If you’re thinking that six hours of conspiracy theories about basements of pizza joints filled with dead children might be a bit much, Hoback’s work is smarter than that. He really digs into the people around the Q phenomenon, focusing a lot of time on the 8chan admins, particularly Fredrick Brennan, the creator who has now disowned his own monster given how much its impacted racial violence in the world, and Jim & Ron Watkins, a father and son who thrive in this world of online conspiracy chaos. There are even theories that either or both are Q, and Hoback’s project gains its greatest strength from how much he befriends Ron, Jim, and Fred, asking just the right questions in interviews to reveal the complex nature of this world. There’s infighting and back-stabbing even in the world around Q, and that material is way more interesting than people who believe Trump is still President. Profit always produces that and the truth is that some people have made a fortune pushing the world of Q—the question that lingers is how that monetization of conspiracies has impacted politics.
The often-casual tone that Hoback employs, so that your head doesn’t explode thinking about Q, doesn’t always work. After all, some of the events around Q have included violence like the shooting at Comet Pizza and countless death threats against those who oppose these crazy theories, and some early episodes zip past these events a bit too easily, although later ones take the emergence of violence from the QAnon world more seriously. And the truth is the tone reflects the odd nature of some of these people, like how Jim Watkins can casually discuss mass executing politicians while making a kale smoothie. There’s a fascinating ordinary quality to it all.
While “Q: Into the Storm” investigates a lot of recent internet history—there’s even a dip into Anonymous and Gamergate—it does feel a bit unfocused in later episodes, particularly chapter five (in which Hoback, a genuinely empathetic guy, basically finds himself trying to save the very life of one of his new friends). By that point, we’ve spent a lot of time with all of these major players, and Hoback struggles with how to bring this project in for a finale. He tumbles a bit himself as he goes down the rabbit hole, losing some of the focus of the best episodes of the series. Maybe that’s intentional? After all, at one point in the second episode, someone suggests that only Q would do a documentary about himself, suggesting that Hoback could himself be Q. For people in this world, anything is possible.
“Q: Into the Storm” starts Sunday, March 21st on HBO and runs for the next five weeks.