A high school field trip to the ancient archaeological site of Petra turns tragic, and supernatural creatures are unleashed to prey on the living in Jinn, the first Arabic language original series from Netflix. Forget the Westernized concept of genies found in our popular culture, like Aladdin or I Dream of Jeannie. This series draws on more traditional Arabian/Islamic mythology for its portrayal of the jinn, and it's all the richer for it.
(Mild spoilers below.)
Mira (Salma Malhas), a high school student in Amman, Jordan, is struggling with the recent loss of her mother and brother, and her mixed feelings for her jealous boyfriend, Fahed (Yasser Al Had), who is pressuring her for sex. When the high school class takes a field trip to Petra, tensions emerge, largely driven by Tareq (Abd Alrazzaq Jarkas), your typical high school bully with a broad misogynistic streak for good measure. He and his cronies torment the shyly anxious Yassin (Sultan Alkhail) because they think he ratted them out to the teacher for their many misdeeds.
When Yassin accidentally falls into a pit in one of the caves at Petra, rather than helping him out, Tareq relieves himself into the pit while his cronies laugh. A senior named Vera (Aysha Shahaltough) eventually finds Yassin—but she might be possessed by a jinn, one of the supernatural creatures believed to inhabit the cave, per local lore. And what do you know, suddenly one of the bullies tormenting Yassin meets with an accident, cutting the field trip short.
That's exactly what Hassan (Zaid Zoubi) had been warning about on the bus en route to Petra. He's the super-smart nerd of the group, a walking encyclopedia of jinn mythology, so he knows a jinn can become obsessed with a human and attach themselves. They're drawn to strong emotions and desires, exactly what you're likely to find swirling around a group of high school students with raging hormones. The jinn can take the form of animals, and a tour guide tells the students that it's possible to sometimes hear them whispering in the rocks at Petra.
Petra provides a stunning backdrop for all this melodrama.
Traditionally, jinn aren't typically seen as good or evil, and that moral ambiguity carries over to the series. There seem to be two factions here: one content to co-exist with humans, all-seeing but never seen, and the other intent on destroying the human race for ousting them from their original home.
The jinn inhabiting Vera is seeking to unite fully with a human (as opposed to just possessing them) so it can roam freely—hence her keen interest in Yassin, who she hopes she can convince to agree to the process. Her persuasion involves a certain amount of wish fulfillment: supernatural payback for bullies, for instance. Of course, Vera conveniently leaves out the fact that when a jinn and a human unite, the human's soul is utterly destroyed.
A second jinn, Keras (Hamzeh Okab), befriends Mira after possessing the body of a bedouin boy. His main mission is to foil Vera's plans and keep other jinn from leaving the cave in search of a host, with Mira and Hassan's help, as well as her skeptical BFF Layla (Ban Halaweh). But which jinn is the hero and which is the villain? It's not entirely clear. By the cliffhanger season finale, some doubt has been cast on the purity of Keras's motives—plus a number of other tantalizing secrets are revealed.