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Iran TV spy show ignites controversy for second season

A controversial Iranian TV spy thriller is once again generating buzz in the Islamic Republic, drawing the ire of government officials and complaints from viewers over alleged censorship in the second season finale.

The fictional series, titled “Gando,” chronicles the exploits of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard agents — in the style of James Bond or Jason Bourne.

The first season grabbed headlines for depicting Iranian intelligence operatives combating an American super spy who bears a striking resemblance to Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian. Before being freed in a prisoner swap in 2016, Rezaian spent 18 months in an Iranian prison on charges of espionage that he and American officials denied.

US journalist Jason Rezaian waves as he poses for media people in front of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, after being released from prison in Iran, January 20, 2016. (Michael Probst/AP)

The show, which valorizes Iran’s hardliners and portrays Iran’s Foreign Ministry as inept, long has caused consternation among relative moderates in the government. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif railed against the second season on the popular audio chat app Clubhouse last week, calling it a “lie from beginning to end.” When the first season aired in the summer of 2019, Zarif sent a formal letter of protest to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Certain scenes in the last two episodes appeared to be crudely edited and the finale came to a strangely abrupt end, fueling criticism over possible government interference in the series.

An adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, Hesameddin Ashena, promised that the government had not disrupted the show or pressed for its cancellation.

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