‘DMZ’ Miniseries Review: Vision of Hope

DMZ Review

Spoilers Below

DMZ, created by Robert Patino, is a compelling DC comics dystopian miniseries centered around NYC Medic Alma “Zee” Ortega (Rosario Dawson) searching the demilitarized zone for her missing son Christian “Skel” Ortega (Freddy Miyares). The miniseries is based on a comic book series of the same name written by Brian Wood and with art by Riccardo Burchielli.

The comic series DMZ takes place on an island of Manhattan that had been turned into a demilitarized zone (DMZ) by the Second American Civil War. The country has been divided into two different nations, the United States of America and the Free States of America. The demilitarized zone separates the two nations. Alma goes on a journey of absolution, leading her to find Christian and a population of people who need her to create a new home.

Patino utilizes visions and memories in telling this story of redemption. Skel and orphan Odi (Jordan Preston Carter) represent the opposite sides of the demilitarized zone.

Worldbuilding in the DMZ Miniseries

Patino and the rest of the creative team do an excellent job building the world of the DMZ. When Alma first walks into the demilitarized zone, she sees blocks of the city covered in vines and weeds. Most of the cars are rusted up and abounded in the middle of the streets.

Meanwhile, Odi spots a wild leopard drinking from a puddle in an empty lot covered in tall grass. The art designers created a surreal version of Manhattan that could believability suffer from years of neglect and past battles. The citizens of the DMZ live amongst the ruin relying on their community to survive.

Gangs like the Spanish Harlem Kings rule sections of Manhattan, forcing those who live there to follow their rules. As a result, all the areas of the demilitarized zone look distinct. For example, Chinatown’s color scheme is neon lights, yellows, and greens. Upper Manhattan is made up of brownstones and has warmer, homier colors echoing that Alma lived there before the war.

Yearning

The two Post Second Civil War nations are referenced within the miniseries but are never depicted on screen. Instead, the miniseries focuses all its energy on representing the demilitarized zone.

Alma lives in the United States of America, but we only see her at work at an intake facility in Brooklyn. The intake facility is for those who enter the country illegally. The intake facility appears to be in a stadium turned into a prison and medical checkpoint for refugees. Soldiers guard all the exit and entry points. Alma and the other medics wear faceguards and scrubs. The Free States of America and the United States are spoken about so frequently that the audience yearns to see them and are left unsatisfied.

Visions & Memories Act as Guides

Alma and Odi’s memories guide their actions throughout the miniseries. The first episode reveals Alma’s memory of “Evacuation Day” when she lost track of her then-teenage son. Alma keeps calm, guiding Christian toward the buses bringing the US citizens out of the now demilitarized zone.

Close-ups of their faces and quick edits reveal the hectic nature of that day as soldiers shout at the crowds fleeing New York city amongst explosions and loud helicopters flying above. The medic finally pushes her way to the bus. When Alma turns around, Christian is gone. The image is flipped upside down, revealing how lost Alma feels as she runs around the crowd yelling her son’s name.

This memory establishes why the medic risks her life by entering and staying in the DMZ. Alma’s love for Christian acts as her guide, forcing her to entangle herself further in the demilitarized zone to find a way out for her son. Her guilt over losing track of her Christian on that day transforms her into the leader of the DMZ.

Odi’s Visions

Odi relies on memories of his deceased grandfather to shepherd him into taking part in society. He has visions of his grandfather, who appears to of died sometime in the last couple of years. Odi lives alone in their apartment uptown with his grandfather’s corpse.

The young Black boy spends his days running around causing mischief with his friend Nico (Venus Ariel) but doesn’t have a deep bond with her or anybody else. His dead grandfather counsels Odi to ask nurse Rose (Mamie Gummer) if he can live in the clinic with her. She saved his life years ago and now feeds him grilled cheese sandwiches.

Unfortunately, Rose dies from a gunshot wound before Odi can ask her for a room. His grandfather’s prodding’s about living with adults convinces Odi to speak to Alma, who takes over for Rose at the clinic. The young boy moves into the clinic with Alma. He calls her Zee.

Alma quickly becomes a parental figure to Odi. They build a family together, tying her further to the DMZ. Alma encourages Odi to emotionally connect with Nico and begin to build a community for himself. He starts not to need to rely on the memory of his grandfather to get him through the day. The visions of the deceased grandfather disappear after Odi votes for the first time representing him contributing to his society.

DMZ’s Angel and Devil on its Shoulder

Odi and Skel represent different futures for the demilitarized zone. Skel’s father and Alma’s ex Parco Delgado (Benjamin Bratt) turned him into an assassin, making him the toxic side of the DMZ. He is a talented street artist who spray-paints beautiful murals, but years in the Spanish Harlem Kings turned off his ability to empathize with others.

Skel writes the name of all his targets on a giant wall, then crosses their names out after murdering them. He props up the gangs who rule their people through fear. Skel doesn’t know how to exist as Christian, his human identity. He burned all his bridges in the DMZ. His mother Alma knows that the only hope for Skel’s humanity is for him to leave the demilitarized zone. Alma rescues her son by sending him away before he destroys himself and the rest of the DMZ.

As a child, Odi has not been corrupted by the violence of the DMZ. He keeps hold of innocence by existing on the edges of the Spanish Harlem King’s zone. Other than stealing small items with Nico, Odi never intentionally harms anybody. When Alma enters the picture, he starts to come out of his shell. Her compassion for everyday people inspires Odi to help others too.

Unlike Skel, Alma can parent Odi teaching him to live in hope. The medic allows him to stay a kid, something that Skel couldn’t do after he went missing. By voting for “Zee,” Odi votes for a utopian city where DMZ citizens build a peaceful community together. The young boy becomes the voice for democracy.

DMZ Miniseries – Last Thoughts

The DMZ miniseries teaches us that we need to take part in forming the community that we want. DC comic and post-apocalyptic fiction fans will love the DMZ. Let us know your thoughts on the miniseries in the comments below. 

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