Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pilot Review: Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber (Discovery)
Premiered August 1 at 9pm

History is a frequent source of inspiration for film and television, and for good reason: it’s often extremely interesting. As someone who wasn’t even alive for most of the Unabomber’s crimes, I feel like I know very little. As a result, I find this show fascinating, since I want to watch and see how it all turns out. Now, what makes it especially intriguing is that it’s framed in a way that tells you how it’s going to end, that is, who the Unabomber is and that he eventually gets caught. The meat of it, and the hook of this show, is just how it was that FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald, better known as Fitz, figured out who the Unabomber really was and tracked him down. There are parts of it that are clunky, namely the insistence of everyone except for Fitz on the Unabomber is an uneducated airline mechanic whose manifesto wasn’t even worth reading. I always think it’s funny when foreign actors play notable American figures, and the casting of two Brits, Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany, felt odd to me at first. Yet Worthington, who has taken the lead in the likes of “Avatar,” is a good fit for the focused, somewhat antisocial Fitz, who at one point seemed to suggest that the Unabomber’s manifesto made some sense to him, and Bettany, who I remember best from “A Beautiful Mind” and saw recently in a new kind of role in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is truly terrific as the very unnerving Ted Kaczynski, and I look forward to seeing more of him. I didn’t expect to get into this show, but I’m eagerly anticipating episode three now.

How will it work as a series? The framing of this show is clever and involving, letting the Unabomber speak about how he sees the world as Fitz puts the pieces together to figure out his origins and everything that makes him who he is. Eight episodes seems like a good amount of time for this all to play out.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be pretty good, and the ratings on Discovery are decent too. I think this is meant to be a miniseries, as so many multiseason shows begin these days, and I think that if it were to continue, season two would have to tackle another anthology focus.

Pilot grade: B+