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Recommended: DMZ on HBO Max

Rosario Dawson's career-best performance vivifies this dystopian drama
  • Rosario Dawson in DMZ (Photo: HBO MAX)
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    DMZ | HBO Max
    Four-Episode Limited Series (Dystopian Drama) | TV-MA

    What's DMZ About?

    After America's second civil war, a medic named Alma sneaks into Manhattan — which is now a demilitarized zone — to look for the son she lost almost 10 years earlier.

    Who's Involved?

    • Rosario Dawson stars as Alma, continuing her reign as our current limited series queen.
    • Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) plays Parco, the violent, charismatic leader of a Spanish Harlem crew.
    • Hoon Lee (Banshee) is Wilson, the savvy leader of post-war Chinatown who is running against Parco to become mayor of the DMZ
    • Freddy Miyares (The L Word: Generation Q) smolders as Skel, a vicious member of Parco's crew who publicly announces the people he plans to kill.
    • Nora Dunn (SNL) makes a memorable turn as Oona, founder of a walled-off, women-only paradise at the top of the city.
    • Superstar producer Ava DuVernay (When They See Us, Queen Sugar) directs the pilot and co-executive produces.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    First and foremost, DMZ features the best performance of Rosario Dawson's long career. In the show's four episodes, she gets one showcase scene after another, whether she's using her wiles to manipulate the DMZ's political system, unleashing holy fury on the people connected to her son's disappearance, or having vunlerable conversations with people from her past who unexpectedly reappear. Dawson makes every emotion register on a human scale, but there's an "unreal" tinge to her precise diction, warrior's posture, and willingness to stay absolutely still during monologues. This gives Alma a mythic quality, like she's a hero in an epic poem as much as a mother on a mission.

    That makes sense, since the show is adaptated from a popular DC comic book series. And it's not just Dawson: everything has that operatic spirit. Characters never feel a little angry or fall halfway in love; they experience fury and devotion on a grand scale. Similarly, we never even learn how the second civil war happened, because that's not as important as the seething energy of the hellscape Manhattan has become.

    For some, this intensity might be exhausting, even at a relatively brief four hours. Others may be frustrated that just a few short days after she arrives in the DMZ, Alma becomes a political and moral leader for the entire city. But that's how myths and operas work: Big things happen fast, and big consequences follow. On those terms, this show delivers.

    Pairs well with

    • The Man in the High Castle (Prime Video), another alternative history with massive stakes.
    • Altered Carbon (Netflix), which is also about a dystopian future.
    • Dopesick (Hulu), since Dawson is almost as great in that medical docudrama as she is here.

    Worth Noting

    In what may be a casting landmark for the sci-fi/fantasy genre, DMZ doesn't feature a single significant character played by a white man.

  • DMZ
    All four episodes premiere on HBO Max March 17, 2022.
    Created by: Ava DuVernay, Roberto Patino, and Ernest Dickerson. Based on the DC Comics series.
    Starring: Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt, Freddy Miyares, Hoon Lee, Jordan Preston Carter, Jade Wu, and Nora Dunn.
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    TOPICS: DMZ, HBO Max, Ava DuVernay, Benjamin Bratt, Ernest Dickerson, Freddy Miyares, Hoon Lee, Jade Wu, Jordan Preston Carter, Nora Dunn, Roberto Patino, Rosario Dawson