The first episode of the fifth season of “VICE” on HBO kicks off with an hour-long in-depth analysis of regime-ruled Syria and the economic impacts at stake from decades of climate denial. The opening is well produced, and it's evident “VICE” has made good use of HBO’s budget. “VICE’s” correspondent Isobel Yeung provides a full spectrum of Syria’s social and political characteristics within her 30-minute segment.
Beginning with the rebelling portion of Syria’s population alongside horrifying snippets from social media posts of citizens pleading for help, the episode works its way from both sides of the conflict.
In one bizarre segment, viewers are introduced to the regime-factioned youth fighters in a supposed war zone; this unit is comprised solely of women, only to see them hauled off in a premiere coach bus.
Throughout the shift into the bourgeoisie-like middle and high class demographics, viewers will be dumbfounded at the tyrannical control of the media, freedom of speech and daily lives of Syrians. Similar to an Orwellian Big Brother, Yeung is constantly being watched and forced to receive approval before entering specific areas and receiving interviews. At no point does the episode lessen its pace; viewers are constantly being offered a new side of the social dynamic and, all the while, Yueng is subtly sharing her opinion on the experience.
Most appealing is that, although viewers will likely agree with Yeung’s claims on the absurdity of the ruling characteristics of Syria’s government, at no point will they be forced into her mindset. “VICE” does its best to give equal coverage of both sides of the conflict without influencing the information.
The segment is thought-provoking and definitely worth the watch. In a brief transition to its second half, “VICE” upholds its immersive documentary storytelling while swapping from a journalist to CEO and cofounder of VICE Media, Shane Smith.
The second half explores what the scientific, political and big oil communities have to say on climate change. Similar to its earlier half, the segment gives viewers all the angles on major players in the topic.
Smith’s first interview is with the Chief Property Underwriter of Swiss Re, a global insurance company that predicted the damages of the Sandy superstorm on the east coast back in 2006. Viewers learn of the trillions of dollars at risk in Miami’s coastline as water levels have already risen three feet within the past few years.
The documentary segways into both the political and scientific sides of the climate change debate, all within a historical frame. It caveats the analysis with a reminder of the current demographic of the White House and its ties to the oil industry.
From this point, the documentary begins to feel like an investigation into a turmoil of corruption and negligence best compared to big tobacco in the 1970s.
The segment concludes with a look at the ways companies like Statoil are working to mitigate the threat of climate change. The Statoil rig contains one of the only devices in existence that actually strips the carbon dioxide from gasoline. Interestingly, company representatives discuss why they are pushing for a CO2 tax.
The premiere was captivating and at no point failed to grab my attention. Regardless of your stance on the above topics, if you have been a longtime consumer of “VICE” or are just hearing about it for the first time, I suggest you tune into the new season, which premiered last Friday on HBO at 11 p.m.