This is the story of how a bottle of orange soda redeems a traitor. A little bit.
Episode 7 of Manhattan’s second season focuses a lot on Jim Meeks (Christopher Denham), the physicist who has been leaking information to the Russians because he thinks a nuclear stalemate will prevent a future war that’s more cataclysmic than the one they’re trying to end.
“Behold the Lord High Executioner” takes its name from Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical The Mikado and the character Meeks plays in the Los Alamos local theater production. By the end of the episode, that title will have disturbing significance.
We begin with a Native American maid at one of the Los Alamos homes who overhears some of the scientists’ wives discussing a spy on the hill and the need to report unusual behavior. Her young son, Pablo, saw something: a man in the woods burying a tin box.
It was very near the location where Avram Fischer (Richard Schiff’s counter-intelligence agent) was executed after catching Meeks in the middle of a dead drop of information. The tin box he buried was recovered, and Col. Darrow (William Petersen) now has a witness to help him identify just who from Los Alamos went for a walk in the woods that night.
He also has the tin box, which has code written on the inside of a Hershey’s bar wrapper.
He seeks Dr. Theodore Sinclair (Corey Allen), the only black scientist at Los Alamos. At first, it seems like a case of racial profiling — and it is, sort of. Darrow wants Sinclair to help him crack the code. He says it’s because Sinclair is known to have an excellent mind for problem solving, but there’s something he’s leaving out. Since Sinclair is the only black man on the project, Darrow can be sure he’s not the spy. The little boy can identify the culprit, and so the colonel knows the man he’s looking for has light skin.
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Newlyweds Fritz (Michael Chernus) and Jeannie (Lauren Myers) are already thinking of having children. She wants to do it, but he doesn’t. He’s afraid to tell her that he was contaminated with radiation on a long-ago experiment. Since the effects aren’t known, he thinks it could lead to birth defects. Or in the less delicate way Fritz puts it: “How can you tell your wife you could have a kid with three heads?”
Pablo is with security, checking faces at the gate of the facility. Meeks’ Russian handler, Nora (Mamie Gummer), rescues him from the line and slips him an envelope full of cash, telling him to make a run for it. It’s only a matter of time before he is exposed.
Meeks doesn’t want to leave. “If I disappear, I’m going to look guilty.”
“You are guilty,” she tells him.
But Meeks can’t walk away from his life. Then security puts the Hill on lockdown, and he can’t get out. That leads Nora to devise a more gruesome solution.
Sinclair has found a clue. The man they’re looking for works with the element polonium, and Sinclair has a list of the 23 men who handle the substance on the project.
Pablo remains with security and ends up in the care of Jeannie, who tries to reassure the frightened little boy by passing him a lucky charm: her pin. “This is Athena. She’s a famous warrior, and she watches over the Women’s Army Corps. As long as I wear this, no one can hurt me.” That makes him feel a little better.
NEXT: Is Meeks willing to kill a 10-year-old boy?