“I’ll die if you leave.”
So says Jean Tatlock (Fiona Dourif), mistress and muse of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is busy planning his return to Los Alamos as the Allied invasion of Europe is in the final stages.
It’s early June, and this episode of Manhattan, titled “Overlord,” deals with one of the true-life scandals surrounding the development of the atomic bomb, although it compresses its dates a little.
Tatlock was a communist involved in a romantic relationship with the scientific head of the Los Alamos project, and there’s foreshadowing in that line of hers. He’s preoccupied, spending time with her in San Francisco rather than at the research center in New Mexico, where his wife Kitty (Neve Campbell) is about to give birth to his child.
She tells him her psychiatrist believes the two of them have led many past lives together, including as father and daughter, brothers, mother and child. “You murdered me dozens of times. You enjoyed it.”
Her appeal is more than physical. She intrigues his imagination with this Freudian gobbledygook and indulges his intellectual side with poetry. She’s reading a collection by John Donne, who inspired Oppenheimer (played by Daniel London) to name the first test site Trinity.
She tells Oppenheimer to hold her down under the water.
More foreshadowing, people.
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Back in Los Alamos, Charlie Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman) is overwhelmed by the politics and bureaucracy that Oppenheimer usually handles. Fritz (Michael Chernus) informs him that there’s a complication about the test-site property. “We need to buy this lady’s farm so we can blow it up.”
A judge has her support and won’t sign off on the eminent domain takeover. Isaacs tells Fritz to tell the judge “to wipe his ass” with the declaration of ownership. Fritz apparently takes this order literally, and then so does the judge — sending a feces-stained document to the hill.
Col. Darrow tells Isaacs he needs to get better at handling these matters and should start filling the role of politician and peacemaker to help get this project the resources it needs. But all Charlie wants to do is focus on the science.
By phone, Oppenheimer tells him: “If it helps to pretend you’re me, pretend. It’s what I do.
NEXT: Frank walks free