Catch-22 premieres May 17 on Hulu.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Chris Flanagan
Catch-22 is an almost perfect reminder of one of the hardest realizations about war – not everyone that was involved was a hero. Many were forced unwillingly to participate and blindly follow the orders of those far removed from any actual engagements and amongst those were some that rightfully questioned the notion of loyalty for loyalty’s sake. The Hulu miniseries that was adapted from the popular Joseph Heller novel tackles these issues and more as it focuses on an outfit of bomber pilots stationed in Italy near the end of WWII.
The main protagonist is Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), or better known as “YoYo”, who chose the path of a bombardier because it required the longest training and secretly hoped that by the end of it the war would already be over. To his dismay, it wasn’t. YoYo is surrounded by the stereotypical myriad of war-time players that each have a role to play in his life as they all come to terms with their dire situation in their own way – at some point, their number will be punched and it is up to them to enjoy the time they have up until then. More importantly is the outfit’s commanding officers, who are a rotating door of buffoonery and nativism that translate into blindly leading men into war for the sake of bettering their career. This is perfectly encapsulated with the character of Colonel Cathcart played by Kyle Chandler who never once attempts to compromise his position in the war instead choosing to push his men further into conflict with the knowledge that once this fight is complete there are other theaters of war to join.
Where Catch-22’s premise fully takes hold lies with YoYo’s realization that his situation within the war is exactly that of the title – he’s unable to remove himself from war because it proves that by attempting to do so he is proving his capability of possessing a sound mind and therefore cannot be crazy and so he is forced to fight. The show manages to carefully balance a strong sense of dark and twisted humor that allows you to laugh aloud in the midst of truly bleak situations to the extent where you feel slightly guilty for doing so but cannot stop yourself. Without going into too many details, one of these moments came by way of George Clooney’s General Scheisskopf, a pen, and some testicles.
Even in the face of its serious and all-too-familiar subject material, Catch-22 manages to show the war from a very real and understandable perspective of someone who was forced into a war he didn’t ask for and is doing everything in his power to find a way out before needlessly dying simply in order to reinforce America’s strength to other foreign countries. Its characters appear somewhat simple on their surfaces but as the miniseries is able to explore their motives and coping mechanisms for their roles within the war we are able to see that these people are flawed, real and yes, brave. Catch-22 is a refreshing take on a saturated WWII entertainment market whose dark humor is often its saving grace throughout the story.
I give Catch-22 an A.