The Lazarus Project Review | TV show

App developer George (Paapa Essiedu) finds himself inexplicably reliving the last six months of his life – a situation further complicated when the mysterious Archie (Anjli Mohindra) shows up and recruits him into The Lazarus Project, a secret organization that uses time travel to prevent extinction-level threats.

Broadcast on: NOW / Sky Max

Watched episodes: 8 out of 8

With the current chaotic state of the world leaving many wondering where it all went wrong, it’s no surprise that recent time-sensitive offerings like Principle, Palm Springsand life after life captured the imagination of viewers. The idea of ​​going back in time is particularly tempting in times of crisis. But if you could really time travel, how much would it cost you? Would you be willing to pay it? What if you could, does that mean you should? These are the questions at the heart of The Lazarus Projectof Giri/Haji writer Joe Barton – a tense eight-part sci-fi thriller that’s as emotionally charged as it is fast-paced shenanigans and high-octane action.

We meet app developer George (Paapa Essiedu) on July 1, 2022, and watch as a six-month whirlwind – starred in almost At the top-esque opening montage – see him get a big business loan, marry his girlfriend Sarah (Charly Clive), and prepare for impending fatherhood. Background news and radio chatter about a potential new Mers pandemic, financial crises and nuclear tensions in Eastern Europe give the debates an underlying foreboding (strangely, Barton wrote this ago six), and things soon take a dark turn for George and his family as Sarah comes down with the virus.

But then George wakes up and it’s July 1, 2022 again, with the last six months of his life playing out in a sort of post-COVID groundhog day loop. Each reset only drives George’s loved ones further apart as his desperation to be believed increases. In his umpteenth loop, George is approached by the mysterious Archie (a posed Anjli Mohindra), who explains that she’s part of Project Lazarus, a secret organization of time travelers – think cool clinic of SpooksThe MI5 crew crossed paths with the sci-fi bent of the Torchwood team – which exploits a spatial singularity (“Unless you have a degree in quantum physics, don’t ask,” she jokes) to prevent extinction level threats.

So the problem here is that this singularity is less of a time machine and more of a video game checkpoint – travelers can only travel up to the most recent July 1st, with the save point advancing the one year humanity when every June 30 passes. It might seem like a bit of a headache, but it keeps the series’ multiple timelines tightly focused, and thanks to Barton’s largely jargon-free writing, consistently smooth editing, and generous deployment of timestamp, it never feels overwhelming: if anything, it helps keep the show’s character-driven storytelling front and center. A montage in the third episode poetically evokes the layered repercussions of each reset, masterfully recontextualizing entire character arcs as the more nightmarish potentialities of continuous time loops are explored.

Barton differentiates between personal happiness and the “greater good” as a societal scab.

With exhibit duly abandoned, George is invited to join Lazarus and help take down former Agent Rebrov (a typically captivating Tom Burke), whose nuclear designs belie a motivation for destruction grounded in deep trauma, sensitively unpacked by Barton during the series. Led by the brilliant, M-like Wes of Caroline Quentin, alongside Archie and Rudi Dharmalingam’s embittered reset vet, Shiv – a true star amidst an ensemble that includes Brian Gleeson and Vinette Robinson in fine form – George soon finds himself participating in high profile fights. Speed ​​car chases through exotic European locations, saving the world like a regular 007. It’s not hard to see why Essiedu was Danny Boyle’s choice for Bond based on his appearance here, the RSC alum displaying gravity as well as gritty charisma.

Eight globe-trotting, apocalypse-avoiding episodes would have been very satisfying, especially given Marco Kreuzpaintner’s kinetic direction and DP Teo Lopez’s cinematic camera work. But it’s Barton’s commitment to juggling international espionage with a cleverly written deep and poignant dive into the ramifications of resetting time, both on a personal and global scale, that makes it such a watch. captivating.

A tragedy early in the series transforms George from an ordinary hero into the subject of a compelling morality play, his allegiance to the Lazarus Project directly opposing his need to find a way to trigger a reset. It allows Barton to differentiate between personal happiness and the “greater good” as a societal scab, going beyond moral binarism to explore the messiness of human hearts and minds. If you can find a way to move past the anxiety-inducing parallels this show draws to the real world — and manage some admittedly twisted noodle-looping antics as the series progresses — then you’ll find a sci-fi offering. fiercely original that is well worth your time.

Affirming Joe Barton’s status as one of gaming’s finest screenwriters, The Lazarus Project is exactly the kind of head-spinning, heart-pounding television you’ll want to watch again and again.

Lance B. Holton