Bank of Tomorrow
The Exchange episode 1 begins with a visual from the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange. The alarm bells have gone off, and we see the water sprinklers at work. Farida and Munira, our protagonists, look dejected.
We then go back 7 months into the past. Farida nervously waits outside the court in anticipation of signing divorce papers. She is separating from her husband Omar. Farida’s father gives him the final nod, saying that the divorce has now been finalized and she is “free”. She watches Jude, her teenage daughter, playing the violin. Jude is up for a solo part at her school but is more nervous than excited.
Yara, a friend of Farida’s, is holding a fundraiser for a charity that night. Farida is unsure of going since she has just got the news of her divorce. Roshen, their driver, takes them to a shopping complex. We learn that Farida is very good at mathematics, when she checks out Jude’s homework. Jude sees a new dress in the window and pleads with her mother to buy it.
Farida reluctantly agrees and is forced by Yara to buy a dress for herself as well. Farida gets a letter from the school that Jude’s tuition fees is past due by almost two years.
Farida will now be staying at her father’s house. All her stuff has been brought from Omar’s house. Her mother Nujood is not too satisfied with her present predicament. So is her father. He asks Farida to try to become more independent and not even ask him for support. Omar refuses to pick up Farida’s phone calls. She is confused about what to do next. People talk in hushed whispers about her at the party. “Divorce in the morning, partying at night”. But all the eyes are taken off Farida when we see her swashbuckling cousin Munira come in an expensive car, driving it all by herself.
The auction is being hosted for charity. Yara, is the wife of Amir Hashem, the Vice President of Bank of Tomorrow, and she is the one who is in charge. She is auctioning various items to raise money for a fund to send female athletes from Kuwait to the Olympics.
While the concerned athlete, Asma, showcases fencing in front of everyone, Farida and Munira catch up. The cousin mentions something about the stock market and mathematics but Farida does not seem too intrigued. When the bidding starts, Farida gets rattled by Munira’s relentless bidding.
She feels forced into bidding for the showpiece of the auction and her bid is bested by Munira. She takes the next one but does not have the money to buy it. Munira drops her home in her own car. We see Munira report at the exchange the next morning. In a male-dominated space, she is a frog out of the well. But she holds her own and does a fantastic job for her boss, Hussain Darwish. She works with him as a clerk. Saud, a connected portfolio manager, approaches Munira in the hallway.
He mentions he might have an opportunity for Munira, if she could bring him “information” about the proposed protection of Kazima Shipping’s tanks by the US and Russia. Since their tanks are under bombing attacks, their publicly traded stock is at a multi-year bottom. Farida learns from the principal of the school that Omar has refused to pay for Jude. When she visits him at his luxurious villa, he insults her. The tuition fees lookout is Farida’s own and she must have thought about it before separating from him. He even slights her by saying that he has “Settled scores” with her father for “supporting her with his own money for 13 years”.
Farida is devastated. She has not worked for 13 years since the marriage and is concerned about how she will find a new job. Concerned for Jude, she goes to Munira for help. Munira agrees to buy the sculpture from her and pay for the tuition fees if Farida can get her information about Kazima, where Omar works as a general manager.
She goes to Omar’s house, slips in using the key under the pot, and takes the necessary information from his office. At the exchange the next day, she meets with Amir and discusses a “trade-off” for a job. Naturally, Munira sees her discussing the same and asks Saud to start buying Kazima in bulk. The gamble pays off, as Saud and Munira look set to work together and Farida stands on the other side.
The Episode Review
The opener for the Kuwaiti show is impressive. Overall, the makers seem to have a good sense of storytelling. Episode 1 is great at introductions and setting into position the central conceit – Farida and Munira. They have a contrasting reality but the future looks to be much more cutthroat, given Farida takes a job opposite Munira.
One of the most noticeable things in episode 1 are the visual aesthetics. All the costumes, makeup, and hair design reflect the turbulent 80’s in which the show is set. We can expect more focus on the upcoming episodes to be on building the seven-month journey that these incredible women share. Getting to what went wrong might be left to the final episodes.
Until then, enjoy this exciting tale brought to the screen for the first time. Big hopes from Netflix’s The Exchange!
You can read our full season review for The Exchange here!