Upcoming HBO Series ‘The Sympathizer’ Is Based on a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novel — What to Know

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HBO just dropped the trailer for the upcoming limited series The Sympathizer, a tale of espionage that follows an anonymous narrator: a North Vietnamese mole in the South Vietnamese army (Hoa Xuande). Robert Downey Jr. — either donning intricate disguises or playing multiple characters — wears many faces, hair pieces, and diverse outfits in the trailer. He informs our protagonist at the onset, “The Vietnam War. It’s over. Your job, it’s just begun.” 

As the 1970s wash over our eyes — from the flashy wardrobes to the cruising cars and the bopping beat — so begins the tale of “The Captain,” whose character is both an immigrant in the US and a mole. He’s a clever spy trying to blend in despite his somewhat outcast status. As various adversaries and allies load up their guns and deliver nail-biting dialogue, discussing the likelihood of a “spy” in their ranks, familiar faces work their way into the trailer, including the beloved Grey’s Anatomy alumnus Sandra Oh. 

Park Chan-wook of Oldboy and Decision to Leave recognition directs the first three episodes of this seven-episode miniseries, along with directors Fernando Meirelles and Marc Munden.

The trailer jumps around a bit — featuring Downey in various get-ups and close-ups of our fear-stricken protagonist — building anticipation for a twisty-turny spy series. If it’s anything like the novel, the series will also traverse genres, including dark comedy, metafiction, historical fiction, and political thriller, so what do we know about the source material? 

Spoiler Warning for ‘The Sympathizer’ novel 

The 2015 novel, which earned author Viet Thanh Nguyen the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, follows The Captain, who is forced to flee to the United States with his General toward the end of the Vietnam War. While living within a community of South Vietnamese refugees, he spies on them. He reports his discoveries back to the Viet Cong, and, over time, runs into a little internal turmoil and cognitive dissonance regarding his original loyalties and his new life.

While in the US, the Captain recounts working as an advisor on a film similar to Apocalypse Now, before he ultimately returned to Vietnam as part of a guerrilla raid against communists. 

The book begins with the Fall of Saigon and reflects on the Americanization of the Vietnam War in international literature, which is a central theme in the novel (and destined to be one in the show as well). We know how often history is rewritten in less than accurate or not fully encompassing lights…

The protagonist is a complicated mix of contradictions and dualities, which is destined to make this show a character-driven saga despite its thrilling narrative core. He was raised in Vietnam, but he attended college in the US, which greatly influences his perspective. He’s also a North Vietnamese mole yet a friend to South Vietnamese military officials. And don’t forge: he’s also a US CIA Agent… 

The HBO limited series is scheduled to premiere on April 14, 2024 on Max. 

Source: https://thoughtcatalog.com/josh-lezmi/2024/04/upcoming-hbo-series-the-sympathizer-is-based-on-a-pulitzer-prize-winning-novel-what-to-know/

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