The Lazarus Project Review | tv shows

App developer George (Paapa Essiedu) finds himself inexplicably reliving the last six months of his life – a situation complicated further 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.

Streaming on: NOW / SkyMax

Episodes viewed: 8 of 8

With the world’s current chaotic state leaving many wondering where it all went wrong, it’s unsurprising that recent temporarily-tricksy offerings like Tenet, Palm Springsand Life After Life have captured viewers’ imaginations. The idea of ​​turning back the clocks is especially tantalizing in times of crisis. But if you really could travel back in time, what would it cost you? Would you be willing to pay it? And if you could, does that mean you should? These are the questions at the heart of The Lazarus Projectdesde Giri/Haji writer Joe Barton – a taut eight-part sci-fi thriller that’s as big on emotion as it is on timey-wimey shenanigans and high octane action.

We meet app dev George (Paapa Essiedu) on 1 July 2022, and watch as a whirlwind six months – played out in an almost Up-esque opening montage – see him secure a big business loan, get hitched to girlfriend Sarah (Charly Clive), and prepare for imminent fatherhood. Background news and radio chatter about a potential new Mers pandemic, financial crises, and Eastern European nuclear tensions lend proceedings an underlying foreboding (eerily, Barton wrote this six years ago), and things soon take a grim turn for George and his family as Sarah come down with the virus.

But then George wakes up and it’s 1 July 2022 again, the last six months of his life playing out in a kind of post-COVID groundhog day loop. Each reset only drives George’s loved ones further away as his desperation from him to be believed increases. On his umpteenth loop, George is approached by the mysterious Archie (a poised Anjli Mohindra), who explains that she’s part of The Lazarus Project, a secret organization of time travelers – think the clinical cool of Spooks‘MI5 crew crossed with the sci-fi bent of the Torchwood team – who exploit a space singularity (“Unless you have a degree in quantum physics, don’t ask,” she quips) to prevent extinction-level threats.

The wrinkle here then is that this singularity is less a time machine, more a video game checkpoint – travelers can only travel back to the most recent 1 July, with the save-point pushing humanity forwards a year when each 30 June passes. It may sound a bit headachey, but it keeps the series’ multiple timelines tightly focused, and thanks to Barton’s largely jargon-free writing, consistently slick editing work, and some generous timestamp deployment, 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 picks at the difference between personal happiness and the “greater good” like a societal scab.

With exposition duly dumped, George is invited to join Lazarus and help take down former agent Rebrov (a characteristically captivating Tom Burke), whose nuclear designs bely a motivation for destruction that’s grounded in profound trauma, sensitively unpacked by Barton over the series’ course. Led by Caroline Quentin’s brilliant, M-like Wes, alongside Archie and Rudi Dharmalingam’s embittered reset vet Shiv – a real standout amidst an ensemble that includes Brian Gleeson and Vinette Robinson on top form – George soon finds himself taking part in slickly-handled high- speed cars chases through exotic European locales, saving the world like a regular 007. It’s not hard to see why Essiedu was Danny Boyle’s pick for Bond based on his showing here, the RSC alum displaying gravitas as well as a rough-edged charisma.

Eight episodes of globe-trotting, apocalypse-averting antics would’ve been plenty satisfying, especially given Marco Kreuzpaintner’s kinetic direction and DP Teo Lopez’s cinematic camerawork. But it’s Barton’s commitment to juggling international espionage with an intelligently written, poignant deep-dive into the ramifications of resetting time, both on a personal and global scale, that makes this such a gripping watch.

A tragedy early in the series turns George from an everyman hero into the subject of a fascinating morality play, his allegiance to The Lazarus Project pitted directly against his need to find a way to trigger a reset. This enables Barton to pick at the difference between personal happiness and the “greater good” like a societal scab, moving beyond moral binarism to explore the messiness of human hearts and minds. If you can find a way past the anxiety-inducing parallels this show draws with the real world – and handle some admittedly noodle-twisting looping antics as the series progresses – then you’ll find a fiercely original sci-fi offering that’s well worth your time.

Affirming Joe Barton’s status as one of the best screenwriters in the game, The Lazarus Project is exactly the kind of head-spinning, heart-pounding TV that you’ll be left wanting to revisit time and again.

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