Manhattan is the story of The Manhattan Project, a secretive United States project to create the world’s first atomic bomb during World War II. There was a secret military base set in the desert of the U.S. Southwest. Here scientists were taking part in a deadly race to end the War against the tyranny of the Axis powers. Now, admittedly I was very green in regards to my knowledge of this particular part of American history; I knew that the Manhattan Project lead to the the nuclear attack on Japan during the war, but I didn’t know how much spying, distrust and overall shady doings were involved at all. There was a lot.
The story here is basically writing itself, seeing as how this is based off of a true story. The pacing, up to this point anyway, has been solid. I am a huge fan of history in general and all of this new information is enthralling to me. A lot of the names are historically accurate, the setting is spot on and the time frame is 100% accurate. Now, I imagine that a lot of the behind the scenes stuff is still under lock and key (because, you know…the government), but everything seems on the up-and-up so far. I am a huge fan of the setting here. WGN has spared no expense recreating the New Mexico military base; cars, clothes, houses and even the lingo are all authentic looking and it really does a great job at putting the viewer in the time period. It’s impressive for a network that is most known for airing Cubs games…
As far as the acting is concerned, there are no anchors holding down the story. There are no huge names here, unless you count Daniel Stern, but that doesn’t stop the actors from bringing their “A” game. Nothing here is Emmy winning but no one is doing a poor enough job to note either. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Some of the interactions between the scientists (especially the team of misfits that the story revolves around) and the military police are absolutely fantastic; the lines are very well written and they are delivered quite well. The standout actor up to this point is clearly John Benjamin Hickey who is playing Frank Winter. His drive to save American lives and not get bullied by the lead research team or the MP is super engaging and I love every minute of it.
The only aspect of this show I am not all in on the story of the wives of Winter and rival bomb maker Charlie Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman). Winters wife, Liza (Olivia Williams) is a very aloof Botanist that seems to be taking the new girl, Abby Isaacs, under her wing. Abby (played by House of Cards alum Rachel Brosnahan) is a ditz. She seems hopelessly inept at a military base that is clearly overwhelming her. The acting isn’t all that bad for either of these ladies but the story itself is boring and kind of out of place. I’m hoping that some of Abby’s thoughtlessness may get her hotshot husband in a little bit of trouble, but we’ll see in the next few episodes.
Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying Manhattan. The fact that I don’t really know what happened on that little military base, along with most of America I assume, makes this kind of a guessing game as to how we get from point A (the race to make the first nuclear bomb) to point B (the actual dropping of said bombs). Sure we know how it ends, but the journey there is a mystery and I am glad that I am along for the ride.