Credit – WGN America

From Maureen Ryan, Variety – TV Review: ‘Manhattan’ Season 2

Early in the second season of “Manhattan,” William Petersen strides into the isolated New Mexico encampment housing the scientists at work on the first nuclear bomb. Petersen’s fantastic performance as the base’s new Army commander, Col. Emmett Darrow, instantly gives the show an injection of charisma, and it’s one of several elements that upgrades the sophomore season of the WGN America period drama.

Last year, “Manhattan” was generally pretty good or at least above average, but it took a while to establish consistent dramatic momentum, and it often felt overpopulated with underdeveloped characters. The bigger problem is that when viewers have hundreds of options in the scripted-drama realm, reasonable competence isn’t enough to ensure loyalty.

However, in the first four episodes of “Manhattan’s” second season, the atomic-age drama contains quite a bit of fruitful conflict and meaty character development, all of which amp up the show’s energy level and move it into much more compelling territory. Perhaps the best news about the second season is that it will consist of 10 episodes, down from 13 in Season 1. The meandering that cropped up in the first half of the first season is mostly gone, and the resulting tautness vibrates through the new season, as is only appropriate for a story that hinges on explosiveness. The sensitive direction of executive producer Thomas Schlamme, who bathes the New Mexico desert in a golden, bittersweet aura, also gives “Manhattan” consistent doses of both ambiguity and urgency.

Petersen isn’t the only new addition to the cast: One can only hope Neve Campbell, who makes very effective use of her limited screen time in early episodes, gets even more to do as the whipsmart, elegant wife of J. Robert Oppenheimer (who’s played with cool, haunted elusiveness by Daniel London). Mamie Gummer is typically engaging as a new member of the Women’s Army Corps, and Griffin Dunne has fun with his role as a booze-soaked reporter intrigued by the base’s many secrets.

Read the full article at Variety on the link above.