The Hero’s Journey in “Blackspace”

Opening your series with a school shooting is always a touchy way to go, especially if part of your audience is going to be in the mass-shooting-scarred United States. But the new Israeli thriller Black Space pulls no punches in that regard, starting right away with a school shooting, and then having its main character try to figure out if it was an inside job.

Opening Shot: Scenes of Heritage High School in Israel. The principal, Hanoch Tavor (Shai Avivi) starts talking to an assembly of 12th graders during a Memorial Day assembly.

The Gist: During the assembly, four people in jumpsuits and unicorn masks walk into the room, guns drawn, and start shooting. As the kids and faculty scramble for cover, the guard, who’s locked out, calls for police backup.

While at the eye doctor for treatment on an infection around his glass eye, Rami Davidi (Guri Alfi), a Special Investigations detective, gets an alert about the shooting. It just happens to be at the high school he attended when he was a teenager. He immediately drives to the scene, despite his blurry good eye. He immediately suggests to patrol cops at the scene to go in through the bomb shelter underneath the school. As the team makes their way up, they find four teens dead, and the rest either hiding, injured or trying to escape.

He takes the lead on the investigation, staying there when his pregnant wife Miri (Meirav Shirom) calls to tell him that she feels some pain. He snippily tells her to have her mom take her to the ER, then sees something: Palestinian names in the entrance register, for the purpose of AC maintenance. With the officer in charge, Noga Ruso (Assi Levy), he and a team charge up to the roof and find the three workers hiding there. They’re immediately arrested, with the thought that they did the shootings for political reasons. But there are no guns, and other pieces of evidence don’t add up for Davidi.

One of the students, Shir Tadmor (Gily Itskovitch) finds that her brother Tom (Yehonatan Vilozny) made it, but his best friend was killed right in front of him. Another girl, the tattooed Maayan (Hadas Jade Sakori) bolts out to find her boyfriend, who says he was in the building at the time but wasn’t.

After he gets home for the night, seeing the surviving students already keeping vigil outside the gates of the school, Davidi comes to a realization. He calls Russo and says that he’s confident that the Palestinian workers didn’t do the shooting, but the students did. That means the number of suspects shoots up from 3 to over 400.

Black Space is a psychological thriller with some political overtones, much in the Homeland or 24 model, but it’s mostly going to deal with a secret society among teens in this small high school, so it plays more like Euphoria, with violence subbing for partying.

Creators Anat Gafni and Sahar Shavit have certainly set up an intriguing story in the first episode of Black Space. They don’t spare any brutality in showing the beginnings of the school shooting and its aftermath; Netflix even displayed a trigger warning about the violence before the episode starts. But just when you think the show is going to take what’s a more conventional direction, especially in that region of the world — it was terrorism! — Davidi’s instincts pretty quickly tell him it’s something else.

And that’s where the intrigue begins. At the very least, Davidi is going to dig into the student culture at the school, and a social media app named Blackspace that the “olds” know nothing about. There, he’ll find out what everyone is into there, and as we see in the season’s coming attractions, there will be a lot of statements like “teens aren’t like they used to be.” More of the motivations of certain students will be revealed. Perhaps the four students killed were actually targeted instead of randomly shot. Perhaps something else was at play.

Because this is taking place at Davidi’s high school, it’s pretty inevitable that we’ll see flashbacks that establish Davidi’s gruff demeanor, maybe even tell us how he initially lost his eye. Will those flashbacks be any kind of help in unlocking the case? Maybe not. But it’ll likely speak to Davidi’s motivation to solving it and why he’s so sure it’s an inside job.