I'm one of those NCIS fans who miss Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), so when I saw trailers for The Dovekeepers, I was intrigued.
I'd been to Masada, which is the climax of the story. It's the fortress that close to a thousand Jews fled to after the destruction of The Temple in 70 C.E. They committed suicide rather than be taken alive and paraded as captives in Rome when the Romans successfully besieged it in 73 C.E. I'd also read about Masada and seen the TV miniseries in the '80s with Peter O'Toole.
So I was part of the show's natural audience, but I could barely make it through the first two hours before shutting if off in a mixture of boredom and disbelief.
How did it go wrong? Many ways. The narrative device in which Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus interrogates two women survivors of the siege was unbearably dull. So was their stiff and stagey testimony. I blame that on the script and the direction. They all seemed to be acting in an amateur Christmas pageant.
Then there were all the details that didn't add up. Ziva's character tells us her mother was sent from Jerusalem to Alexandria to "be a holy woman" -- a temple prostitute. Say what? In whose temple? Certainly not a synagogue. So did she apply for a job in some pagan temple? Why? Why become an outcast? It made absolutely no sense. Perhaps it does in the book.
A Roman general declares that Jerusalem be burned and all the Jews be driven out. Well, the Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 C.E., but not as a response to a few Roman soldiers being killed in a marketplace as we're shown here. Judeans revolted against Roman rule in 66 C.E. and Jerusalem was besieged in 70 C.E. There was no Roman garrison inside Jerusalem at the time; they'd been killed several years before.
The scene was also staged in a very shabby way. The general stands at the top of a narrow staircase (yes, a staircase), lined with about twenty troops. This is the grandeur of mighty Rome? And in one scene an oil lamp burns as wildly as a torch--which would have set the house on fire. Moment after moment--large or small--seemed fake, empty, silly. Oh, and then there was the breeze that always seemed to be blowing through pretty characters' hair like a shampoo commercial.
I wish Cote de Pablo had returned in a better show that gave her the freedom to exercise her wit and charm. Here, she just seemed nothing more than a mannequin in lovely costumes, lost in a wannabe epic.
So did you make it through The Dovekeepers? What did you think?
Lev Raphael is the author of the Jewish historical novel Rosedale in Love and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery.