Much like your average neighborhood Fight Club, the first rule about building a nuclear weapon out in the middle of the American desert is that you don’t talk about building a nuclear weapon. With their second original scripted program Manhattan, WGN America is entering the world of high-stakes TV drama, and the extended trailer above does a fantastic job of dangling tension and suspense without actually cluing audiences in on why we should be so tense. Oh, except for that whole “build a weapon that can end the war” thing. That seems pretty important.
Created by Sam Shaw, Manhattan takes place in an unofficial New Mexico town called The Hill, where the horizons are kept safe by the military and the citizens all have a central purpose. The series begins with the arrival of the brilliant scientist Charlie Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman) and his wife Abby (Rachel Brosnahan), who move to The Hill with their young son. Charlie’s work begins immediately, as he’s introduced to one of the project’s leaders, Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey), whose mental state has taken a downward turn in his time there. Frank’s wife Liza (Olivia Williams) is a botanist whose work was put on hold during their time at The Hill, and her acceptance of the situation seems to be a bit more strained than Frank’s.
But who can blame everyone for being extremely stressed out? They’re building an atomic bomb, for Oppenheimer’s sakes. (Or a “gadget,” if you want to stick with their story.) Just because everyone in the community has an off-the-charts IQ, that doesn’t mean that everyone is equally capable of handling themselves. As Frank puts it, even the Vice President of the United States doesn’t even know they exist. One wrong move and boom, everything was for naught.
The trailer has quite a few striking moments in it, such as one character sugarcoating the fact that a giant explosion just happened some miles away. (I would be freaked out, to say the least.) It’s also intriguing when Abby is questioned about ever being “a member of an organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government,” because she just kind of stares ahead without denying anything. An editing trick, probably, but this is obviously a series where EVERYONE has something to hide; I’m fairly certain there are bouts of infidelity happening on The Hill as well.
If you head to the show’s website, you can find a ton of awesome throwback propaganda posters, like the one seen below.
Who will survive, and what will be left of their gabby mouths? First, read our spoiler-free Manhattan review and then tune into WGN America on Sunday, July 27 at 9 p.m. ET. Keep your air raid siren ringtone handy.