Previously on The Looming Tower, ““Losing My Religion”
James, O’Neal, and Soufan follow up on a lead regarding the bombings to Manchester in order to question Anas aLiby. The audience is well aware that aLiby was the man who asked the security guard at the Nairobi Embassy how the gates work, but the three agents are not able to find any evidence against him. O’Neal even implores FBI Agent Louis Cancelmi to steal the hard drive from Alec Station in order to search for any information on aLiby.
In Nairobi, FBI agents get a tip about a suspicious man, Mohammad al-Owhali (the suicide bomber), staying in a hotel. After being detained, al-Owhali claims he was in Nairobi searching for business opportunities and that he received cash from the bank that he placed in his jacket on the day of the bombing. His cover story is that he was walking in front of the embassy when the bomb went off, and he lost all of his travel documents, suitcase, and clothes in the blast. Agent Chesney sees right through these lies however since Mohammad has on a new belt and shoes; additionally, the clothes he is wearing, which he claims to have worn on the day of the bombing, are not torn. Chesney surmises that Mohammad must have gotten the cash for the new items from someone he contacted after the blast and not from the bank as he claimed. He is able to get the number of al-Owhali’s contact to further his investigation.
Following some heated discussion between Schmidt and Clarke, CIA director George Tenet, played by Alec Baldwin, decides on bombing two locations in Afghanistan, one of which is known to the audience as an Al-Qaeda terror cell. O’Neal becomes incensed with Clarke once he learns of the retaliation plan. First, he was not informed of the plan even though he has agents in the field that could be put in danger due to these actions. Additionally, he believes that the U.S. Army is just playing right into Al-Qaeda’s hands and starting an unnecessary war that will only aid the terrorist organization in gaining new recruits.
Schmidt is asked to answer for this attack plan at the 2004 inquiry in front of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. When asked by Mr. Kearns of the commission if he regrets the innocent lives that were lost, Schmidt coldly answers that if they were not Americans, he really does not care.
“Mistakes were made” is his only sentiment.
With the final moments of the episode circling back to the young boys who were playing soccer during the opening credits, it was quite obvious the show would end on another sad note. One of the U.S. Army’s bombs hits the boys’ home and the episode sadly ends with the only surviving boy trying to wake his dead friend Mohammad. I guess Mohammad and the rest of his friends were just some of those mistakes made by Schmidt and his team.
I will admit that this is more a nitpick than a gripe, but I am unsure of why Agent Soufan has been given a long-distance love interest. He calls Heather, the woman with whom he only had one date before being sent overseas. Unless this courtship happened in real life, I don’t really see the motivation behind the writers having Soufan so enamored with a woman he barely knows in the midst of all the chaos. Maybe this love interest is supposed to serve as a way to alleviate some of the heavy emotion that comes along with a show covering real-life terrorist attacks; I just wish a stronger foundation for Soufan’s feelings were established in the first episode to give this relationship some type of credence.
When Agent Chesney and Agent Kathy Shaughnessy begin to interview al-Owhali, he almost immediately blurts out that he doesn’t like Shaughnessy and demands for her to leave. Chesney acquiesces his request and barks at her to get out. I understand that Chesney wanted al-Owhali to be in the best attitude to make questioning him easier, but his actions also felt patronizing towards her. After this, I came to realize that a big flaw of The Looming Tower is its under-developed female characters. I even had to research Shaughnessy’ name since she is not really addressed in the show. Similarly, Diane Marsh so far has only served as a sounding board and ego boost to Schmidt.
The Looming Tower still manages to have comedic moments during such a serious time in American history. When trigger-happy Schmidt huffs into Clarke’s office with demands that Bin Laden’s training camp to be bombed, Clarke sarcastically remarks, “I know you want me to just hit a button under my desk and blow shit up, but no such button was provided to me.”
Although the interrogation starts off with Shaughnessy’s undeserved dismal, Bill Camp’s acting in this scene was impeccable. The audience knows the opposite is true, but Camp somehow manages to come across as believing al-Owhali’s cover story, even being in cahoots with him perhaps.
- There may have been a plan before 911 to not fly planes into buildings, but to blow up several planes simultaneously above U.S. soil.
- FBI Agent Louis Cancelmi is so dedicated to his job that he stopped in the middle of sex to answer O’Neal’s phone call regarding getting information off the CIA hard drive. His date did the smart thing and promptly left in a huff, disgust, and mostly disbelief.
- A local Nairobi man is beaten by his fellow neighbors after he tells the FBI agents which hotel al-Owhali was in. I wonder if they just hate America or if they are involved in Al-Qaeda in any way.
- I wonder how the investigation is going into the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. There is no mention of it since episode 1.