In 'Catch-22' episode 1 we see Joseph Heller's 'Catch-22' take shape on screen, but the first episode underlines how much of the irony and dark humor in the book is lost in translation because the beauty lied in the way Heller structured the story more than anything. After having seen the premiere episode, however, it looks like the show's aim is to unpack the very common phrase "War is Hell", to show the everyday workings of war as hell through its main characters Lieutenant Scheisskopf (George Clooney) and Yossarian (Christopher Abbott).
The lives of the soldiers under their superiors, whose main agenda is to rise in the planks of military service, is as dark as humor can get. The show tries to compensate for the loss of literary devices through visual cues and in turn, has borrowed heavily from Heller's book for certain dialogues.
What stands out the most in the first episode is Yossarian's rant about how God is incompetent in light of recent developments that have occurred at the training academy. It is not just about the mere punishment of carrying barrels of water in circles, this is much more than that and Yossarian performs beautifully to show angst in the form of a frustrated verbal outburst.
You find there are many a time the series draws stark contrasts between comic situations and tragic ones. This was something that was non-existent in the book. The flow between comedy and tragedy was so smooth, it was more effective in portraying what the author wanted to about the workings of war.
While drawing contrasts may work for most visual series, here it is more of a hindrance. It would be interesting to hear about the episode from someone who hasn't read the book, of course, to understand what they got from the screenplay of the first episode.
The episode also trusts its audience to keep up with a lot of what is happening on screen through its text cues, especially while it introduces the main characters of the 256th squadron that Yossarian and Clevinger belong to. We see the last month of training leading into the first few months of service in this episode and it is a great set up for what is to come in the following weeks.
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