November 29, 2021

Virus thriller Containment succumbs to the symptoms of clunkerism

Is there a more delightful sight than somebody projectile-vomiting his liquefied innards against a squeaky clean glass door, while you dunk a Digestive into your nightly cup of tea? Of course there is but as virus dramas on the small screen go Containment offers plenty of mushy organs spewed into or against various handkerchiefs, windows, fences, pieces of office equipment, faces etc. And there we have it – the highlights of the latest US drama miniseries (based on the Belgian TV show Cordon and broadcast by The CW Network in the US) on E4 wrapped up in a few neat sentences.

The first episode gets off the ground faster than a high speed car chase on a German Autobahn. The viewer is dropped right in the middle of an apocalyptic and anarchic Atlanta. It’s “day 13” of the virus outbreak and once an unhealthy dose of blood and guts have been coughed up, we trail back to the origins of the disaster.

Containment header


Since there is no cure for the diabolical disease and the only way it can be contained is by – you guessed it – setting up a “cordon sanitaire” separating the potentially infected from the outside world, tension levels rev-up swifter than a two-stroke engine. Unfortunately, they come down as rapidly and after two episodes this TV drama slows down faster than a Ferrari Testarossa with a dead horse nailed to its bonnet.

Because the plot outline for the entire season one is revealed in the first episode, the remaining 12 episodes collapse under the weight of cheesy romance, random skullduggery and pointless acts of heroism that are as predictable as a chess game between Garry Kasparov and Michael Jackson’s pet-chimpanzee Bubbles. It is a shame though because there is so much more meat to the story but it all gets infected with a bad case of the blahs.

Since Containment doesn’t manage to contain its blah infection, the viewers suffer the full force of tedium, annoyance and we’ve-seen-it-all-before. All that separates us from the poor infected souls on the screen is that we can keep our inner organs down (at least in most cases, I imagine).

In addition to being in the throngs of the blahs, we also suffer the woes of the good cop/bad cop routine. Health and human services chief Sabine Lommers (Claudia Black – bad cop) is hell bent on setting up the cordon whereas Atlanta police office Lex Carnahan (David Gyasi – good cop) just wants to save lives; first and foremost that of his girl-friend (Christina Moses) and his fellow cop (Chris Wood), who, among others, are trapped inside the cordon along with a pregnant teenager (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), a young teacher named Katie (Kristen Gutoskie), a bunch of primary school kids and a medical researcher (George Young). The latter desperately tries to find a cure for the epidemic but is as clumsy and clueless as a medieval plague doctor.

Since the virus cannot be cured the show is all about isolation, the loss of human rights and how swiftly members of ‘polite society’ can transform into raging Neanderthals.

In July, Containment executive producer Julie Plec still had high hopes and grand plans for season 2, which have unfortunately/fortunately been squashed since because the second season was cancelled by CW due to low ratings.

Fair enough, the virus drama genre in itself is handicapped with all too foreseeable storylines: virus breaks out, some people suffer horribly and perish, cure is found, joy all around. It just doesn’t lend itself to a TV series, which is inflatable to several seasons. As such, the virus thriller is more suited to the big screen (“Contagion” and “Outbreak”) and although there would be more than one way to turn “Containment” into something digestible, the blahs kill it off quicker than the infected citizens of Atlanta cough up their insides.

This TV show brings to mind an old saying of Victorian surgeons “The operation was a success, but the patient died.” Well, it doesn’t quite fit but you get my drift…

by Frank H. Diebel

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