Animated Drama ‘Pantheon’ Brings Sci-Fi Nightmare to Life: TV Review


For any adult who still eschews animation out of a stubborn refusal to understand its benefits as both a visual and narrative medium, “Pantheonshows its ambitions from the start. After the eerie opening theme, marking a string of fluorescent code shattering a Greek statue, the show shifts to a high school classroom, where a candid voiceover lays the stakes bare. “Most of the girls in my class completely missed the moment when the world started to end,” teenage outcast Maddie Kim (Katie Chang) tells us, laptops flashing in unison as if they were d ‘OK. It’s a startling start for this nerve-wracking series, which calls on an all-star cast to fuse micro-character work with macro questions about technology that may never have a satisfying answer.

Created by Dan Silverstein and based on short stories by Ken Liu, “Pantheon” layers conspiracy with even more bitter truth at every turn. It’s also apt to introduce her increasingly overwhelming world via Maddie’s grief for her father, David (Daniel Dae Kim), whose death left her and her mother, Ellen (Rosemarie DeWitt), in an emotional bind. In the first episode, Maddie discovers that David has managed to survive, in a sense, thanks to the top secret development of the “user interface” (i.e. “downloaded intelligence”, both a game and a deviation from the well-honed concept of artificial intelligence). In the fourth episode made available ahead of the show’s September 1 premiere on AMC+, Maddie, David and Ellen find themselves at the heart of a pivotal turning point in history with no roadmap or precedent to follow.

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The combination of angular, sometimes surreal animations from production house Titmouse and deeply human performances from Chang, Kim and DeWitt makes the Kim family feel as real – or at least as personal – as the show’s otherwise lofty concept. requires it. Other storylines opt for a grittier, more cerebral style, particularly when they revolve around the mysterious microchip conglomerate behind David’s regeneration founded by a missing figure in Steve Jobs (played by William Hurt, whose regular voice guides one of his last performances). As embittered co-workers playing house, Taylor Schilling and Aaron Eckhart throw poison darts at each other while Paul Dano, playing their introverted son, leans into a monotonous, teenage tone. Raza Jaffrey, as the brilliant Chanda programmer, has one of the toughest jobs, as her character is caught in a vicious loop beyond her wildest nightmares. Other notable names in the “Pantheon” credits include Scoot McNairy, Ron Livingston, Maude Apatow and Anika Noni Rose, all of whom lend their voices to scripts that, while strong, need that extra jolt of emotion to sustain. the series’ ever-expanding mythos rooted in a recognizable reality.

Given enough time and patience, the vast web of overlapping ideas in “Pantheon” could solidify into a deeply satisfying sci-fi story. Whether or not it gets the chance, or attracts the audience that might be particularly intrigued by it, that’s another story only time (and AMC+’s reach) can tell.

“Pantheon” premieres September 1 on AMC+ and HIDIVE.

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