The Lazarus Project (review)
This post includes major spoilers for the first season of the 2022 TV series The Lazarus Project. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it and then come back.
First, it’s important to note that this is not the same as the 2008 movie The Lazarus Project starring Paul Walker and has nothing to do with it, despite sharing the name. It has also nothing to do with the 2008 novel The Lazarus Project, despite sharing the name. Apparently, it’s just a really popular name.
== Spoilers start here ==
The main setting in The Lazarus Project is that each July 1st, the universe is “backed up” in a checkpoint and this group of people who run the namesake organization have a way to reset the universe to that checkpoint. They do it to recover from world-ending catastrophes like nuclear wars.
The main character, George gains the ability to remember these resets and through that, gets a job at the project.
The first season is an 8-episode mini series and that was just the right amount to binge watch in a single day.
First of all, I was really intrigued by the time travel mechanic and the setting of the series. There’s been a few other “main character can see what’s gonna happen so they can save the day” series that I’ve enjoyed, like Early Edition and Tru Calling. And then there’s the “figure out what you need to change to escape the loop” movies like Groundhog Day, the brilliant The Map of Tiny Perfect Things which is my favorite of the genre, and ARQ.
I was expecting an epic adventure and to be honest, was a bit negatively surprised by how the main motif turned out to be relationship drama. Normally, I’d argue that love is a great motive for the characters to ponder how far they are ready to go. But maybe it was my mistaken expectations that led it to being a bit underwhelming.
The loop was bit underused in my opinion. There was a lot of flashbacks to erased iterations of the loop which showcased how the main character ended up together with his girlfriend in the current, saved timeline but not in the others. Idea good, execution was bit confusing. Those same flashbacks also seemed to hash out a relationship between Archie and Dennis but those didn’t seem to lead anywhere either.
I also really wanted to see this secret organization taking more advantage of the loop. Now it felt that other than a few small occasions, there wasn’t a sense of how every iteration, the knowledge gained earlier would help these people become better at what they do and more powerful. For me, that’s the inevitable part of this kind of time loop - like we see in the pioneer of the genre at Groundhog Day. While there the main character might not become a better person, he’s picking up more and more skills which was something that was either missing here or was heavily implied.
In one way, I liked that the show had 8 episodes and was well-contained and easy to binge. But I felt it tried to do too much during those 8 episodes. It teased with some world-building but I’m not convinced they will lead to anything meaningful with the second season.
The cliffhanger in the end to set up the second season left me feeling “we’re making a second season and it will be something different”. I haven’t seen the second season yet so I hope I’ll be positively surprised.
Despite a bit of negative undertone of this review, I did really enjoy The Lazarus Project’s first season and am looking forward to watching the second season. I just wish there was either a bit more time to develop the amount of stuff they put into the show or alternatively, a bit less stuff to focus on with the limited runtime.
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