Imagine the best elements of the hit AMC series Mad Men: the attention to period detail of a forgotten America, workplace/managerial jujitsu, hot ladies kissing (sometimes each other!), and a secret so profound that it eventually eats away at the lives of all the major characters. Now transfer that rich, soapy context to…World War II-era Los Alamos?
A little-viewed but increasingly praised drama airing on WGN transplants TV's 21st-century storytelling model to the desperate race to build the first atomic bomb. Manhattan, whose first season closed with a flourish in October, conveys the patriotic urgency and almost Prisoner-like paranoia of the Manhattan Project, particularly the dysfunction plaguing the underdog implosion research group, led by a character portrayed by a riveting John Benjamin Hickey. By focusing on the unpredictable compromises and shortcuts great scientists flirted with, the show becomes a meditation on the elusiveness of integrity and a cautionary reminder that war is hell on the homefront, too.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Manhattan's Implosions".