The Sympathizer Review – IGN

The Sympathizer premieres April 14 at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO and Max, with new episodes airing on Sundays.

The protagonist of the highly anticipated HBO series The Sympathizer is constantly grappling with one pressing question: “Is this necessary?” This internal struggle plagues him throughout his covert operations as a double agent during the tumultuous period of the Vietnam War. As viewers immerse themselves in this intricate narrative, they too may find themselves pondering the same question amidst the backdrop of jarring tonal shifts and questionable creative decisions.

The Story Unfolds

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, The Sympathizer delves into the life of an enigmatic character known only as “The Captain,” portrayed brilliantly by Hoa Xuande. The series traces his journey from childhood to his involvement with the CIA and South Vietnamese government, culminating in the chaos of the Fall of Saigon and his subsequent refugee life in Los Angeles. The narrative explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the enduring impact of war on individuals.

Divergent Directives

One of the main challenges faced by The Sympathizer stems from its multiple directors, each bringing a unique perspective to the story. While the initial episodes set the stage with a satirical tone, it isn’t until later installments that the series strikes a balance between dark humor and the harsh realities of the refugee experience. The evolution of the narrative under different directors adds layers of complexity to The Captain’s trajectory.

A Flawed Portrayal

Despite the stellar attention to detail and standout performances, the series falters in its handling of certain characters and themes. A particular misstep involves the portrayal of Asian characters and the casting choices made for pivotal roles, detracting from the overarching narrative. The attempt to condense a profound novel into a limited episode format results in some creative liberties that may not resonate with all viewers.

Robert Downey Jr.’s role – or rather, roles – is The Sympathizer’s most disappointing.
Incomplete Reflection

While The Sympathizer captures the essence of dual identity and the struggles of Vietnamese refugees, it falls short in fully delving into the profound impact of historical events. The series touches on poignant themes but primarily focuses on superficial aspects, missing an opportunity to delve deeper into the human stories that emerge from such turmoil.