Review: Containment

Review: Containment

When a series’ most interesting episode is its fifth, it’s definitely doing something wrong. Case in point, Containment which, to no one’s surprise, received its cancellation notice just three episodes into its first season.

And rightly so – it was infected from the get-go.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia, Containment tells of a virus outbreak with the general hospital possibly being ground zero. In an extreme containment measure, the government quarantines part of the city, cutting off those inside the cordon from the rest of the populace. The story basically then alternates between these two areas, with each episode depicting the events of one day. (The season has 13 episodes, so there are 13 days to the story.)

The unfortunate souls in the quarantined area (most of whom got stuck there because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time) include a teacher herding a group of children on a school trip to the hospital, a police officer with some sort of personal issue arriving at the same hospital with a sick patient, and a doctor at the hospital working on finding a cure.

Outside the hospital, the audience also gets to see what’s going on with a pregnant teenager and her not-so-nice mum who runs the town’s grocery store, and a bunch of workers camping out at their office, eating everyone else’s food in the pantry.

Containment.

Thirty minutes to lunchtime. Wooohooo.

Outside of the cordoned-off area are the people from the Centers for Disease Control, the police, a reporter and various individuals who are not happy that they’re being kept apart from their loved ones.

Containment kicks off in a similar vein to Lost – amid extreme chaos. But unlike Lost, where we could immediately home in on one character to guide us through the crazy situation and make sense of it, Containment’s pilot lacks focus as it insists on showing way too many characters at one go. Hey, don’t blame us for not caring about any of these characters … we just don’t know them. And to be honest, the opening scene doesn’t make us curious to find out more about any of them either.

Maybe the intent of this chaotic scenario is to shock the audience into paying close attention to what follows, which is the backstory of how each of these characters came to be in this situation. Well, in this day and age when The Walking Dead continues to push the envelope where post-apocalyptic survival is concerned, Containment doesn’t work very well – or at all, for that matter.

What Containment proves immediately is that there are still many ways for a series to go wrong despite having a strong basis for good drama. While it’s a great idea, dividing the storytelling geographically and by predicament, it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre (Contagion and World War Z come to mind as more successful examples). Maybe that’s where it fumbles, having to stretch its premise beyond the two hours of a typical movie but with no idea how to achieve that. Well, not until Episode Five anyway.

Containment.

Its never a good idea to keep your visor up during a virus outbreak … no matter how attractive you are.

The fumbling is especially apparent in the first three episodes where so many things and characters are crammed into each episode but everything just stagnates.

Containment is also hampered by the fact that it lacks any likeable character for the audience to cheer on to survive the epidemic. It’s telling when you start to cheer for the virus, if only in the hope of a gruesome death scene.

End-of-the-world scenarios are usually a good way to show how different individuals react when placed in terrible circumstances. Some people thrive in crisis, while others don’t – but both should provide compelling human stories.

Here, policeman Jake (Chris Wood) is constantly acting pissy because he is not “supposed to be” trapped in the quarantined area. He wants to go home and have a barbeque. Isn’t a police officer trained to be calm under duress and forge on? Why does Jake lose it all the time? Is the subplot here so that the young and attractive teacher (Kristen Gutoskie) can come around and scold him for acting like a child? If that is the case, then these two should be on a different kind of show.

On the other side of the fence (literally) we have Major Lex (David Gyasi), who is in charge of policing the scared community. The thing is, he is more irritating than convincing.

Other top contenders for “most annoying character with the most useless storyline” include the pregnant teenager (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) and Lex’s girlfriend (Christina Marie Moses). Please, both of you, get infected already and stop wasting everyone’s time.

Apologies to actor George Young, but his character (Dr Victor Cannerts) is so colourless that every time he gets close to a patient you want to see blood projectile-vomited at his face. You know, just for the heck of it.

Only at the end of the third episode does something new happen – the Internet is cut off, which means the people on the inside can no longer communicate with those outside the cordoned area. This subplot continues into the next episode, where some character development of sorts also takes place (finally!).

Apologies to actor George Young, but his character (Dr Victor Cannerts) is so colourless that every time he gets close to a patient you want to see blood projectile-vomited at his face. You know, just for the heck of it.

Only at the end of the third episode does something new happen – the Internet is cut off, which means the people on the inside can no longer communicate with those outside the cordoned area. This subplot continues into the next episode, where some character development of sorts also takes place (finally!).

Jake’s storyline especially gets much better in both the fourth and fifth episodes – here at last is some semblance of a character we can actually root for.

Add a conspiracy involving Dr Cannerts, and hints that the people in charge may not have everyone’s interests at heart, and the series finally has its viewers intrigued.

Unfortunately, the folks behind Containment failed to inoculate it against the one fate no TV show likes to meet so soon: cancellation.

Containment airs every Monday at 8.25pm on Fox HD (Astro Ch 724).




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