• (L–R) ‘Furia’, ‘The Bureau’, ‘The Optimists’, ‘Tell Me Who I Am’. (SBS)Source: SBS
The Spies and Lies Collection comprises 10 brilliant series from around the world.
Kate Myers

25 Nov 2021 - 12:20 PM  UPDATED 25 Nov 2021 - 12:20 PM

The life of a spy is lived on the edge; uncovering political corruption, toppling global crime rings, and personal sacrifice are all in a day’s work. Add a backdrop of incredible locations and tumultuous relationships to the mix and you’ve got some seriously binge-worthy viewing. If, like us, you’re a sucker for all things espionage, check out these spy-riffic titles now streaming at SBS On Demand.

Furia – Norway (2021)

Two protagonists, four identities and a far-right terror cell ready to strike? The first series of Norwegian thriller Furia has all you could want and more. For special ops officer Asgeir (Pål Sverre Hagen) life was meant to get easier when he moved with his daughter to a quiet town in West Norway. At least that was the plan. Unfortunately, the past rarely stays in the past, and despite his new identity, when his world collides with the mysterious Ragna (Ine Marie Wilmann) following a conflict at the local refugee centre, he is pulled into an all too familiar race against time, in this case to stop an unthinkable act of terror on German soil. Ragna’s story turns out to be more complicated than he could have imagined, too; she’s Furia, a far-right writer stirring up trouble on a global scale.

Norwegian–German drama 'Furia' weaves a tangled web in which a female cop risks all to fight extremism
Typically in terrorist-crime dramas, it is a burly big man in camouflage who is depicted as the saviour of humanity. Not in the Norwegian–German drama 'Furia'.

Furia is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Tell Me Who I Am – Spain (2020)

Based on the popular novel by Julia Navarro, this Spanish period drama takes us around Europe and Argentina from 1934 up to the late 1990s. One day Javier, a successful publisher, receives a biography on his desk of the mother he never knew: Amelia Garayoa (Irene Escolar). Javier was taken from her as a newborn, the product of a marriage forced onto Amelia. When she meets Pierre, a French journalist and revolutionary, Amelia’s life takes a dramatic turn as she follows him to Argentina and ends up working as a spy. This lush adventure is dashing and exciting, with its romance and espionage, and the hope of a reunion of sorts between mother and son.

‘Tell Me Who I Am’ is Spain’s gritty spy saga with a female James Bond
This story of a Spanish socialite turned wartime spy is a gritty tale of globe-trotting espionage that’s Spain’s biggest TV series to date.

Tell Me Who I Am is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


La Unidad – Spain (2020) 

When your country arrests the most wanted terrorist in the world, it follows that all eyes will be on you. Not ideal when you’re a special police unit trying to infiltrate his terrorist cell and prevent a retaliation attack on home soil. Then again, flying under the radar is what this unit does best. La Unidad is a series that has all the trappings of a quality spy thriller: exotic locales, elusive fugitives, and the threat of a complex terror plot hanging over the heads of all those involved.

It might sound a little far-fetched, but the series has credibility, based on the experiences of real counterterrorism professionals. As the head of the unit, Carla Torres (Nathalie Poza) and her team must keep their focus amidst the conflicts of their personal lives and, with a second season on the horizon, it looks like they are in it for the long haul.

La Unidad is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Shadowplay – Germany (2020)

If there was ever a setting that lent itself to desperation, and the lies and deceit it fuels, it’s post-World War II Berlin. The year is 1946, crime is an epidemic in the city, and the growing instability means that survival is now the name of the game. Whatever it takes. It’s here that compelling spy drama Shadowplay unfolds, with NYPD cop Max McLaughlin (Taylor Kitsch) on a secondment mission to set up a civilian police force. There’s a level of self-interest to the operation for McLaughlin; his brother Moritz (Logan Marshall-Green) is missing, and he is determined to find out why. Does it matter if you have an ulterior motive when your ultimate goal is the truth? And could the tragic death of their German mother when they were children have a part to play?

Taylor Kitsch on why the ‘relationships are everything’ in ‘Shadowplay’
‘Waco’ star Taylor Kitsch shares his love of the ‘relatability’ and ‘timelessness’ of the well-drawn characters in ‘Shadowplay’.

Shadowplay is now streaming at SBS On Demand. It is also available with subtitles in Arabic and Simplified Chinese.


Shadow Lines – Finland (2019)

If the cloak-and-dagger operations and glamour of the traditional spy genre are more your bag, then Shadow Lines is the perfect choice. Set in 1950s Helsinki, amidst the Cold War struggle between the CIA and KGB for control of Finland, the series is the collaboration of Finnish mother–daughter writing duo Kirsti and Katri Manninen.

When a seemingly random attack forces Helena (Emmi Parviainen) to leave her studies in the US and return home with the help of real-life socialite Tabe Slioor, it doesn’t take long for her to realise there are no accidents. Helena enters a world of mystery and danger as part of The Fist, an impenetrable organisation tasked with maintaining the country’s neutrality, in an attempt to uncover the truth. With one critically acclaimed season and the promise of another one on the way, this is a series to add to your watch list pronto.

A glamorous spy drama set on the Cold War’s forgotten front line? That’s ‘Shadow Lines’
Helsinki was the Cold War’s most keenly fought battleground. One student has to put herself on the front line if she’s to uncover the truth about her past.

