Catch-22 Mines Madness and Magic From a Classic

The central character in Hulu’s new six-part miniseries Catch-22, Captain John Yossarian (played by Christopher Abbott), is nicknamed Yo-Yo, aptly so, since he spends the entirety of the story being yanked back and forth on a fragile cord between life and death. Catch-22 isn’t a perfect adaptation of Joseph Heller’s 1961 book of the same name—both because it’s a four-hour television drama instead of a 450-page novel and because perfectly adapting Heller’s satirical, tart narrative for the screen is probably impossible. But in the sense that a TV show can capture the spirit of something, Catch-22 is magical, maddening, tender, and caustic in equal measure. Its upside-down logic confronts you with the beauty of life and the monstrousness of a war whose only objective is to snuff that beauty out at every opportunity.

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Emma Blackman