What is ostensibly Amazon's attempt at developing its own 'House of Cards' provides an intriguing backdrop with a promising but somewhat- shaky implementation. The show, based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, is one of five pilots that Amazon is promoting for a potential run at a full 2015 season. Right from the start, the show stays close to its source material in both plot and setting. While following the book certainly has its merits, the script so far lacks in its portrayal of the characters' psychological intricacies and in several cases comes across as heavy-handed. For example, in this episode we learn (and are reminded of) how evil the Nazis are through generic torture scenes and murder-- typical "bad guy" stuff. I don't recall the text depicting any accounts of Nazi violence to this extent, but rather their presence loomed on all characters due to the claustrophobic effects of their propaganda and fascist scheming. The acting was competent but the script felt oddly-paced, in particular it seemed that not much thought had been given to the character Joe Blake (he did not exist in the book) as he didn't really convey any emotional or logical motivation for wanting to become a political dissident besides hoping to "do the right thing". That being said, the characters Nobusuke Tagomi and Juliana Crain were especially brought to life in this adaptation. Based on the direction of the pilot, I fear that the show may attempt to play-up the "American resistance" theme which is irrelevant and antithetical to one of the major messages of the book. What was intended as a commentary on paranoid diplomacy in a totalitarian world could all too easily become a trite Star Wars- style action/adventure series. On the other hand, one cannot expect fully fleshed-out characters in the pilot episode so it will take some more time to fairly judge the writing quality. I am cautiously optimistic about this show's future-- for a pilot it certainly succeeded in establishing an alluring setting, and I was not surprised to learn that Ridley Scott was involved as the set- design and ambiance was superb. Overall, I am excited to see if this will manage to thrive alongside both the classic novel and other contemporary political-drama TV shows.
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