Stan's new drama about a plague dividing an American city is in need of urgent help.
While Hollywood movies have run riot (literally) with movies about viruses, I’m struggling to think of a TV series that has managed to do a good job on the genre.
Helix? Nah. Between? Nope. The Strain? Not really. The Walking Dead? Ok, but I’d call that a zombie series.
New US drama Containment is not about to break the mould, either. Set in Atlanta, it will see its citizens divided by a fence as those who are infected by a mysterious disease are sealed off from those who are not. Think Under the Dome but without a dome.
Authorities racing to identify and isolate the disease must work to avoid panic in a race against time. Yet despite its ticking time bomb premise, there are several shortcomings in the first episode, based on the Belgian series Cordon (it screened in Australia on SBS).
Multiple characters are set up, but without the skill Irwin Allen used in his 1970s disaster flicks.
Katie Frank (Kristen Gutoskie) has a busload of primary-aged school children. Teresa (Aussie Hanna Mangan-Lawrence) is heavily pregnant and devoted to Xander (Demetrius Bridges). Jake Riley (Chris Wood) is a hunky cop, and police officer (David Gyasi) can’t seem to get girlfriend Jana (Christina Moses) to commit to moving in.
Amid it all doctor CDC researcher Dr. Victor Cannerts (George Young) warns of a mysterious disease that has begun infecting people at his hospital, with speedy and fatal precision. Enter Sabine Lommers (Claudia Black) from the Dept. of Health who tells city officials she has arrived to call the shots.
“I don’t get called until things get bad,” she warns.
The unknown virus has arrived, she believes, via a young Syrian man suspected of being patient zero. Seriously. Could they have been more loaded if they tried?
This elicits concerns from some that they better stop this fast, “before some kid from the Middle East gives us all the plague.” I’m hopeful this is actually a red herring, to demonstrate one should not judge a book by its cover …..but frankly, it’s a glimmer of hope, at best.
Sabine convinces Lex he should be the front the government campaign.
“We’re gonna need a face. Someone people trust,” she insists.
Answering the call he leads the charge to contain the disease to a single district, with an electric fence thrown up in record time whilst angry locals try to come to term with unexplained divisions. Meanwhile things go from bad to worse for those on the inside, as victims turn on grisly deaths and fail to avoid body contact.
For some, thrown together by circumstance, 4 to 6 feet won’t just become the distance to avoid body contact, but the distance that equates to unresolved sexual tension.
Despite the best efforts of David Gyasi as police sgt. Lex, Containment lacks enough focus on a central character to facilitate an engaging way into its universe. This isn’t helped by some clunky dialogue: “I’m in the middle of the damn hot zone!’ or “It’s the freakin’ zombie apocalypse!” if you will…
Claudia Black (The Originals, Farscape) as Sabine depicts such an icy, pointed bureaucrat that its hard to see her as a three dimensional character.
There’s so much use of cell phones it feels like product placement, or a feeble attempt to appeal to millennials. Multicultural relationships were a rare, redeeming feature.
Perhaps a more engaging universe will follow after the set-up business is out of the way. But scenes suggest Atlanta is about to descend into a hot mess. And I don’t mean The Walking Dead.
Containment premieres Wednesday on Stan.