It turns out that a group calling themselves the Lazarus Project has been keeping humanity afloat by jumping the whole world back in time whenever natural events or human actions threaten a “mass extinction event,” to use their language. And while most people don’t remember the alternate timelines, George has somehow woken up to them. He’s a “mutant,” and he joins the group of time-traveling world savers rather than be alone in the crazy-making do-overs.
As George goes deeper into the secret society of the Project, Essiedu works well as an everyman, both skeptical and excited. It’s noteworthy to see a Black man in this part, a hero and a human, a flawed character we empathize with. The show doesn’t remark on his race in the four episodes available for critics to screen, while he does note others’, demonstrating that he knows what he’s doing. And “The Lazarus Project” keeps pushing, allowing Essiedu to flex his acting chops, sometimes comedic and at others heart-wrenching.
George is put through these paces by a set of arbitrary rules that the show doesn’t explain, even though they determine everyone’s fate. George does ask how it works, but his guide and time-traveling mentor Archie (Anjli Mohindra) brushes aside his query (and that of the audience) by saying you’d need to understand quantum physics for the answer to make sense. The basic gist is that they have a checkpoint of July 1st that they reset to if things go bad. Make it to the next July, and that year is locked.
And reset they do. “The Lazarus Project” offers up a pretty grim view of humanity in which we, as a group, regularly do ourselves in (thanks, nuclear weapons), and it takes the extraordinary actions of a few rogue heroes to keep that from happening again and again.
While all this sounds noble, it gets thorny for those who do remember the time resets. What if they get pregnant? Give birth? Lose a loved one? How do they balance their personal needs with humanity’s? And if most don’t remember, why can’t they hit the reset button when needed?