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Sleeper Cell
Also known as Sleeper Cell: American Terror.

A miniseries showing between 2005-2006, starring Michael Ealy, Oded Fehr and Henri Lubatti.

It concerns Darwyn al-Sayeed, a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist cell; fair enough, but this show also deals with the terrorists' psychology, providing insights into their backgrounds and motives, as well as their relationships to each other and their families.


This show provides examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: Ray Fuller and Patrice Serxner, two of Darwyn's bosses, are killed as is Darwyn's love interest Gayle. Even Darwyn himself may not be exempt from this trope as he is left wounded in a street at the end of Season 2. It is not confirmed if he survived.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Salim, an Al-Qaeda terrorist from Season 2, is very devout and very violent. He is revealed to be a closeted homosexual. In the finale, as he prepares to attack the Rose Bowl, he invites along a man he'd been having an affair with, intending to take him along in the blast.
  • Arranged Marriage: Salim's parents arrange a marriage between him and a Muslim woman. However, the woman is too Westernized for his taste. She drinks alcohol, wears Western clothes, does not stick to halal food, and believes in religious tolerance between different Islamic sects.
  • Becoming the Mask: Darwyn shows shades of this, particularly in season 2 when he assumes leadership of the new cell. Partly to "ensure operational security" so that his incompetent new case agent won't ruin his efforts to put a good front up for his comrades. But also partly to further agendas which have nothing to do with defending the nation.
  • Big Bad: Faris al-Farik aka Saad Bin Safwan.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Ken Walls is a Muslim extremist who trains soldiers to fight for the insurgency in Iraq. However, he only targets the American military, which he views as a legitimate target, and refuses to help Farik hurt civilians, leading to a violent confrontation between him and the cell. Apparently it had been a point of contention between them in the past.
  • Blofeld Ploy: In the first episode, Farik claims that a member of his cell is a traitor, possibly referring to FBI spy Darwyn. However, he was actually accusing Bobby Habib.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: The series ends with Darwyn lying in the street riddled with bullets but not quite dead.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Tommy Emerson's video from before the big terrorist attack, calling his mom and dad "failures as parents" which drove him to become a Muslim extremist.
  • The Dragon: Ilija Korjenić. He rarely crosses Darwyn, but he's still a definite threat.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Farik has a wife and daughter while Christian has a pregnant girlfriend.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Darwyn invokes this on Farik to turn the cell's talents to justice for a change. Morally disgusted by their financier's use of child prostitution, he flat out states to Farik that "this is not Islam!". With initial reluctance, the Saudi bossman leads an assault on the Mexican cartel. He tells the second in command that he can take leadership and a bigger cut of earnings from their prostitution, gambling, drug dealing and pirated DVD sales. Just no children anymore.
    • Ken Walls secretly trains soldiers to join the mujahideen. However, he only targets the American military and refuses to help Farik attack civilians.
  • Flopsy: Done not for money but to delay the terrorists.
  • Foreign-Looking Font: Naturally, an Arabic font for the credits sequence.
  • The Fundamentalist: All the cell members (except for Darwyn, of course).
  • Hollywood Atheist: Bob, Farik's interrogator in Season 2, is sort of a Hollywood Atheist. Raised a devout Christian as a child, Bob died for twenty minutes after a drowning accident and saw no afterlife. After that experience, he became an atheist. Farik is not swayed in the least by hearing this.
  • I Banged Your Mom: Christian did it with Tommy's mom. And bragged about it to his face, causing them to get into a fight. Then claimed it was a joke when Farik intervened.
  • Insistent Terminology: They are not terrorists. They are holy warriors.
    • They buy explosives from white separatists, not "supremacists."
  • Interservice Rivalry: Like nothing else. The various wings of government, the police and foreign policy all stand in the way of a truly effective counter-terrorism strategy.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Gail's well-meaning concerns threaten Darwyn's case in the first season when she tells the LAPD she thinks he's a terrorist. It comes to a head when the LAPD moves to arrest him and Patrice is forced to reveal his identity as an undercover FBI agent, dispersing the LAPD just in time to avoid blowing his cover.
  • Meaningful Name: Faris al-Farik = "The deadly knight".
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: As mentioned above, when Gail mistakenly thinks Darwyn is a real terrorist.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Yes, this show deals with the extremely serious subject matter of terrorism. Michael Ealy and Oded Fehr are still freaking hot, with Fehr in particular benefiting from the fact that Evil Is Sexy.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: The secret password between terrorists goes-
    Questioner: Where is God's paradise?
    Initiate: Paradise is in the shadow of the swords.
    • When conversing in public, they use the more common "As-salam alaykum" "Wa Ďalaykum al-salaam" Arabic greeting.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Farik meets his wife in Las Vegas and they have an argument about his plot to martyr himself in two days' time. But believing he cannot be dissuaded, he ends it and seduces her for the first time in years (due to their enstrangment). Unfortunately for him, he neither got to blow himself up nor ever have sex with her again.
  • Pretend Prejudice: One of Farik's interrogators makes bigoted comments while questioning him. But when he meets Darwyn, he treats him courteously and knows not to offer a Muslim alcohol.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Abdullah "Bobby" Habib. Presented as one of the main members of the cell but executed by Farik for being a "traitor" who bragged about their plot to his uncle at the end of the very first episode.
  • Spies in a Van: As expected for a counter-terrorism show.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Tommy and Christian.
  • Western Terrorists: Type V. Only one of the terrorists in the Season 1 cell is Arab. The others are a white Frenchman, a white Bosnian, and a white American. The Season 2 cell includes a Hispanic American and a white Dutchwoman.
    • Truth in Television: all those examples were based on real terrorists.
    • White separatists also make an appearance, trading explosives to the cell for Afghan cocaine. They also appear to draw parallels between them and Al-Qaeda. Christian, an ex-skinhead, claims that he was once a lot like them. The leader of the white separatists answers that Christian is still like them.
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