Saturday, June 08, 2024

The Lazarus Project, Season Two, on TNT

Sure, you could call George Addo a mass murderer, but seriously, it depends on the context. Granted, he shot a bunch of people and deliberately caused a nuclear war that exterminated all life on the planet, but he knew his boss at the Lazarus Project would turn back time to the nearest reset point to undo it all. Even though Addo admits to a few lapses in judgement, it is hard for his old colleagues to trust him again. Unfortunately, things will get so bad, they will need him anyway in season two of creator-writer Joe Barton’s The Lazarus Project, which premieres tomorrow on TNT.

The Lazarus agents are not time-travelers. They just consciously relive certain periods of time until they figure out how to save the world. Actual time-travel is something their boss Elisabeth “Wes” Wesley wanted to prevent. Unfortunately, the renegade Time-Break Initiative managed to build a working time machine, completing the work of Dr. Kitty Gray, who died in a mysterious laboratory fire back in the 2010s. They just didn’t quite get it right.

Consequently, they opened-up a black hole that is literally fraying the fabric of time. Unless they can fix the problem, the Lazarus Project will be stuck in a decaying time-loop, until time ends for good. Rather awkwardly, Addo must repeatedly face Shiv Reddy immediately after having shot him. He keeps saving his life, with the help of his EMT neighbor, whom Addo must then kill over and over again.

Obviously, Addo cannot blame Reddy for being annoyed with him. What hurts is getting dumped by his wife (or girlfriend, depending on the reset) Sarah dumping him, after he literally blew-up the world to save her. To explain himself, Addo gives her the time-reset-awareness drug, but that rather leaves her feelings towards him even more confused. Regardless, they need to find someone who understands time-travel, but someone is killing all of Dr. Gray’s old colleagues.

Lazarus Project is the best-written new science fiction currently releasing new episodes, but hardly anyone in the U.S. seems to be talking about it. In the first season, Barton regularly used the resets to completely upend the narrative. For season two, he ups the ante with legit time-travel, but the frequent time resets still apply. It almost gets farcical as future characters keep re-encountering their past selves, or vice versa, but the [barely] controlled chaos is a blast. Frankly, every darned thing Barton keeps springing on viewers is exactly the stuff sf fans love, so why is there so little buzz for the series?

Paapa Essiedu is just as good playing Addo in season two as he was in the first season, or maybe even better. It is hard to think of a series protagonist who messes so badly and so often, yet we still root for him. He also faces a really dark, existential challenge this time around. Similarly, Rudi Dharmalingam is the heart and soul of season two, getting shot in the chest at the start of most episodes and getting steadily crankier as each reset plays out.

Frustratingly, Anjili Mohindra gets less screen-time to kick butt as Archie, but Brian Gleeson reappears in an intriguing new context as her future late lover, Ross. Sam Troughton and Colin Sampson are standout additions to season two, playing Gray’s (sometimes) surviving colleague, Dr. Sampson, and Robin Lerner, the driven director of Time-Break Initiative, who has some shocking connections to other characters.

The final revelation plays more like half-baked
Twilight Zone twist, but getting there is a ton of mind-bending fun. Barton and company figured out how to combine the time-travel and time-loop genres, like The Terminator mixed with Groundhog Day.

Lazarus Project
maintains an unusually high ratio of revelations per minute of screen time and the themes composed by Ben Lukas Boysen & Paul Emmerich remain some of the most distinctive television scoring of the 2020’s. Don’t waste your time with another disappointing Star Wars series. Dig into the wildest time-ride on TV, when The Lazarus Project returns for its second (and final, barring an unexpected Netflix miracle) season, tomorrow night (6/9) on TNT.