Synopsis: The setting for this new adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is New London. Monogamy, privacy, money, family and even having a history are not allowed. There, Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) slowly begins to see that the world around him cannot make him feel happy, that everything is a façade. He is charged with keeping the order of society, and chastises Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay), who is engaging in an exclusive sexual relationship with someone. Meanwhile in The Savage Lands, an area who still live by old ways, John (Alden Ehrenreich) scratches out a living, with his alcoholic mother, Linda (Demi Moore). John is approached by a group who want to take down the established order in New London . . .
Things haven’t strayed from the book yet, really. Not in terms of what’s the new norms in this society, anyway. The episode did a good job setting the scene and inviting audiences into the world of the show. What worked well was the comfortable and familiar settings. It mostly looked like an affluent and even at times joy-filled environment. This helped to create a sense of the sinister. Beneath this veil lies a society where free thought has all but been eradicated. That came through immediately and this helped to set the themes of the show, straight from the off.
Using the trope of mystery, in the death being investigated was a clever move. It’s obvious that the guy who was seen with this head split open didn’t fall. What we don’t know is if he jumped or if he was pushed. This suggestion is plenty enough to maintain interest, and and important part of the episode. It manages to capture that same mood as Lenina’s (and later Bernard’s) behavior does. These are strong hints, examples, of things beginning to come undone. This is a thread that the show will pull on and use to unravel the story. Good writing uses tried and tested tropes, to powerful effects. Violent death and sex. These are shown in a different setting than they are usually seen, and the new context of Dystopia hiding in plain sight as Utopia comes through really well.
The challenge for this group of actors is to try and establish a sense of the individual, so crucial for shows (and stories generally) to work, in a story-world where there is very little of that. Such subtlety isn’t easy to portray. First to appear is Jessica Brown Findlay’s Lenina Crowne. The actress hasn’t a great deal to do in the episode, but she does exactly that well. Overegging the pudding here would really spoil things. There’s a quietness calmness and a tacit knowledge in the collusion coming through, in the performance. Well observed and pulled off. The same is true for Bernard Marx. Harry Lloyd skillfully navigates a role requiring a character depiction of someone who is aware of the truth and has been for some time. Lloyd pulls off the “keeping up appearances” aspect with aplomb; that is, until he can’t . . . Again, the ability to wield silence as a menacing, looming threat is used. Not easy to achieve. Some fine character portrayal here.
Once the action switches to The Savage Lands, a real contrast to what we’ve seen comes via Alden Ehrenreich’s John. Ehrenreich carries off the performance with enough screen presence to be a potential leading protagonist, and enough discipline to catch the raw inexperience of the character of John, in his own story world. He sets out the stall, but doesn’t add the goods yet. His interactions with his mother were sensitive enough to make the character likeable enough, without being weak. His mother, Linda, is played by Demi Moore, who brings a wealth of experience to the show, and a “big name” weightiness too. That never does any harm, though her role is all but a cameo, really. Credit where it’s due, Moore is reserved enough to let Ehrenreich’s John take centre stage.
CGI & Action
Things had a very clean look, in the world of New London. The lighting was used well to show a sense of sameness, and the choreography of the sex scenes were smart. They really made sure emotions were shown, in the simulation shown, that is Lenina’s recent history. This sort of surveillance has been used in many movies and shows, most recently DEVS. It always looks cool if it’s done well, and with virtual reality becoming more and more of a reality outside of the show, inn the real world, it has to look even more “futuristic”. It does, and feels authentic, too.
With no huge set pieces in this episode it’s easy to look at things and think that not a lot went on. That’s not a fair appraisal. The instant computerised costume changes and the virtual reality emojis bouncing through the air were well planned and executed. Pretty much the same for the overall feel of the world, which is so vital to get right in this story. Everything looks like it’s been in place and has been for some time, too. That works and helps to easily invite belief to suspended.
Whilst there wasn’t much in the way of action, the sense of foreboding was there. Again, the “beneath the surface” aspect is what Huxley’s book is all about, thematically. The pacing of things worked well and there was a good balance of time spent between the two settings of the story. The way of connecting one to the other was cool, too. The rockets felt not impossible at all, in the future this, and the way they were presented as 3D digital animations was effective.
Overall & Music
A promising start to things, with a good mix of slowly building tension, characters being pulled into the same narrative, and character development. There will be a massive expectation for this show, and it’s understandable why that is. This adaptation is instead of a big screen version. Hugely successful books always get new adaptations, eventually. This one looks like it could really be good. The music fits the mood, too and also promises to be a big part of things. An atmosphere is best built by well selected music, and this show nailed that. It wouldn’t be at all surprising of future moments of high drama were accompanied by timely pieces of music, to really drive home the emotional impact. That’s the suggestion, anyway. By the looks of it we’re in for some proper Science Fiction, here. An exploration of the human condition via good characters, played by a fine cast. A strong start and solid basis to build on.
- Overall and Incidental Music9.2