Last watched: July 2016
World War II is on and there is a race to create the bomb: a race between the Allies and the Axis and a race between two teams. Frank Winter’s team is focusing on implosion but they, and their project, are not the golden boys — that would be the ‘thin man’ project.
In a normal small community, gossip would be rife. In Los Almos, there is ‘compartmentalisation’ and strict punishment for loose lips. Intrigue, the nature of secrets and war time pressure are driving these characters; driving them mad, driving them away from each other and driving them into and against each other.
Manhattan is good tv. The women characters are well rounded and completely autonomous and they’ve clearly made an effort to create realistic queer plot lines. The oldest woman lead is 47 and just a year younger than her male counterpart, so they have cast against trends. There’s two people of colour in the show, though both take minor roles. Their plights are also realistic (to a point), too. There is also a very good handling of mental illness in the show.
There is a lot of racism depicted in the show; yellowface in a theatre production, the indigenous population is around but all in small roles (both in the structure of the show and in the characterisation of the show). There is a lot of casual racism that is there because I feel like the creators wanted audiences to be confronted. It’s a nice reminder of how far we’ve come and a nice reminder that stuff we ‘let slide’ today will be the horror stories of the future. I don’t imagine that will make it any easier for the people represented to watch, though.
The dialogue is good, the direction and cinematography is good, the costumes are superb, the setting is excellent.
The only bone to pick is how lightly they skirted around indigenous issues. They’re there, they play a key part of several twists and turns but there was just so much beautiful television completely missed when the creators didn’t take the time to delve into it. The fact they’re nuclear testing on sacred land, for instance, is mentioned but not discussed. The fact that indigenous women are treated like dirt but their voices and stories aren’t offered up shows that the creators are keen to decry racism but not give them a platform to the people affected. Honestly this could have really brought the entire show up a notch if they’d had treated indigenous stories with more respect.
Pros: Queer plotlines, people of colour plot lines, minor mental illness plot, no structural sexism, racism or homophobia (that I can see).
Cons: A lot of the male characters are unlike-able, there is a very kink-shamey plot, and of course not enough emphasis on indigenous stories (they are just there as backdrop).
Genre: Historical drama
Light/heavy rating: 6
Approach carefully if: you would struggle with suicide or sexual assault (groping, no penetration or rape) and subsequent “boys will be boys” dismissal of said assault (though structurally framed as a detestable reaction). Lots of infidelity plot lines. There is also an out-and-out murder of a person of colour on the show including cover up and promotion of the person who killed him.
Can be found: SBS On Demand
Accessibility: No CC 😦