The Pale Father
There’s Been An Accident
Ashes to Ashes
Pillar Of Smoke
Roger and Out
Israeli Netflix Original Series When Heroes Fly may play with a simple storyline but its deeply profound message around PTSD make it a surprisingly moving drama. Jumping between different time periods and locations around the world, the show does well to mix things up throughout its 10 episodes. Having said that, the slow-moving story and methodical pace during its first half may turn some people away expecting a more action-packed plot line. It takes a good four episodes of background and characterisation before the story really progresses significantly, at which point the tone changes as things escalate toward a climactic finale involving our main group of characters.
The story begins with a platoon of soldiers undergoing a deadly mission in the heart of Lebanon. Four friends form a tight bond and after a mission goes horribly wrong, the story skips forward to the aftermath of this, some 11 years later. Traumatized by the events that transpired that fateful night, one of the soldiers, Aviv, tries to deal with the aftermath of this while coming to terms with the death of his girlfriend Yaeli who died 9 years ago. That is, until he receives a call from one of his old army friends who tells him she may still be alive. The other three ex-soldiers, Benda, Dubi and Himmler, all join Aviv and together form a dysfunctional fellowship after falling out, intent on finding Yaeli. For the first 5 episodes or so we follow these four men as they try to reconcile their differences and find Dubi’s sister, all the while grappling their own personal demons and issues arisen from their time in the army. The second half of the series fills in more of the blanks with Yaeli’s back story before descending into a much more action-packed thriller, complete with a climactic battle to round out the series.
While the plot itself is enjoyable, peppered with a lot of really well worked flashbacks and surprising twists and turns along the way, the series does suffer with some pacing issues. Early on When Heroes Fly takes a while to warm up which is a problem made worse by the extended 70 minute run time for the first episode. This aside, the show does settle into a more consistent rhythm after the first three episodes or so, slowly increasing the tension and drama through to a finale rife with gunfire, action and fast-paced set pieces. It’s a real far cry from the somewhat tranquil open to the show but it also reinforces the notion that this is the sort of drama that takes a while to get going.
The biggest draw of When Heroes Fly lies with the themes that are explored throughout the plot, especially very early on. The demons these four men are haunted with as a result of their time in the army is a reflection of a wider issue affecting veterans and troops worldwide. Between mood swings, hallucinations and erratic psychological issues, When Heroes Fly doesn’t shy away from showing the ugly side of PTSD, arguably portraying this more effectively than a lot of other shows out there. It’s testament to the great writing and although the mystery surrounding Aviv’s girlfriend is wrapped up around the midway point of the show, the constant reminder of the ugly effects of PTSD is something that remains a consistent presence throughout the story from start to finish.
None of this great work would have been possible without solid acting and thankfully When Heroes Fly excels here too. Aviv in particular is mesmerizing to watch at times. All four of the main actors have great chemistry together though and really utilize one another’s energy for some of the more dramatic and tense confrontations they have. There’s a lot of issues between the four men and the constant reminder of this via flashbacks helps to really show the extent of damage the war has done to these men’s lives. In a way, this makes When Heroes Fly much more of a tragedy than it perhaps meant to be but this does work particularly well given the overall tone and message of the series as a whole.
When Heroes Fly is a really enjoyable thriller but also a series of two very different halves. While it does take a while to get going and early on there’s a lot of exposition and background to each character to chew through, once you get past this the show really opens up and becomes more action orientated. Despite the mystery around Aviv’s girlfriend being solved by the fifth episode, after spending so much time with these characters when all hell inevitably breaks loose you genuinely care about whether each of them lives or dies. When Angels Fly won’t be for everyone but for those who can look past the slow-moving opening few episodes, it’s unlikely you’ll be left disappointed with this one.
Verdict - 7.5/10