Netflix Just Quietly Released the Most Deranged Military Thriller of the Decade
Obliterated is a spectacle of explosions and naked body parts.
Here’s a list of things that happen in Netflix’s newest TV show:
- A straight-edge military pilot accidentally gets high on magic mushrooms and hallucinates a talking gremlin, causing him to crash his helicopter.
- Two soldiers hook up while a camel watches through the open door of their hotel room.
- A man named Trunk beats a bunch of bad guys unconscious using a giant steak.
- A skilled sniper seduces the bride-to-be at her own bachelorette party.
Obliterated packs a lot of raunchy humor and epic action into its eight hour-long episodes, while also managing to be one of the best counterterrorism thrillers since 24. But while Jack Bauer was all tension and no laughs, Obliterated (from the guys behind Harold and Kumar, Hot Tub Time Machine and, more recently, Cobra Kai) finds comedy gold in its heroes’ last-ditch effort to save the world.
The premise of Obliterated is deliciously simple. The show follows a best-of-the-best-style special forces team assembled to thwart an evil plot that involves a nuclear weapon being sold (or possibly detonated) in Las Vegas. That alone could have provided enough plot for an entire season, but within the first 20 minutes, the team has captured the main villain and disarmed the nuke — or so they think.
To celebrate a job well done, our heroes throw an epic party full of booze, pills, sloppy hookups, and a camel. Unfortunately, a few hours too late, they learn the bomb they found was actually a diversion containing just enough nuclear material to trick their sensors. The real weapon is still out there, and they only have eight hours to find and deactivate it before the actual bad guys wipe Las Vegas off the map.
Obliterated manages to keep this premise going for nearly eight hours, which is impressive considering it probably would have worked just as well as a 90-minute movie. The series is full of twists and turns as new villains reveal increasingly devious plots, but despite juggling all that and its large ensemble cast, Obliterated never gets too confusing for its own good. The story is easy to follow and consistently entertaining, even if it sometimes feels a little uneven.
In an interview, Obliterated’s creators explained that turning their original idea for a movie into a TV show gave them room to let each character shine. And while that’s partially true, there’s no denying some members of the ensemble get more attention than others. Multiple episodes open with a flashback illuminating the life of Rambo-esque supersoldier Chad McKnight (Nick Zano). This gives our overly confident white dude hero a deeper backstory, but makes other characters feel two-dimensional by comparison.
Everyone still gets their time in the spotlight, however, with perhaps the highlight being Eugen Kim’s psilocybin-fueled revenge mission to save his daughter. Kimi Rutledge also shines as the requisite hacker girl with a painful crush on McKnight, while badass team leader Ava Winters (Shelley Hennig) anchors the entire adventure. There’s more, but suffice to say, everyone in this ensemble of unknown actors is perfectly cast and more than rises to the challenge of Obliterated’s unhinged story.
Visually, Obliterated is a spectacle of explosions and naked body parts, but for the most part, what you see is what you get. This is standard Netflix filmmaking cranked up one or two notches and with a bit more polish. The action is sufficiently epic, and when the camera does try to show you what’s happening inside the minds of our inebriated or hallucinating heroes, it’s with just the right amount of creativity without ever dipping into surrealism (the show’s most gonzo moments undoubtedly come in the form of a hallucinated gremlin voiced by Jason Mantzoukas).
Obliterated is the kind of show that, weirdly, we don’t get that much anymore. It features the perfect blend of action and comedy without a superhero in sight, and it’s just about the raunchiest thing you’ll see this year (definitely don’t try watching this with your parents while home for the holidays). This isn’t thought-provoking Golden Age television by a longshot, but taken at face value, it’s the best possible version of an R-rated action comedy anyone could hope for.