Terrorists are a lecturing, nagging, smarty-pants bunch on the Showtime miniseries Sleeper Cell, back for a second installment airing eight straight nights beginning Dec. 10. The drama — about a tiny group of extremists plotting jihad in America — never misses a ''teaching moment.'' The Dutch ex-prostitute (Thekla Reuten) speechifies about slavery to Western ideals; the U.K.-bred Iraqi (Over There's Omid Abtahi) rails against racism in England; captured cell leader Farik (The Mummy's Oded Fehr) opines on American guilt before having something very uncomfortable inserted in his urethra. The goal is to make these killers human and therefore more frightening; the outcome is that they seem human and frighteningly long-winded.
The series again has undercover agent Darwyn Al-Sayeed (Michael Ealy) infiltrate a terrorist cell of incredibly broad demographics. He must foil an attack while meeting regularly with his bumbling new FBI boss (Jay R. Ferguson) in a strip-club booth. (Have your little covert op, boys, but be sexy about it!) A series exploring terrorism should feel incredibly entwined — every action triggers something else. Cell introduces, abuses, and kills off characters, but rarely are the ripples felt — the most nettlesome conundrum involves the custody battle of Darwyn's girlfriend, Gayle. Cell dutifully addresses torture, border control, religious extremism, and cultural differences in karaoke. But it hardly enlightens, and it never feels urgent. It feels like a decent cop drama pretending to be something more important.