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Manhattan season premiere 2 recap: Damnatio Memoriae

Death in the shadow of the bomb as season 2 begins.

Posted on

Greg Peters/WGN America


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Chernus, Christopher Denham

July 16, 1945

21 Days Till Hiroshima

We’re leaping forward in time from where season 1 of creator Sam Shaw’s atomic bomb drama left off to a rainy night in the desert where The Gadget is apparently fully formed and ready to test.

This would be Trinity, the real-life site of the first man-made atomic blast. But things aren’t going well. The storm means fallout could spread, a reporter (played by Griffin Dunne) is torturing him for metaphors about Promethean fire, and they’re not even sure what will happen when the trigger is pulled — or if what happens will stop.

Charlie Isaacs (played by Ashley Zukerman) is forging ahead as leader of the projects, obstacles be damned, and stands in the rain watching the ultimate weapon being hoisted aloft like Frankenstein’s monster, about to be brought to life.

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Cut to 15 months earlier: Charlie is reading Mein Kampf, probably for inspiration in finishing this weapon rather than for pleasure. Pleasure is waiting just to his right, as his fellow scientist Helen (Katja Herbers) reaches out to stroke his shoulder, her body wrapped only in a sheet.

Then we see his wife, Abby (Rachel Brosnahan), in a medical office, her feet in stirrups (being examined by a doctor with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.) Then the montage ends with Liza Winter (Olivia Williams) looking through notes left by her husband Frank (John Benjamin Hickey), who was last seen with a canvas bag over his head being driven away by security.

If you remember from last season, Frank was manipulating resources with Charlie to support the bomb project that will actually work. But what he’s been arrested for is deliberately revealing the nature of the project to his wife, taking the fall for the scheme so Charlie doesn’t have to.

On the soundtrack: Frank Sinatra crooning “This Is the Beginning of the End” with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Wonder why they chose that.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (Daniel London) reveals that the government is auditing the project. The United States has spent millions of dollars and now wants results. Charlie is in charge of the new implosion initiative but isn’t sure he’s up for the job.

He confesses to Oppenheimer that he thinks he’s unqualified. “Where is Frank Winter?” he asks. “Implosion is Frank’s baby.”

“You’re going to have to deliver it,” Oppenheimer says.

NEXT PAGE: “Get down on your knees.”