Matt Smith reviews the second episode of Catch-22…
After last week’s tone setting but emotionally bereft first episode, Catch-22 felt like it needed to hit the ground running if it wanted to maintain an audience. There is so much on television and on streaming sites that something that is slow off the mark these days is, unfortunately, more likely to fall than if this were a few decades ago.
This second episode does bring a few extra laughs than before as well as more emotional connections as the characters reveal more about themselves. This series will find a home with viewers who have a liking for low-key humour, such as the mind-twisting explanation of both the series title and the quandary many of the characters find themselves in (‘That’s some catch, that Catch-22’).
The one simultaneously well-publicised and eye-catching piece of casting, George Clooney as Lieutenant Scheisskopf, was a cartoon character of a performance. Not that that was necessarily a negative, but the second episode makes way for Kyle Chandler as Colonel Cathcart. While Scheisskopf was perhaps wily and determined, if a bit highly strung, Cathcart is idiocy and madness personified. He’s more roadblock than fully rounded character thus far. However, asking a TV-version of Catch-22 to match the complexity of the source material in just an hour and a half might be asking too much.
The emotion that was sorely missed from the first episode is present here. Christopher Abbott’s performance as Yossarian is restrained and constricted to a tee, with inner turmoil barely being held in and etched across his face at nearly every turn. He’s like Billy Crystal as written by Dostoevsky.
There is a bit more to like in this second episode. As said, there is more humour to be found here, whether it’s the shameless Milo finding any way to make a bit of cash for himself by confounding the hapless Colonel Cathcart. Or the character Major Major (whose first, middle and last name are all Major) showing a new way of getting ahead because of your name. And while there will always be the balancing act of getting the tone of an adaptation close enough to the original writing while also creating something new, there is a pleasingly cynical piece of dialogue towards the end that promises more biting wit to come.
‘War isn’t about money!’
‘You’re right sir, it isn’t just about that.’
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