When HBO released the first trailer for its upcoming spy series based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, I didn’t fully know what to expect as I hadn’t gotten around to reading the novel yet. I certainly knew nothing about the story herein, which is focused on a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy during the last days of the Vietnam War who goes on to live in exile in the US. But what I can tell you is the exact moment when I went from “What is this?” to “Okay, HBO, I’m definitely going to be watching.”
It’s right at the beginning of the trailer when Hoa Xuande’s character “The Captain” is asked by an eager-beaver American about his time “over there” in Vietnam: “So, did you kill anyone?” The Captain, by the way, is the communist spy I mentioned above who embeds in a refugee community in Los Angeles.
The Captain draws out his response with a sort of dramatic flourish, and his response is intercut with intense flashback scenes. “With my own hands? … No. No, I never killed anyone.”
Continues the American: “We were all marching. We were on your side.” The Captain’s eyes widen.
“Really! And which side was that?”
“Uh … the side of the Vietnamese people.”
“The people in the north? Or the people in the south?”
“Well, all of them, I guess.”
A soft chuckle. “I guess we all look the same after all, right? … I mean, I could be Viet Cong for all you know. A spy… how would you know?”
He lets the silence hang there. And then laughs conspiratorially, laying one hand across his chest. “I’m not, of course! I love America!”
Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar are the co-showrunners and executive producers, and in addition to Xuande, the cast of this HBO series includes Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Ky Duyen, and Sandra Oh. Robert Downey Jr. is also an executive producer and will portray multiple characters in the series (coming to HBO in 2024). Get ready — this one is going to be truly, unforgettably, epic.
3 more must-watch HBO series coming in 2024
Indeed, The Sympathizer is part of what’s already shaping up to be an epic year next year for both HBO and Max, which are set to present a slew of must-watch programming to TV and streaming viewers.
As part of a new brand spot highlighting HBO and Max programming coming in 2024 that was released on Wednesday, the network offered up lots of sneak peeks and never-before-seen footage from upcoming shows — three of which rank as the HBO series I’m probably the most excited for at the moment and which we’ll take a closer look at below.
House of the Dragon (Season 2) — Here’s as good an indication as any that viewers are already super-excited to return to Westeros: According to HBO, the newly released trailer for Season 2 of House of the Dragon was watched 63 million times across all of the network’s channels within 48 hours of it going live.
Among other things in the eight-episode season, we’ll pick up after the death of Lucerys Velaryon in the Season 1 finale — with his mother Rhaenyra Targaryen now seething and out for revenge. The new season will also see the arrival of two assassins, in addition to introducing viewers to the concept of dragonseeds. Coming in mid-2024.
The Franchise: This next HBO series comes from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, Veep creator Armando Iannucci, and writer Jon Brown. With a cast that includes Himesh Patel and Aya Cash, The Franchise will offer a comedic take behind the scenes of a superhero film franchise. Given the degree to which Marvel’s recent efforts have kind of bombed at the box office, it feels like the time is right to skewer one of Hollywood’s big moneymaker genres. Coming in the fall of 2024.
The Regime: As for this final HBO series that already looks like quite a buzz-worthy standout, the official logline for The Regime explains that it’ll tell the story of a single year within the walls of the palace of a modern (and fictional) European regime as it starts to fall apart. The cast includes Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Guillaume Gallienne, Andrea Riseborough, Martha Plimpton, and Hugh Grant. Coming in the spring of 2024.