Manhattan, one of the most underrated and best new shows on TV, finished up a strong inaugural season Sunday night. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, calling it the best show nobody’s watching. Since then, the bandwagon has grown considerably, which led to WGN renewing it for a second season.
Growing up, WGN was channel 9 on my cable box. As a nod to my youth, here are 9 reasons I’m excited we’ll be getting more of this excellent series.
9. It Looks a Little Breaking Bad-ish
One of the main characters. Frank Winters (John Benjamin Hickey), is a slightly misunderstood and underappreciated genius. Every episode of the first season has featured a memorable opening scene before the title sequence comes in. And Manhattan is set in a town surrounded by the desert. Speaking of Breaking Bad…
8. “YEAH! SCIENCE, BITCH!!!”
I could talk about the societal impact and importance of scientific discovery and all that, but I’ll just say that watching super nerd geniuses trying to figure out something that seems impossible is a lot of fun.
7. This All Seems Very Real
Manhattan has done an excellent job recreating the 1940s. This holds true for the mental and emotional world of that time as well — like how the scientists working on the atomic bomb truly believe that it will end all wars. And because of the realism…
6. Restraint is King
One of my favorite things about Manhattan is how they’ll take you right to the edge of plot believability but not over it. The show never feels ridiculous and I didn’t roll my eyes once during the entire first season. Put another way…
5. They Show Us the Zig, Then They Zag
Manhattan continually has shown us trapdoors to new plotlines. But once we’re ready to jump in, they slam the door shut. It all started with Sid Liao (Eddie Shin) racing back to town with a gun at his side only to be gunned down by the MP at the gate. It looked like Frank Winters (Hickey) had feelings for his housekeeper, but that was never really explored. Fritz accidentally consumed harmful chemicals (don’t worry, he’s fine).
Liza Winters (Olivia Williams) found that everything in their house had traces of radiation, but we haven’t revisited that since she burned their clothes in the backyard. Abby Isaacs (Rachel Brosnahan) was ready to leave her family and run off with the sexy neighbor lady only to have second thoughts and help Charlie (Ashley Zukerman) plant evidence that gets the Lancefields removed from the hill (or worse).
4. Destroying Lives to Destroy Lives
Manhattan does an exceptional job examining flawed human beings and what they’re willing to sacrifice for their country and scientific glory. In this New Mexico town that doesn’t appear on any map, the most destructive weapon of all-time is being created by lives that are self-destructing around it.
3. I Don’t Get Frank Winters
Flawed. Arrogant. Sympathetic. Obsessed. Narrow-minded. And kind of a dick. I wouldn’t call him an anti-hero. In fact, I don’t know what I would call him. For 12 episodes, I watched him sacrifice anything and anyone in order to keep his project alive and eventually gain an edge over the Thin Man group. He’s a fascinating character, driven by one singular focus. And that’s why what he did in the finale was so shocking to me.
The whole first season featured the Implosion group versus the Thin Man group in a race to see who can build a working model of an atomic bomb first. After watching lives explode around him in every episode (oftentimes at his own hands no matter how intentional or direct), Frank Winters turns the idea of implosion on himself and detonates a bomb that could destroy his life.
One life. So that Charlie Isaacs could potentially save thousands.
1. Where Do We Go from Here?
My big hope for Manhattan heading into a second season is that the creative team behind it already has an end game mapped out. And their willingness to not waste time chasing tangent storylines far down the rabbit hole is evidence of that.
The last we see of Frank Winters in Season 1, he’s being driven off the hill into the great unknown with a bag over his head unaware of his destination. I have no idea where Manhattan goes from here. But like Frank Winters, I’m at peace with that.
Follow Nick Ewertz on Twitter