By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor
This episode of MANHATTAN finds the camp in complete disarray following the death of Sid Liao. The Army has put forth a measure of compartmentalization to divide and keep the different aspects and groups in the base from fraternizing and/or compromising each other. The actions taken by the General are counter to both the idea of the camp, and the title of this episode: The Hive.
The camp as hive has many aspects. They are isolated in the middle of nowhere and are all interdependent on one another. Just like a hive of bees. The hive mind is what is supposed to help them solve the problem of nuclear energy, or the bomb, before the Germans and Soviets do. Also, everything is supposed to be done for the greater good of the hive, which explains why Frank has sold out Sid to save his group, but then struggled to make it right. Sadly, to no avail. No one but Frank and the General know this though.
The Army has now added extra layers of security and bureaucracy, making it impossible for Frank’s group to even get in to see Akley or access their area. All of the files and experiments that Sid had any hand in, have all gone missing. With the files gone, any chance Frank’s group had of solving the implosion problem is gone as well. Not being able to use them assures the group stays out of the loop and is relegated to the sidelines.
This episode finds Abby Isaacs’ life changing as well. She’s been offered a job on the base, but to be cleared for it, she has to take a lie detector test and answer a lot of really bizarre and intrusive questions. She passes, and in the Kafkaesque world they all now live in, her new job requires her to listen in on phone conversations on the base. She’s in the switchboard room. If something is out of the ordinary, she hits a button and security jumps on the line.
Charles Isaacs is still sticking out like a sore thumb within Akley’s group. He hasn’t really made friends with the other scientists, nor have they let him forget that Winter’s group duped him. He also gets shit for not joining them for lunch. He’s told he should go join Frank Winters group if he is too good for everyone. This sets him off, and he decimates the group with his genius, and finishing and correcting all of the equations the rest of them have been working on for the last three months.
The most interesting part of the episode for me, was the focus on PFC Dunleavy, the soldier who shot and killed Sid. He struggles in the aftermath with what he’s done, and finds himself in a moral quandary. The General promotes him and gives him a job in his office. He’s also explicitly told to lie and tell everyone he found confidential documents in Sid’s car. To the other soldiers on the base, he is a hero. To the scientists, he is an asshole. His struggles find him turning to Frank and his wife to offer condolences, to find a sort of forgiveness, and to be able to forgive himself. He gets the cold shoulder from Frank.
Later in the episode, Dunleavy is in the camp bar playing pool. So are the scientists. He is uncomfortable with the attention he receives from other soldiers. There is praise from the men, and flirtation from the women. One of the scientists from Frank’s group has had enough. He punches Dunleavy in the face. Instead of fighting back when he has the upper hand, Dunleavy lets the scientist beat the crap out of him. He wants to be punished for what he did, and this is the way he receives it. He is purified by pain.
The General doesn’t understand how the hive and the hive mentality are going to help them win the war. His compartmentalization goes against everything that makes winning the war possible. It was the hive mentality of America and its huge industrial output that made winning the war possible. When everyone pitches in, great things can happen. Charles even says it himself, “Science depends on the free exchange of ideas.” With compartmentalization, that doesn’t happen. So Frank has to steal the information he needs to finish the implosion theory. He does things his way, and in the end, he’s able to make implosion work.
More thoughts on Manhattan:
– Akley points out to Charles that he is the second smartest person he’s ever met in his life. The smartest was Heisenberg, who’s working for Germany developing the same technology they are. He reminds him that it is Heisenberg that is his actual rival. Not any one else in the group.
– The amount of racism towards Asians is rife within the community. In his death, and the lies put out to explain it, Sid is referred to as a bad Japple, and the reason why God invented internment camps. Pretty harsh stuff.
– When Frank steals the files he needs to finish the implosion theory, he finds Charles asleep on his desk. There’s an equation on a black board in front of him that Charles has been working on. Frank erases and solves it for Charles.
– The new credit sequence is awesome!
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.