Thursday, March 17, 2022

REVIEW: 'DMZ' - Alma Breaks Through Barriers in Pursuit of the Son She Lost Following the Start of a Civil War in 'Good Luck'

HBO Max's DMZ - Episode 1.01 "Good Luck"

As the clock begins on Alma's dangerous 24-hour passage into a lawless Manhattan in search of her son Christian, rivals Parco and Wilson seek approval from the DMZ's major gangs in separate bids for governor.

"Good Luck" was written by Roberto Patino and directed by Ava DuVernay

A stark difference exists between those who are the worst society has to offer and those society deems not worth saving. A new civil war has broken out in the United States. That doesn't matter to Alma. The borders may constantly be changing. The war is being fought around her. And yet, she just wants to be reunited with her son. The divisions that inform so much animosity and hatred have been amplified to such a deadly degree. It's created chaos and confusion. As such, Alma holds onto the deeply personal. She doesn't care where her son is or how he has survived the last eight years. That reunion is most precious to her. She will carry any risk if it can help her achieve that goal. She has long been told the demilitarized zone (DMZ for short) is a lawless land of 300,000 citizens. The worst of the worst live there. It's the only place where she hasn't looked for her son. She finds passage in. A clock is already counting down to get out. She is a stranger in a foreign environment. So much resembles the world she once knew. This city holds the relics of her past. She was lucky to make it out on the evacuation day that ultimately set these new borders. So many people didn't have that luxury. It wasn't because they were deemed inferior and deserving of more brutal punishment. They were judged for not acting sooner. They could have seen the looming threats just as clearly as those who picked sides in this war. Instead, they ended up as the collateral damage in the middle. Nothing can be processed that easily though. No one should be judged for valuing personal fulfillment above political awareness. People can embrace select issues while being completely in the dark on others. It's only human to have flaws. And now, an entire new division of humanity is ostracized and demeaned. Anyone trying to leave the DMZ is shot and killed. As such, escape is impossible for Alma. She can't leave this world even if she found the clarity she went in for. Of course, she already made the decision to continue her search. She walked away. That too was a lucky break. She escaped certain death. Her skills could be put to better use. However, she is walking amongst a world that has much greater consequences for her. It's more than a job she does in order to keep the government functioning. Even then, she only seeks out her personal objectives. People are trapped in cages for simply trying to escape an ever-changing system. Those facts are lost. The inhumanity on display is treated as a callous and typical nature of reality.

And then, Alma turns the corner in the DMZ and stumbles upon a block party. It's not a celebration taken out of ignorance. It's all drawn with an awareness of how this dire state can be perceived. However, it immediately challenges all the assumptions told about how the world has changed. People want to project a sense of superiority in order to state how life functions. They do so out of blind ignorance. They don't care to understand the circumstances of another person. Similarly, Alma only sees the people who can help her complete her mission. In doing so, lives are lost. She carries that burden. She too reaches out for a personal connection. And yet, that may be a luxury she can no longer afford. She makes Odi a grilled cheese sandwich. That's meaningful. But it's much more cathartic for both of them when they share a hug. That's the moment of release. It allows them to process this terrifying situation while recognizing the humanity. Alma wants to shield this young boy from Rose's tragic death. She was killed simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That indiscriminate killing is prominent too. That hasn't casually vanished. Gangs control the supply of goods and information. Alma has to make friends with people who demand so much. Rose offers compassion to her community. She saves lives. She hopes to provide medical care in spite of what everyone wants to condemn this world to. They don't deserve certain death. They should be treated with dignity and respect. Alma's cover story doesn't hold up. She is clearly an outsider. She has connections. She used to work alongside Wilson. He is the man who runs Chinatown and is campaigning for Governor. She doesn't concern herself with the local election. She doesn't see the purpose in this island gaining representation in the face of the warring sides that surround them. They seek to have a voice in the conversation. Alma returns home and mourns the life lost as a result of these decisions. She may not like the answers she is destined to find. She hopes to remind her son of the past. He has clearly cut himself off as well. His father sees the solitude through which he lives. It's not healthy. Reuniting with Alma may change him for the better. Brutal choices had to be made in the name of survival. That can't justify everything. However, this story is about a family doing their best to reconnect in the wake of insurmountable odds. The world offers nothing but violence and change. People can still choose hope and freedom. Those options must always be on the table even if it requires others to acknowledge it in order to be fully granted. That has always been the most agonizing struggle even before these divisions broke out in war.