In SLEEPER CELL: AMERICAN TERROR, the Muslim undercover FBI agent, Darwyn (Michael Ealy), discovers that another terrorist cell in Southern California is planning a catastrophic attack that will be more successful than the last attempt. Meanwhile, Farik escapes out of the country and directs another terrorist operation, beginning a parallel storyline between Southern California and the Middle East.
Sleeper Cell: American Terror is so consistently excellent that the series' cancellation seems woefully premature. Citing budgetary costs and the popularity of newer shows (like Weeds), executives at Showtime ended the series after this superb second season, which benefits from its limited 8-episode run by maintaining a riveting combination of brisk pacing, intelligent plotting, and an admirably meaningful effort to explore the true nature of Muslim faith. For posterity, both seasons of Sleeper Cell will gain lasting value for their astute and illuminating depiction of Islamic devotion on both sides of the battle against radical Islamic terrorism. In this regard, American Terror is even better than the first season, as it deepens our understanding of the religious and philosophical differences between undercover FBI agent Darwyn Al-Sayeed (Michael Ealy) and Farik (Oded Fehr), the radical Islamic terrorist (with connections to Al-Qaeda) who continues to mastermind attacks on American soil. As American Terror begins, Farik is enduring brutal torture at the hands of his American captors while Darwyn, still undercover, is pretending to lead a new sleeper cell consisting of a former Latino gang member (Kevin Alejandro) who became an extremist in prison; a closeted gay Iraqi ex-patriot (Omid Abtahi) raised in London; and a Dutch nanny (Thekla Rueten) with personal reasons for hating America.
While Farik's former right-hand-man Ilija (Henri Lubatti) struggles in vain to return to a quiet, normal life, American Terror takes all of its characters into darker, more dangerous territory, and heightened realism gives the series even greater emotional impact as unexpected tragedies befall several supporting characters. While Ealy and Fehr continue to anchor the series with their finely nuanced performances, these episodes ultimately lead to a powerful finale that, in many respects, returns Darwyn to where he began--with potentially greater threats looming in his future. While Fox TV's 24 favors nonstop action and increasingly implausible plotting, Sleeper Cell: American Terror presents a frighteningly authentic scenario that honors Islam while demonstrating how it's been perverted by radicals with evil intentions. Because the second season has a cliffhanger ending that may never be resolved, it's a pity the series wasn't allowed to continue, and the DVD extras offer minimal compensation: They consist of "Infiltrating the Final Cell," an interesting interview between Ealy and two of Sleeper Cell's FBI consultants; "The Enemy Within" (a first-season recap); and "Farik's Story," a pointless 90-minute assembly of nearly all of Oded Fehr's scenes from American Terror. Why bother, when it's all better viewed in the context of the episodes? --Jeff Shannon