Review: AMC’s ‘Moonhaven’ is Addictively Entertaining

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AMC+’s Moonhaven premiered last week with two episodes. I found it addictively entertaining with rich world-building and great characters. It is an original story and stands apart from anything else on TV right now. Moonhaven is grounded science fiction that doesn’t rely on the glitz and glam of fancy tech run amok to tell a story but instead asks us to consider core questions about our humanity. It leaves you feeling just the right amount of unsettled and with a desire to keep watching.

Moonhaven was created by Peter Ocko, who helped bring Lodge 49, Black Sails, and Elementary to life. It stars Emma McDonald as smuggler Bella Sway, Joe Manganiello as bodyguard Tomm, and Dominic Monaghan as detective Paul Sarno. Rounding out the cast are Amara Karan as envoy Indira Mare and Ayelet Zurer as lunar leader Maite Voss. The cast rocks their roles, each playing their parts with skill and showcasing serious acting chops.

[Warning: Heavy Spoilers ahead from the first have of the season]

The general gist of AMC+’s newest hit

The show’s premise is this – humans have made a mess of Earth. There’s wars, famine, chaos – you name it. The best hope for Mother Earth’s survival rests with the Moon, where a terraforming AI has been buried in the ground. The keys to fixing it all lies with what the AI and the utopian colony have created together. But not all is peachy in the lunar paradise, and a conspiracy afoot must be fixed. Indeed, the show’s tag states as much rather ominously – “To save humanity… escape human nature.” 

The third episode of Moonhaven is peak science fiction storytelling, and also where the show hits its stride. All the world-building and character setup from the first two episodes come together, and the compelling drama at the core of Moonhaven is clear. The show is not dystopian but is a science fiction drama built around people that could easily be us, in a future that could easily be ours.

A murder on Moonhaven exposes secrets

The first episode starts with the murder of Chill Spen, played by Nina Barker-Francis. The viewer is led to believe solving the murder will be the story engine of the series. But it’s not. Instead, the murder is solved rather quickly. How quickly it’s “solved” is mildly freaky because it turns out there’s moon-wide AI that monitors people through satellite implants in their spines. The murder is just the first domino that sets off a chain of events that results in smuggler Bella Sway being stuck on the terraformed colony and in the middle of a power struggle.

Emma McDonald as Bella Sway – Moonhaven (AMC+)

To Earth pilot Bella Sway, the Moon is a bizarre world. Not only is their language different than what she’s used to on Earth, but so is their way of living. There’s no metal anywhere – just wood. The best way of describing the moon colony is that it’s a yoga retreat on steroids, complete with brightly colored fashion and chanting. Therefore it’s super significant when Bella chooses to stay and not go home to the Earth. Bella repairs her ship and has the chance to skip out, but instead decides to stay and help Paul unravel the conspiracy on the faux-paradise.

Moonhaven’s villain

Ayelet Zurer as Maite Voss – Moonhaven (AMC+)

The villain in Moonhaven does not appear to be the super-intelligent AI set up by ICON and buried in the Moon to save all of us wretched bastards on Earth. Instead, it’s people. The tech is just a tool.

Lune was set up and isolated from Earth so that it could develop a culture capable of handling this super-powered technology. But, surprise! – people are still people. The people of the Moon were isolated from the Earth for three generations and still developed quite the superiority complex.

There’s heavy foreshadowing throughout the first three episodes that some folks on the Moon don’t quite want Earth to have their toys. And that despite being isolated, their baser instincts can’t be ignored. This comes to a head when the Bridge doesn’t happen as expected. 

A Mini-Series that should be more

After today, there are only three more episodes of Moonhaven, including the finale, “The Seeker,” scheduled to air on August 4th. I’m not sure how they’ll wrap things up, but there are many unanswered questions about the characters and what exactly is happening with the people of the Moon. 

Moonhaven is billed as a mini-series, but I hope there’s a chance for a second season. The world is so rich and complex, and there are so many stories to play out. And best of all, Moonhaven is an original story, not a remake. It’s so refreshing getting something new.

You can watch the third episode of Moonhaven, “The Envoy,” starting Thursday on AMC+.

Did you get a chance to check out the episode? Please share your thoughts with us on Twitter @MyCosmicCircus.

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