Sunday, May 19, 2019

REVIEW: 'Catch-22' - Yossarian and His Fellow Soldiers Head to the Battlefield to Begin Their Service in 'Episode 1

Hulu's Catch-22 - Episode 1.01 "Episode 1"

Young American flyers arrive in war and discover that the bureaucracy is more deadly than the enemy.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Hulu's Catch-22

"Episode 1" was written by Luke Davies & David Michôd and directed by Grant Heslov

Joseph Heller's novel is a hugely influential literary classic. It offers such a delicate balancing of tone in order to depict the absolute horrors of war as well as the outrageous quality of the bureaucracy throughout the government. By design, it is meant to be confusing and disorienting. There are so many characters who are going through so many crazy situations. It's absurd as the mission count keeps being increased. The heart of the story lies on John "YoYo" Yossarian as he understands the depravity of flying these bomber missions and wants out. He is just incapable of doing so because the air force demands so much from him and his fellow soldiers. This opening hour provides a competent look at the many conflicting tones from the novel. It essentially opens with George Clooney's Lieutenant Scheisskopf yelling at the men for not being able to perform the parade routines correctly. It's so silly and absurd. He yells and asks rhetorical questions while YoYo and his friend, Clevinger, get punished. The dialogue happens in such quite succession as well. It gets to the point where even the characters are absolutely confused by what's going on. That's the point of all of this as well. Things happen so quickly in this world. One moment everything is fine and the squad is hanging out in the lake. The next moment they are in battle and being blown apart. YoYo gets a new bunkmate only for him to never return after dropping his belongings off. It's so depressing and highlights the complicity of these individuals who have never met before this moment. It's because YoYo gives the wrong directions that this kid goes on a mission that leads to a quick end to his military service. It's that kind of fate that absolutely plagues YoYo throughout this entire premiere. Sure, there is some conventional absurdity from him also having sex with his commanding officer's wife. That mostly just highlights his idea of joining the Air Force in the hopes that the war would be over by the time he completed the training. He understands exactly how unfair it is for the officers to keep demanding more and more missions from the soldiers. Every single one of them is dangerous. All of the absurdity and humor goes flying out the window when the planes are actually in the sky. It's so precarious and scary up there. The show depicts that atmosphere in such an intoxicating and disorienting way. At first, the show depicts how a mission is suppose to go. Everything ultimately works out for the good guys. The next mission though is met with a grim fate with YoYo's fellow bomber getting hit and landing directly on the window of his plane. It's such a gruesome sight that scars YoYo. And yet, he still has to keep flying missions. It's all because of the Air Force's policy regarding dismissing soldiers for being crazy. The doctor explains that anyone would be crazy to fly these missions. As such, they are qualified to be relieved of these duties. However, the moment they asked to be declared crazy they present as having a rational mind and are thus healthy enough to fly. It gives the story its title. It's all crazy but it carries such massive life-or-death consequences to it. This show really does try to capture all of the competing tones just right like the novel wonderfully does. However, it still feels like a clash that is oftentimes confusing. The missions in the sky are terrifying. But the satire on the ground is very hit-or-miss. Sometimes, it feels like the show is over-explaining things like Major Major Major's name. Other times, it's absolutely delightful to watch as Milo presents his worth in bringing food into the camp. But it's also incredibly confusing and difficult to keep track of everything that's going on. It's overwhelming. Again, that's the point of the piece. At this moment though, it doesn't always work which could be a significant problem.