Thursday, March 17, 2022

REVIEW: 'DMZ' - Parco and Wilson's Campaign for Governor Leads to Violence with Alma and Skel in the Middle in 'The Good Name'

HBO Max's DMZ - Episode 1.03 "The Good Name"

Alma makes it clear whom she's fighting for as Wilson's thief is revealed, Odi's kindness is returned, and Skel finds himself torn between Tenny and Parco. Then, war breaks out in the DMZ.

"The Good Name" was written by Roberto Patino & Carly Wray and directed by Ernest Dickerson

Something incredibly consequential happens every day in the DMZ. It's all a result of the season producing four episodes. The creative team wants to cover a lot of ground with these characters. A lot must happen. That can make it seem like events are constantly jumping around for attention instead of the characters themselves propelling the story forward. It also makes it much more difficult for the audience to believe that various moments are earned. After Parco and Wilson's brutal fight, Alma runs to Skel pleading for him to escape with her. He doesn't have to choose the brutal life his father has laid out for him. And yet, it feels completely inevitable that he will make that dire choice. The audience has seen him kill before. It's not shocking when it's revealed to Alma her son is the one disrupting Wilson's gold operation. As such, this feels like part of who he is. It's only surprising to Alma. She sees the brutality firsthand. Her son kills. That's the identity he embraces. It's more genuinely heartbreaking when he looks out into the crowd and sees Tenny. They've actually had conversations about the future. They could dream about their lives far away from this place where they are no longer beholden to these father figures. Skel may even believe he is freeing her from this great burden. She doesn't have to be Wilson's ward any longer. The violence can never be celebrated. Instead, all of this is symbolic of people fighting someone else's war. Parco and Wilson are nothing but proxies for the various divisions of America. Parco takes weapons from the United States while Wilson is armed by the Free States. No one is innocent. They are all responsible for escalating the conflict. They can leave no room for subtlety. Wilson has to share with Alma right away who she is working with. That comes after a day campaigning on his behalf. Of course, the election is ultimately meaningless. It's all about whichever gang can dominate the other into submission. That's the leader who will ultimately emerge. It's not about endorsements or presenting the best case for governance. It's all corruptible ideals. Susie appreciates Alma's transparency. She can't be an innocent bystander in this whole mess though. She wants her son back. She believes she can redeem him no matter what he has done. He's not beyond that in her eyes. She has to accept the consequences of her actions. Everyone in the DMZ must do that. Susie speaks from experience. Not enough people listen to her to prevent the vicious cycle from repeating.

The DMZ becomes exactly what the outside forces always dictated it be. People are killing each other for control. Every day is a battle to survive. People have to seek out allies who can keep them protected for a little bit. It's not important to aspire for anything more. Nothing simple can emerge from this life. Of course, Odi can receive the peace and beauty still present in this world. He shared an act of kindness. Alma helps him be a better friend as well. Sure, it's all wrapped up in this battle for survival. It requires these young kids to scavenge for resources that can be traded. They must be armed too. That's the only way they can move with any respect. But kindness is just as valuable. It provides access to a world of wonders. It's important to see that. It can all be overshadowed by the big, pompous personalities in the room. They can lose sight of humanity. They are distracted by their egos and pursuit for more personal achievement. The world is meant to be shared. People come together and can find peace through those connections. And yet, the various forces are always pointing to war. They don't want to deal with the consequences of what is left behind either. Parco doesn't care about Chinatown. He invades the neighborhood and kills its leader. The aftermath will be stark for the people whose identities are a part of this place. The culture meant so much to Wilson. And now, he's killed because he stood in the way of Parco's plans for domination. He wants to project himself as the epitome of strength. He can lead this city to greatness. He has the vision to ensure more prosperous days ahead. In doing so, he must bend others to his will. Alma may not have been a perfect mother. She has made mistakes. However, she always saw the beauty and individuality in Christian's life. She saw the name he wanted to make as an artist. She didn't latch onto it and contort the image into what she wanted. That's a reflection of the past. Right now, Alma absolutely believes she can convince Skel to return to being her innocent boy if she simply pleads enough. That change may never happen. He may be gone for good. He makes that declaration. Nothing she does will warn him from the coming trauma. She wanted these answers. She puts herself directly in the middle of this conflict. She can't ignore the consequences. She's failed others due to circumstances. The world forced her to make many actions she couldn't take back. She wanted the best for her son. Instead, she still has to settle for less. That's if Christian even has a life at all as Skel. He survives. It all comes at a cost. No one can understand it either. This family only drives each other away because the pain is too profound to ever suggest things can be comforting again. It's hard to accept in various moments. The effort is put in to make a difference. But again, the brevity of it all may only keep the characters on the same paths that were always evident.