Shadow Lines is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Greyzone – Denmark (2018)

Add terrorism, technology and a touch of Nordic Noir to the duplicity demanded of a reluctant double agent and you’ve got Greyzone. Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Borgen) is talented drone engineer Victoria Rahbek who, after an appearance at a conference in Frankfurt, is pursued for an interview by journalist Iyad (Ardalan Esmaili) claiming to be her former classmate. One thing leads to another, and she finds herself drugged, kidnapped and embroiled in a terror plot. In case you were wondering, Iyad definitely isn’t a journalist.

In Sweden, lead agent Eva (Tova Magnusson) is investigating the events surrounding a mysterious and dangerous delivery with an unknown recipient. As the series unfolds, and the stories of these two women are intertwined, a complex world of deception and crime is uncovered that guarantees you’ll be finished the first season before you know it and be eagerly awaiting the next.

Greyzone is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Das Boot – Germany (2018)

War and double agents go hand in hand, and German offering Das Boot proves just that. Sure, there are nods to the 1981 film adaptation, but this is very much a new story. Or rather two stories running parallel amidst the brutal reality of autumn 1942.

In the port of La Rochelle, Nazi translator Simone Strasser (Vicky Krieps) finds herself torn between the French Resistance and loyalty to Germany, and more specifically Resistance chapter leader Carla Munroe (Lizzy Caplan) and local Gestapo chief Hagen Forster (Tom Wlaschiha). Meanwhile, at sea, the crew of U-612 are undertaking their maiden voyage with her brother, radio operator Frank (Leonard Scheicher) on board, leaving Simone with a secret and dangerous task. If you like your espionage with big screen appeal, there are two tension-filled seasons ready for you to sink your teeth into.

Stefan Konarske talks about the new series of ‘Das Boot’
In season 1 of ‘Das Boot’, Stefan Konarske was the submarine captain we loved to hate. In season 2, he’s on a new mission. We talk to him about getting sweaty in Malta, acting in the biggest production of his career, and what it’s like to play the villain.

Seasons 1 and 2 of Das Boot are now streaming at SBS On Demand.


The Optimists – Russia (2017)

There’s something especially dangerous about the life of a Cold War spy, but perhaps that is why these John Le Carré-esque series make such addictive viewing. Set in a Khrushchev-led Soviet Union, Russian drama The Optimists is a standout of the genre, following the young and somewhat naïve diplomats of the Strategic Analysis Group as they navigate a world on the precipice of global change.

Ruta Blaumane (Severija Janusauskaite) knows more than most who work at the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As an American communist she has a foot on each side of the conflict, and is perfectly placed to lead this think-tank, but when the manipulation, danger and political one-upmanship of an unforgiving system begin to take their toll, it turns out that these optimists aren’t entirely who they say they are. Thirteen episodes just aren’t enough – bring on season 2!

The Optimists is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


The Bureau – France (2015)

Nobody does a spy series quite like the French and The Bureau is one of their best. As part of the Directorate-General for External Security, intelligence officer Guillaume Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz) is used to leaving identities behind. In fact, he’s an expert. The only trouble is, six years living as a deep-cover agent in Syria has seen some remnants of his life there return with him to Paris. The presence of his Damascus-based lover Nadia (Zineb Triki) in France is a particular problem. When deceit is your job description, and you’re damn good at it, it’s often easier to keep up the act, but at what cost? Inspired by real accounts and events, the series follows those inside the ‘Bureau of Legends’ as they put their lives on the line over five incredible seasons.

Who’s who in 'The Bureau'
Spies are trained to blend in, and the spies of France’s 'The Bureau' are the best of the best. These are the ones to keep an eye on.

Seasons 1–5 of The Bureau are now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Spooks – Britain (2002)

Fancy a spy thriller that will leave you nostalgic for early 2000s fashion while consistently delivering with each and every episode? Then Spooks is the show for you. It’s gripping, intelligent and packs a serious punch, buoyed by a stellar cast that reads as a who’s who of British crime drama including real-life couple Keeley Hawes (The Bodyguard, Line of Duty) and Matthew Macfadyen (Succession).

The team of MI5’s Section D might be young, but they are ready for whatever challenge comes their way… and there are many. Maintaining national security, and a somewhat anonymous identity, is a round-the-clock affair and threats can appear from any direction. No other series does a cliffhanger quite like this one; the suspense is real. With more twists and turns than you could ever hope for across ten nail-biting seasons, Spooks is undercover work at its dangerous best.

Seasons 1–10 of Spooks are now streaming at SBS On Demand.


More from The Guide
Searching for the truth of two desperate stowaways in ‘The Man Who Fell From The Sky’
Documentary filmmaker Richard Bentley talks to SBS about his efforts to discover more about two men who made a fateful decision to stow away in a plane’s undercarriage.
Ken Burns’ new ‘Muhammad Ali’ docu-series is an immersive look at the Greatest of All Time
“He called himself the greatest, and then proved it to the entire world.”
Can ‘Hitler: Countdown to War’ teach us anything new?
The rise of Nazism and the advent of WWII have been exhaustively documented, but a new three-part series offers a closer look at the crucial pre-war period.
Top new series in December 2021
December is all about documentaries and crime dramas, with some comedy and sci-fi thrown into the mix.
Sex, guns, politics and police: a complicated, compelling drama set in Algeria
‘Algiers Confidential’ is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Sofia Helin talks us through her picks on SBS On Demand
The star of 'The Bridge' and 'Atlantic Crossing' talks about her top selections from SBS On Demand.
Here’s what’s leaving SBS On Demand in December 2021
It’s drama central this December. Catch a host of outstanding series before they leave, as well as documentaries and movies galore.