Netflx’s latest Arabic original ‘Finding Ola’ has launched with much fanfare, taking up the number one position on the streaming giant’s most watched list in Egypt and appearing in the top 10 lists across the region.
‘Finding Ola’ sees Tunisian-Egyptian television and film actor Hend Sabry reprise her role as Ola Abdel-Sabour, a character that first appeared in the 2010 comedy series Ayza Atgawez (“I Want to Get Married”).
Despite bringing back an old, beloved character – whose motivations at the time were to find her Prince Charming before she turned 30 – ‘Finding Ola’ is a standalone series that is different in tone and tackles deeply rooted societal and cultural issues – issues that are relevant to women, and particularly to those in their 30s, 40s and beyond, across the world.
On social media, people are already debating the show’s ending and whether it makes sense for Ola’s journey. As a man who was born to Egyptian parents but has grown up living across different countries, the ending that eventuated was the one I largely hoped for. But, again, I am a 29-year-old man. So I asked my mother, who is married and has three children, her thoughts about the show’s ending and what message she thinks it sends.
Note: This article contains spoilers for the show’s ending. If you do not wish to spoil the ending, stop reading here.
One of the main plot points being discussed on social media is whether Ola should have returned to her ex-husband Hisham (Hany Adel) in the final episode of ‘Finding Ola’. Hisham initially asks Ola for a divorce in the first episode of the show. No exact reason is given as to ‘why’ Hisham wanted a divorce other than, as Ola’s daughter Nadia (Aicel Ramzi) puts it, he was bored.
“Her husband hurt her a lot so she cannot go back to him. He left her for no reason,” says my mom when I asked her whether Ola should have returned to her husband following his pleas for her return.
“Men can be very selfish and only see themselves. And they don’t appreciate anything. At a certain point, they forget everything – their good memories, their good lives, and only remember when they get a heart attack or something. They are scared of getting old. This is the main problem. So they think when they change their lives, wives, families, this will make them younger. But it’s never like this,” says mom, referencing how Hisham immediately bought a new motorcycle, a new apartment and even found a new partner in a 20-something-year-old within days of his divorce.
This answer initially surprised me given Ola’s on-screen mom Soheir (Sawsan Badr) incessantly pushes for Ola to return to Hisham ‘for the sake of the family’.
“That’s the old mentality. This is what traditions in Egypt tell you. This is how everybody in Egypt is still thinking,” explains my mom in response to Soheir’s reaction. What is intriguing is that throughout the show, we see Soheir’s views on marriage, relationships and even life as a ‘mature-aged’ woman being challenged, but that all means nothing at the end of the show when Hisham wants Ola back after he suffers from a heart attack in the penultimate episode.
But is Soheir right about prioritizing keeping the family together?
“What about Ola? For how long will women have to keep sacrificing for their homes to stay working?” says my mom quite animatedly. “And then what? Ola’s kids will grow up, Hisham will go his own way and then she’s left with nothing again.”
“She sacrificed her whole life for them. She left her job. She stayed at home to raise the children largely independently. It’s good she got divorced early so she had a chance to do something for herself.”
“Even her daughter doesn’t want her to go back to Hisham,” continues my mom, referencing the many scenes that showed Nadia standing with Ola. “The daughter understands better. This was acceptable before, when women didn’t have the right to say no.”
And what about Marwan (Ahmed Tarek Nour)? Throughout the show we see Marwan, a widower, in the background as the father of Nadia’s best friend Zeina (Yasmina El-Abd). In episode five, Marwan becomes Ola’s key new-love interest, with both characters finding a connection during a children’s camp.
Despite this connection, and despite Ola seemingly choosing Marwan over Hisham, the two do not end up together, with Marwan explaining that it is “too soon” for them to do so and that Ola should first figure out her life before jumping into a new relationship.
“It was a logical ending. She couldn’t marry Marwan or be with him because she did not know him,” says my mom when asked about some social media users being disappointed that Ola and Marwan do not end up together before the show comes to an end.
“It would ruin two families because they wouldn’t last. They don’t actually know each other. Seeing someone at a camp for a few days is not really knowing them. This is not love. This is just an attraction.”
So no Hisham, no Marwan. Is the show just telling women to get divorced or to just stay single and alone? Some have criticized the show and others for ‘glamorizing’ divorce in a world where divorce rates are growing.
“The show isn’t promoting divorce. It promotes women’s right to live their lives. To save their dignity. It is a show about a woman proving herself as a successful woman and living her life the way she likes,” says mom.
And where should Ola go in a second season? Netflix hasn’t announced whether ‘Finding Ola’ will have a season two, but fans are already wanting more after completing the six-episode show.
“I want to see Ola prove herself as a successful, independent woman,” says mom. “Life is not about finding Prince Charming. It’s about finding yourself.”