Manhattan, Season 2, Episode 5, “The World of Tomorrow”
Written by Mark Lafferty
Directed by Daniel Stern
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on WGN
How do you solve a problem like Frank Winter? If you’re Colonel Darrow, you make him your secret insurance policy for a bomb program run by a mercurial genius and an inexperienced wunderkind. If you’re the writers of Manhattan, you let him slink back onto the Hill, neatly tie up some plot threads, and yank the whole story forward six months as happens in “The World of Tomorrow,” which serves as an unofficial midseason finale.
The episode, directed by Daniel Stern, begins right where “Overlord” ended—Frank telling Charlie that the Germans don’t have a bomb—and then jumps ahead to New Year’s Eve 1944, using newly spiffed up reporter Woodrow Lorentzen as a device to explain how they got there. Using interviews to move a plot forward is hardly new, but Stern keeps things moving nicely and the episode effectively ties a bow around the saga of Frank’s disappearance, managing to both reintegrate him into Los Alamos for the second half of the season and retain him as a subversive threat to the gadget.
While it appeared Frank and Charlie may be ready to work together at the end of last week’s episode, Charlie rejects Frank’s blockbuster intelligence and the two are immediately adversaries again. This leads to a desert scuffle later in the episode, during which each man gets in a satisfying punch before they’re pulled apart, but more to the point, it leads to Frank and Liza being stuck on the Hill again. Because Frank tried to warn Charlie, Colonel Darrow offers him one of two choices: Go back to prison or enlist.
So Frank reappears at Los Alamos as Private Winter, which puzzles everyone on the Hill, including Lorentzen, who pokes for answers while interviewing Frank and members of the implosion and gun groups for the “official project history” Darrow bought him off with. Through interview flashbacks viewers see Frank gamely digging ditches, pawing through equations with the girls in the computer pool and helping out Lazar (played by the wonderful Peter Stormare) with explosives. But, as Lorentzen digs deeper, he’s also shown helping Charlie out of a dispute with disgruntled landowners and, critically, sneaking a peek at the stalled math of the gun team. Lorentzen susses out that Darrow and Oppenheimer need Frank around to keep things on track. And keep things on track he does. All it takes is one breezy montage sequence for Frank and Helen (who, as a woman, never even warrants an interview with Lorentzen) to pore through the gun team’s calculations and resurrect “Thin Man,” now known as “Little Boy.”
Darrow may need Frank, but he needs a neutered version of Frank. One of the ways he attempts to weaken him is by separating him from Liza, forcing him into the barracks while she lives in military housing. Living with the troops puts Frank in contact with Dunlavey. In a few efficient scenes, the episode establishes a credible father/son bond between the two men. At first, Frank gruffly tells Dunlavey not to talk about Callie, but when they later share a smoke—and Dunlavey admires Frank’s old World War I lighter—it’s clear Frank likes the kid. TV viewers know that quickly formed friendships are bad news for a soldier in wartime, and, sure enough, Darrow ships Dunlavey off to Saipan to fight as punishment for Frank visiting Liza in clinic one night. Even though the outcome is telegraphed, when Frank receives a box from the Dunlavey family containing his old lighter, it’s a gut punch.
And there is other sad news in the episode. Abby was experiencing irregular bleeding during her pregnancy last week, and this week viewers learn she lost the baby sometime over the summer. Last season, Liza noticed that flowers were turning unusual colors on the grounds of the Hill, and now she’s apparently studying the pregnancies of women on the base. While Liza downplays Abby’s concerns that her miscarriage was anything but an act of God, it’s clear both women, who each know about the gadget, fear something unnatural may be happening at Los Alamos. So far, only Abby has suffered a miscarriage, but now that this plot line has been laid down, it’s unlikely to stay that way, potentially setting up some sort of investigative partnership between Abby and Liza.
“The World of Tomorrow” accomplishes a lot and cheats a bit in the process, but it clears the table for the last five episodes, and its final sequence—in which the residents of the Hill ring in 1945 as Lorentzen reads the opening of his book aloud—is undeniably powerful. “Here we find men whose achievements will be snatched for the glory of others, whose sacrifices will be forgotten as detritus,” he says. “The cleanest telling would draw one great man in whom we could find a teachable narrative, an exemplar of what—should we give it our all—we could become. But those stories are myths.”
- As the end of the war draws nearer, every country is trying to get a place at the table. This week England makes a play as Hogarth essentially offers up his daughter Lucy to Paul in exchange for gun group intelligence. The episode suggests that “Little Boy” is named after Henry, Paul and Lucy’s son.
- All the lies, sacrifices and separations have clearly taken a toll on the Winter marriage: Liza is openly flirting with old-flame Lorentzen when Frank comes to deliver the bad news about Dunlavey.
- That bug is still in the old Winter home, now occupied by the Isaacs.
- Callie’s last letter to Dunlavey told him about the wonders of Montreal’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police.