In this new television series set in 1943 New Mexico, fictional main characters work on the Manhattan Project led by J. Robert Oppenheimer to build the world's first atomic bomb. The third episode is dark and melancholy. There are plot spoilers in this review though I try to keep them to a minimum.
Private Dunlavey, who was involved in the traumatic shooting incident in Episode 2, is summoned to speak with Colonel Cox, the series' version of Colonel Leslie Groves. Dunlavey, an anxious kid with a milk-white Irish complexion, takes special pains with his appearance, shaving and making sure that his uniform is impeccable. The sergeants who arrive to collect him say, "Get your trunks." Confused, he blurts out that he didn't know he was supposed to pack. He asks if he is being discharged from the military. Not those trunks, he learns. Next scene, he wears black swimming trunks and perches awkwardly on the rocky edge of a man-made pond in the desert. He is expected to jump in and dog-paddle out to join Colonel Cox, who smoothly swims laps. The colonel doesn't want to take any chance that they will be overheard. As soon as Dunlavey treads water beside him in the center of the pond, the colonel tells him a fake story to stick to: the scientist that Dunlavey shot was actually a spy smuggling classified documents. Colonel Cox offers Dunlavey a promotion and an assignment to his staff. Dunlavey, overawed and vulnerable, tentatively accepts.
Elsewhere, Abby Isaacs (Charley's wife) joins the clique of scientists' wives who lounge around, ogling the young soldiers assigned to wash their cars. Eliza (Frank's wife) is conspicuously absent and Rose (Akely's wife) is the queen bee. The women talk Abby into getting a job with the switchboard operators where she meets an alluring French lady Elodie, whom we last saw spying through a window on Charley and Abby kissing in Episode 2.
The scientists, however, are under tremendous stress. Goaded by his fellow physicists who resent his workaholic ways, Charley humiliates them with an arrogant display of his own brilliance. Akely catches up with him later and firmly refocuses his attention on the person who should be his real competitor: Hitler's lead scientist Werner Heisenberg who is "even smarter than you." Meanwhile, Frank needs Akely's shock wave studies to help him figure out the flaws in his own implosion project now that his mathematician Sid is gone. One of the other physicists on Frank's team mourns, "[Sid] could get through a differential equation like I could get through a hamburger."
Frank stops at nothing to get those shock wave studies, even though Colonel Cox has declared that all scientific work will be compartmentalized with no documents passing between departments let alone off the base. And Akely is not exactly the type to share in the first place. But Frank humbles himself enough to try to get a meeting with Akeley. When that leads only to a frustrating exchange with Charley, he browbeats the military to try to reach Cox. Then he gets arrested, and he tries to blackmail Cox. At one point, Eliza asks him to please tell her that the secret Manhattan Project is worth everything he is going through. His answer sent a chill down my spine: "If it works, we won't just end this war. We'll end all war. Forever."
Finally, late at night, when his team of scientists are drowning their sorrows at the post exchange (a scene which stands out in the entire history of World War II movies as the first time in which a physicist has ever walked into a bar and beaten up a soldier), Frank breaks into Akely's office and steals the shock wave studies. Nearby, Charley has fallen into a dead sleep, hunched over his desk next to a blackboard filled with equations and labeled, "Do not erase." On the blackboard, Charley has taped a photo of Heisenberg that he tore out of a textbook. Frank erases part of the equation and substitutes something new that Charley regards with fascination when he wakes up alone. Find this episode on Amazon.com here for the very low price of $2.99/$1.99: Manhattan [HD]
Note: I purchased this product with my own personal funds. I received no compensation from anyone for this honest review.
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