Wednesday, July 15, 2020

REVIEW: 'Brave New World' - An Absence of Emotions Challenges Bernard and Lenina's Perspectives in 'Pilot'

Peacock's Brave New World - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Welcome to New London, a utopia governed by three rules - no privacy, family or monogamy - where everyone belongs to everyone else.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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 Peacock's Brave New World.

"Pilot" was written by Grant Morrison, Brian Taylor & David Wiener and directed by Owen Harris

Several fascinating ideas are at play within this new drama based on the acclaimed novel of the same name. It depicts a utopian society built around the banishment of pain. That goal was achieved through the suppression of emotions and identity. Whenever something traumatizing or unexpected happens, all it takes is a pill to eliminate those feelings. It helps keep everyone in line with what is expected in the overall class system. It also gets the people hooked onto this drug because it is so common. Only the benefits are promoted. It's something everyone craves. They take it in order to remain the picture perfect definition of a citizen in the New World. But they are also ordered to take it to curb any behavior that is seen as problematic. That extends to wanting family relationships. Sex is very prominent in this society. However, it is constructed around the idea that no one can form any lasting connections. Lenina is called into Bernard's office because she has developed a casual fling with Henry. She is punished and made to feel small. It's a selfish desire on her part for wanting this for herself. It's to the detriment of society. It's mostly up to the actors to sell the discomfort that some of these characters feel in this world. They yearn for something more. They understand a sense of emotions. They just can't define it in a way that can help either improve or dismantle the overall system. Bernard wants to alert people that one of the newcomers to the New World still growing acclimated to its order felt enough pain to want to jump to his death. Everyone is quick to write it off as an accident. He fell. That's the end of the story There is no way anyone could want to make such a decision Bernard theorizes about. He is written off for even expressing that view point. He is questioned because he doesn't toe the official line. Something more happened there. Something that may continue to cause problems for this society. It takes empathy in order to care though. Helm doesn't treat people with lower class designations as being of the same species as her. They don't have the same emotions. She is privileged and entitled to more because she happens to be an alpha. She doesn't understand when Bernard insists that they are the same. She dismisses him because it goes against her understanding of the world. And yet, he is speaking up based on the science and knowing that human suffering may be enough to fill the world with pain even if it's heavily suppressed. Of course, he operates from a place of privilege as well. He believes he can go by unnoticed because of his stature. He can disappear because he thinks he has the privilege to do so if only for a moment. All of this contributes to the idea that his world feels empty. He is a symbol for a person who feels isolated but wants to enjoy the privacy of his life. He is terrified to be caught with his monitoring device offline. He doesn't want to be seen as disengaging with the world around him. Lenina sees that though. At an orgy, he walks away and refuses to engage with what society demands of him to maintain peace and civility. She calls him out on it too. She views him as a hypocrite who shamed her for her sexual actions only to realize he yearns for something more too. This premiere mostly just serves as a way to bring these two together. They feel like kindred spirits in a world that doesn't want them to be anything more than the cogs that make it all work wonderfully. In the Savage Lands, John is a stagehand trying to care for his mother. He is pressured into joining a resistance of sorts by people who believe they have to fight back against those who ridicule their lives. He remains tentative about it all. He doesn't see why it matters in his life just yet. All of the pieces are present to make this a prescient series about the complexity of human emotions and the expressions with which they need to be explored. And yet, it's all told in a blandly generic way that doesn't really excite the viewer. These characters should stand out more than they actually do. They may eventually rise up to challenge the order of the New World. Right now though, it's clear the narrative is taking its time getting anywhere. It just wants to delve into this world with big and bold visuals without ensuring the story underneath has merit to keep the audience coming back for more. No urgency is present. It may intrigue some because of its social commentary. Momentum simply needs to be built to earn that appreciation and investment.