CBS All Access
Season 1 Episode 5
Fear and Loathing in New Vegas
The new episode of the miniseries brings the viewer to Randall Flagg’s base of operations in Las Vegas. Dayna Jurgens is entrenched in the city and her asking questions gets the attention of Lloyd Henried and Julie Lawry who decide to give her the lay of the land. At the same time, Tom Cullen finds himself at the bottom end of the town’s hierarchy. Both scenes are interesting and have a sense of tension that the series has lacked so far because of the fear of what these characters are about to experience.
The Boulder survivors have their own issues when a mysterious death has all the hallmarks of a suicide, but Larry has questions. Questions that will make things difficult for Harold and Nadine as they work on their plans for the committee. At the same time, Mother Abigail lays into Nick for the committee’s act of sending spies out. A scene that feels out of place and tacked on to give Abigail a sense of purpose outside of being the figure head. The problem with it is that her role is supposed to be above all the concerns of the Earth. Her job is to prepare them to stand and this scene feels unnecessary.
The writers seem to be having fun with the direction in this episode. The focus on the debauchery in the city is highly visual, but it also shines a harsh light on the episode’s inability to establish actual drama or tension past the opening. Harold and Nadine’s dynamic strains every aspect of possibility. The power dynamics are almost non-existent and all of their interactions are awkward. I can’t see why these two would be together at all, let alone how their clumsy interactions could produce anything of value.
There is a scene where Fran goes to Larry to enlist him to break into Harold’s house. While the audience has some idea why that would make sense, there is nothing in this series that establishes why the characters, especially Fran, would think breaking into his house would produce anything of substance.
The episode has the same problems that have been plaguing this miniseries since its start. There seems to be a consistent effort to tell the story as if the audience knows it already so character motivations and events are filled with holes that the writers and directors assume the audience can fill. Viewers who don’t know the material will be confused by the pacing, motivations and sequences throughout and those who know the story will be frustrated that moments that establish, evolve and motivate characters and their actions are glossed over and discarded.