Matt Smith reviews the third episode of Catch-22…
The war is growing more intense and Catch-22 shows this in a variety of ways. The episode starts with, and continues to show, Yossarian, exposed, in his underwear as he is reduced to extreme measures and emotional frailty. His plans to keep himself safe and on the ground continue, growing more extreme as they go.
One of the main themes of both the book and the series shines bright in this episode as Yossarian is shown to be thinking in cold, straight talking logical terms. He makes perfect sense. And it’s this reason that he is doomed to fail. Episode 3 makes great use of the comically over-the-top ineptitude of nearly all the characters that find themselves in a position of power. Hugh Laurie, in an as yet criminally underwritten part, has a particularly tense sequence featuring misinformation, bad Italian and Nazis. Yossarian’s plans to stay on the ground also give the proceedings a little bit of fun in an otherwise downbeat episode.
The balance of comedy and tragedy this week leans more towards the latter as intense scenes featuring Colonel Cathcart attempting to find the person who moved his bomb line and Yossarian’s desperation truly coming to the fore play out. The emotion therein is palpable and Yo-Yo seems destined to break any day now.
The ending of the episode, in the same way that the events play out in the book, is emotionally deadening. What is the lesson behind the ending? Maybe that’s the point. No lesson. Just senseless loss of life. That death can come at any time and is usually harsh, sudden and leaves anyone around them in silent shock.
The peer pressure Yossarian feels as he creates problems and starts facing real adversity from those around him is almost tangible. Yossarian has explained his view that anyone who tries to kill him, even his own commanding officers, is the enemy and now he has to deal with the consequences of both his actions and his beliefs. While it is still a little unbalanced when it comes to moments of laughter and melancholy, Catch-22 is making the case for a poignant, admirable way of storytelling, taking risks that may have turned people away but instead taking proposed weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
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