HBO News Blog

VICE Season Two; Episode 11 Review

By Jef Dinsmore on Jun 11, 2014 to Vice


Note: It is apropos that my 300th post for HBOWatch is a VICE episode because it has proven to be my favorite show currently on HBO. For those following the series you recall that last week was an off-week for the series. Because of that we did not get a sneak peek of the eleventh installment upon episode 10’s airing. So we get an added clip this post with the preview of what I am about to review. I offer it now before the stated Overview.


Overview: Since the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, heroin production in the region has skyrocketed, making the country the number-one producer in the world by a large margin. Though Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbor, is an ultraconservative country, Afghan heroin flowing across the border has actually caused Iran to have the worst heroin use problem in the world. VICE got a rare look inside Iran to meet the suffering heroin addicts, and to see how the country is coping with the illegal drug trade.

With the polar ice caps shrinking due to global warming, new trade routes are being exposed, along with billions of dolVICE_ColdWarlars’ worth of natural-resource reserves. This is prime real estate and the five nations bordering the Arctic are readying themselves to fight for it. VICE headed north to witness NATO forces participating in the largest polar military exercise in history. The problem is that  there’s one non-NATO country that already considers itself rightful owner of the region: Russia. With Vladimir Putin’s recent military annexation of Crimea, there’s a definite possibility its aggression will boil over, returning the international community to precarious Cold War.


Expectations: I need to make a point here before VICE concludes for the season. Even though I appreciate and am engrossed with the show it to, like many a show on the air, can be a bit deceptive in its approach as well. As a good example find the last two words in the Overview above – “Cold War.” Are we really potentially heading towards another one? Does everyone in this day and age even know what that term means? Or are we putting a bit of a spin to this a piece to make it bigger? The whole last sentence seems a bit sensationalist to me. It is like the snippets that show that a correspondent is in real serious danger only to learn in the report or in the Debrief that the situation wasn’t really that bad.  It all makes you think that there is a lot of “doom and gloom” around the VICE office. All I’m saying is watch out for footage and terms that seem to skew the viewer into thinking one way over another. All shows do it. 

But, on the good side of things the deception employed is also quite effective. Again look at the Overview above. In a few short sentences we get a basic outline of what is investigated. The string of words breaks the issue down rather simplistically and that is quite deceiving for the issue at hand is always such more complex than that. Oh, there is a rampant heroin trade in Iran and countries are in an Arctic land grab. It is way more complicated in that.

I have a few more thoughts in that vein in my concluding paragraph, but here are those expectations. It is a no-brainer that heroin is prevalent in that region of the globe, so just how bad is it and why should we care? I expect that clarification. But, the topic I am in dire need of clarity on is the second segment this week and the whole hotbed of prime real estate that could have us heating up to another “Cold War.” VICE made the statement and it is not just a play on words. Once again I am engrossed; sneaky, VICE, very sneaky.  Here is a clip from the first segment.


Gut Reactions: Segment one is Heroin Warfare by correspondent Suroosh Alvi. It is always nice to see VICE co-founder Alvi out in the field and getting reports like this one. Somehow I feel, but don’t ask me why, Suroosh just seems the right person for this report. It was too dangerous to send one of the ladies we’ve seen this season venture towards that wall? It turns out my opinions went a different direction than I thought afteVICE__HerionPoppiesr watching the segment. At first I was a bit blasé about the whole situation. Beyond the sadness of seeing a portion of humanity in the grip of deadly drugs, as indicated, I kind of had the feeling of ‘who cares.’ That negativity is a bad feeling to have perhaps, but an honest one.


My focus quickly took to the idea that though Iran may be riddled with addicts it is only the first stop in a longer trade lane. Just like South and Central American traffic flows into the U. S., this drug business travels into Europe & the U. K. Its first stop just happens to be to the weakened and broken Iranian populace. Then my mind focused on the latter half of the report which talks about the Iranian opinion that the U.S.A is responsible for this widespread drug habit in the region.

Once I hit that concept I never left it. My feelings for the addicted persons no longer held my attention. Sadly, the humanitarian aspect of this issue was replaced by American patriotism. So, I have to ponder well after the installment’s conclusion of what VICE intended here. Did they want us to care about these unfortunate souls or did they mean to get our ire up about their blaming the U. S. for their woes. Again, here is the argument – America goes into Afghanistan and held their own in the conflict there. In doing so American forces turn a blind eye to the opium production blossoming in the region. They allow that business to thrive and cripple the region from within. So, America only has a war on the drugs that is flowing into its own country and to hell with anyone else. Of course, then we cut to a scene of people chanting “Death to America!” The USA is getting blamed for allowing Iranian to become heroin addicts now. Thank you very much. Again, that is what I took away from the “Heroin Warfare” segment. Maybe the Debrief will clear up my thoughts. 

The Coldest War by correspondent David Choe left me feeling something totally different – “Holy Shit!”  We are really talking about another round of the Cold War, or World War III or whatever? NATO nations are preparing for that outcome? Is this really true? It almost sounds like grand conspiracy theory, tabloid fodder or the next Devlin/Emmerich movie.

I understand fully the vast riches of the Arctic. It is prime real estate and surely we will consume rapidly enough all the resources it bears, notVICE_ArcticMap to mention see an increase in sea levels. That notion is sad in itself; what makes it worse is throwing Vladimir Putin into the equation. Do you need reminded how large a chunk of the globe Russia takes up already? Of course, his role in the northern land grab isn’t all that surprising when Crimea becomes his “Park Place” on the game board. It makes a sense that he would want to go for his “Boardwalk” property next. But how badly does he want it? Yes, his comrade planted a Russian flag on the sea floor. Yes, his country has the largest border with the North Pole. Yes, he is doing his usual posturing. But the expense for his annexation of the Arctic is World War III. Do we really believe he will push the issue that far? Who wants World War III even if they think they can win it?

As with the first segment this week my thoughts changed by the time Choe was done with his report. I was just, what is the word? I was flummoxed and still am a few days later as I wrap my mind around the consequences of all this. And when I am flummoxed it is often best to just let it go after a while because I’ll just keep rambling the same points over and over if I don’t stop.

I think this is one of the top reports of the season, even though David Choe looked a bit uncomfortable in the Arctic extremes. I say it sounds like VICE needs to take some ‘basketball diplomacy” to Russia and give up on North Korea, the Crimson Bear seems our worst threat or is it just a bunch of overblown sensationalism?       


In Conclusion: I truly do love it when VICE can take me on a roller coaster ride of both emotions and of thoughts. My mind was truly all over the map with this installment. It is great stuff. It is amazing how they can concisely boil it is all down and contain it in one half-hour a week. But VICE has mastered it quite well. Though it cannot go in depth they manage to give you a solid report segment after segment and just when you think they may have left you hanging they resolve it in the Debrief. Speaking of which, it is time to get to those.   



First up is Suroosh. Help me sort  my thoughts out on this.


Yes I know I‘d get some clarification. I did only to have Mr. Alvi somewhat concur understand with the notion of it being America’s fault because out of anyone America had the power to stop it and did not. Grr, I just have to let that go.

Now I am most eager to hear what David Choe has to say,  but NOOoooooooo we have been deceived! There is no Debrief from THE COLDEST WAR. It was the best segment of the season and no Debrief. Yes, I know I am the only one crushed by this so I’ll just have to let this go as well.

At least there is one more episode to set up. Here is a preview of the Season Finale of VICE airing on 06.13. Peace.

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