FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE DMZ, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
I’m just going to start this review out by saying that DMZ is a real conundrum for me. On one hand, the new HBO Max mini-series is a powerful and timely saga with a fascinating world and a vast array of interesting characters. It’s a show that immediately throws you into the action and never lets up. I was so drawn into DMZ that you could say I fell in love with it.
And I want to get into the positives first (because there are so many) before I get into my one real negative with the show. Firstly, this Demilitarized zone is full of so many intriguing characters and the ensemble cast of performers are uniformly excellent. DMZ is not afraid to throw one new character after another at you, building this richly-detailed world with all of the heroes, villains, and in-betweeners that you could ask for.
WHAT IS DMZ ALL ABOUT?
Based upon the DC/Vertigo Comics… Set in a near-future America, fractured by a Second Civil War… The story focuses on the titular DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which is a ravaged Manhattan Island. No one goes in, no one comes out. But, for medic Alma, who is desperate to find her missing son, it all comes down to her becoming a symbol of hope for the occupants trapped inside the DMZ. She must navigate this violent landscape and go head-to-head with the man she used to love… Who will stop at nothing to be the one in power. The future rests in her hands.
HOW IS THE ENSEMBLE CAST?
The real stand-outs in the supporting cast are Freddy Miyares as Skel, a mysterious vigilante who is scouring the DMZ for gold, and Hoon Lee as Wilson, an old friend of Dawson’s Alma, who has risen through the ranks of the political world, through possibly nefarious ways. But, this mini-series belongs to Rosario Dawson as our lead heroine… a tough-as-nails, resilient and passionate woman desperate to reunite with her son… and the actress has never been better. I’ve always loved Dawson, but feel as if she never really picks roles that spotlight her talent, but with Alma, she is able to show her full range.
There are so many characters in the DMZ that honestly could have their own spin-offs because they are so interesting. But, because there are SO many people introduced within such a short amount of time, you might feel overwhelmed and left wishing you could spend more time with them.
CAN THIS SERIES BE COMPARED TO ANYTHING ELSE?
There is also so much more to love about DMZ. It is incredibly timely and reflects our world in many frightening ways. It tackles topics such as political greed, government corruption, societal inequalities, immigration, race wars, military interference, health care… the list goes on and on. There’s so much to take away from DMZ in such a small amount of time. And I can’t see a single person not connecting with its themes in some way or another. The series is also intense as hell, with grit, grime, and kinetic energy that feels a bit like Sons of Anarchy meets The Walking Dead and a hint of Walter Hill‘s seminal classic The Warriors. It’s a non-stop piece of exhilarating action, that also has a powerful and uplifting message behind it. So, how could it falter?
WHY IS IT ONLY FOUR EPISODES!?
Well, there’s a real problem that needs to be addressed and I cannot stress enough, how detrimental it is to the show’s overall quality. And that is the length.
For some reason, the showrunners came to the conclusion that DMZ should be four hour-long episodes… and that’s it. And it tries to cram so much exposition, world-building, and character development into these four episodes, that it feels completely muddled and rushed by the end. There are three different ways the creators could have gone to have made DMZ work, so much better. They could have trimmed all of the excess fat and made this a feature-length film… Which would have been unfortunate. Because there is so much rich detail that would have been lost, it also would have gotten the job done without so many loose threads.
They also could have given DMZ at least four more episodes… And made this an eight-episode limited series, to really flesh out this world more. I mean we’ve got a barrage of true crime mini-series as of late that are this length, that probably would have benefited from being cut down… and then we get this show, that really needed that extra length to develop itself more. And lastly, which is my favorite option, DMZ really should have been the start of a multi-year long-form series. There’s enough content there, the comics this is based on have 72 issues to mine material from.
IT’S A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP…
So, even though I fell in love with DMZ with its post-apocalyptic world and the cast of characters within it… there’s a deep feeling of frustration that comes with it, as well. The series does come to a satisfying enough conclusion, but you can’t help, but feel a bit cheated from being limited to these four episodes. So, DMZ ends up being a piece of entertainment that had the potential to be something truly great, that could have left a real impact… And what we are left with, is indeed a wonderful show… But, one that will probably end up being forgotten in no time.
I hope that HBO Max and WB get the hint and decide to miraculously continue what they started with a second season… But, I feel like that’s a real long shot. In the meantime of me leaning on false hope, I will definitely be checking out the comic books to get my fully-realized DMZ experience.
DMZ will be premiering ALL 4 Episodes on HBO Max Thursday March 17th, 2022.
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