Thursday, March 17, 2022

REVIEW: 'DMZ' - Alma Must Decide Whether to Stay or Go and the Ramifications That Will Have on the Community in 'Home'

HBO Max's DMZ - Episode 1.04 "Home"

Just as she negotiates safe passage out of the DMZ, Alma wrestles with a compelling reason to stay, while Skel is forced to choose between those he loves.

"Home" was written by Roberto Patino and directed by Ernest Dickerson

As has been mentioned in previous reviews, the truncated episode order diluted a lot of power and potency from the show's premise. It comes across as a failure of development more than what was ultimately produced. It needed to either be reduced to a two-hour feature film or expanded to cover six, eight or ten hours as a limited series. With just four hours spent in this world, the storytelling takes on the herculean task of trying to achieve all these developments. It forces radical transformation upon all of these characters. That means they never truly rise above their one-note initial descriptions. Alma has been singularly focused on saving her son. She entered the DMZ to find Christian. She ends the season believing she has to save him. That's the completion of her mission. She has to remove herself from the proceedings. She has to do what's best for Christian and not what she personally wants to hold onto. Of course, that is projected onto her overall feelings towards the DMZ. Along the way, she had to find a home in this place. It's physically familiar. This neighborhood has been her home before. She knows how to navigate this world. It's easy to do so. But she only needs to give one inspiring speech over the radio to suddenly suggest she is the perfect candidate to represent this community and their interests. It's mostly an indictment of Parco's toxic ways. He bullies others into submission. He's being used as a puppet. He simply doesn't have the clarity to know he's only offering others the pretext to come in and inflict their own views on this community. Wilson had a contrasting vision as well. He believed everyone was in the DMZ because they chose to be here. As such, their freedom should be respected no matter what. Alma has always operated from a place of privilege. She knows the reality of what it means to be trapped in these circumstances. A lucky few escaped. Many were trapped. It was declared to be without any military conflict. The warring sides have been itching to exert their influence over this area. The United States and Free States aren't different whatsoever. The drama never wants the audience to see one side as better. They simply both embrace the same tactics to achieve their objectives. Alma must rely on those relationships in the hopes of achieving success in her mission. That can showcase the power of diplomacy. Not every issue can be solved through war. It's important to communicate. It must come from a genuine place. That's where the show has struggled because it increasingly came across as the action moving the characters across the board to create incentives for more dramatic situations later on.

The turning point is Parco using Odi as a child soldier. That's the red line he crosses. He wants to assure people he doesn't intend to use a child to detonate a bomb behind enemies lines. That's the only reasonable assumption people can come to though. He has armed himself with C4. He is blind to the violence creeping in around the edges of this community. Alma notices it. She has never cared about politics. She only wanted to save her son. The fact that she could see things clearly while Parco could not condemns him to a cruel, vicious fate. His actions could destroy many more lives. He's impatient. He believes others will always prop up his power. He isn't that great. He is charismatic. Benjamin Bratt certainly had a lot of fun in this role. He is committed to the performance. Parco survives all of this as well. He only knows life and death. He views those as the only two options. Instead, he is sent to the United States to be arrested for unlawful entry. He's certainly treated more humanely than others who have crossed these borders. That may prove he is still special despite his defeat. And yet, the narrative only ever wanted to affirm Alma's rise to power as Zee while also succeeding in Christian's redemption. That's the direction the narrative was always heading in. Because of the run time, the audience simply has to accept the actions taken along the way to get to that point. Odi's prominence is pivotal. However, it's not all that necessary to reveal who has mysteriously been the voice of the DMZ on the radio all this time. That adds color and context to the surroundings. It provides Alma with a tool to spread her message. She was the only person aware enough to use Wilson's former contacts to negotiate power in this zone. Susie and Oona don't inherently trust her. They can't even operate with the trust that she'll stick around long enough to continue dealing with the fallout of these problems. They are all too aware that she wants to escape. She creates that route to safety as well. Instead, Christian and Tenny take it. They have the chance to start over. Christian and Alma will meet again. They have to remain hopeful. It brings both of them comfort. But it's always been more central to discuss the future prosperity of the DMZ. That required Alma to be more connected to the outcome. It mostly comes across as her simply being along for the ride. She takes advantage of opportunities presented to her. She offers a different perspective. People appreciate that because they strive for an independent, equitable world. Her election is apparently enough to keep the warring forces at bay. That's a lot of importance thrust onto her when the journey doesn't quite earn that prominence. Again, it's an issue created by the limited time to examine these themes and the true cost of war. It is a complete story though. That can be acknowledged even if one is disappointed by how great this story could have been with more focused development.