled and forgettable. Granted, its public knowledge that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network murdered 2,996 people on September 11, 2001. Furthermore, as exhaustively detailed in the 9/11 Commission Report, most individuals likely realize that bureaucratic infighting between the FBI and CIA enabled bin Laden’s catastrophic attack on American soil. These facts notwithstanding, director Craig Zisk failed to conclude this oftentimes-brilliant series with any originality or panache.
In spite of Zisk’s failures, “The Looming Tower’s” actors routinely flourished. Richard Clarke (Michael Stuhlbarg), the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the United States, opens “9/11” testifying before the commission. In a poignant display of grief, frustration, anger and openness, Clarke admits that America’s intelligence agencies were criminally negligent and responsible for not thwarting bin Laden’s sinister plot.
“I welcome these hearings,” says Clark.
“I also welcome this hearing because it’s finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11. To those in this room, and to those watching on television, your government failed. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter because we failed. And for that failure I would ask for, once all the facts are out, your understanding and forgiveness.”
Stuhlbarg impeccably portrayed Clarke and his scenes were consistently riveting. Clarke, and FBI agents John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (Tahar Rahim) are all believably presented as this tragedy’s protagonists. Daniels is superb as O’Neill and he effortlessly combines humor with extreme intensity. Similarly, when on the job, Rahim shines as Soufan. Regrettably, Rahim’s outstanding work was periodically undermined by the writers’ decision to frequently delve into his romantic life. The events preceding September 11 were captivating enough and syrupy moments between Soufan and his girlfriend felt forced and pointless.
Conversely, former CIA director George Tenet (Alec Baldwin), CIA officer Martin Schmidt (Peter Sarsgaard), and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice all thrive as the show’s primary domestic antagonists. Tenet and Schmidt systematically sabotage and marginalize the bureau’s efforts and it’s enraging to watch. Baldwin and Sarsgaard are ideal foils to Clarke and O’Neill and their incompetence stirs a vast array of negative emotions.
Despite its disappointing conclusion, and thanks to tremendous casting, acting, writing and cinematography, executive producers Dan Futterman and Alex Gibney created a gripping spy thriller. “The Looming Tower” stands tall and is essentially a first-rate viewing experience that must be seen.
* This episode will be released on Wednesday, April 18