Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Review - 'Containment', Episode 7 - 'Inferno'

For the past six episodes, Containment has been a series that seemed content maintaining a slow and steady pace. That brief 'flash-forward' that we saw in the first episode may have given us a fairly clear idea of what was coming – but, it soon became fairly clear that the series was going to take its time in actually reaching that point.

In theory, it has always felt as though that was probably the right choice. After all, with more time devoted to giving us the opportunity to actually get to know this varied cast of characters, the tension and drama that was certain to come (eventually) could only prove to be more effective. Unfortunately, in practise, this hasn't always proved to be the case.

Jana and her little group of survivors, for example, aren't characters that I have ever felt any particular connection to – regardless of how much screen-time has been devoted to them, since the series began. As a whole, they have tended to feel somewhat bland and undeveloped, especially when compared to those members of the cast who have been able to make a better impression. Jana, herself, has occasionally felt like a character whose only real reason for existing was to add a bit of extra drama to Lex's story-line – though, to be fair, the most recent episodes do seem to have gone some way toward correcting this.

The previous episode, though, had managed to end things on a very interesting note for Jana and her friends. First, there was the inclusion of Theresa and Xander (two of the more immediately likable characters to appear on the series) into their little group. Then, there was the immediate raising of the stakes, when they discovered that Theresa's mother had slipped the satellite phone into their bag only moments before a member of the gang that had taken over the family store arrived, with Theresa's mother as a hostage, determined to get it back.

The tense stand-off that was certain to result from this little development seemed to promise that the seventh episode of Containment would, hopefully, provide the boost of tension and action that the series seemed to need. While this did, ultimately, prove to be the case with this episode, oddly enough the real threat to their safety proved to come from another direction, entirely.

With Jake arriving just in time to provide a last minute rescue, the gang-member was forced to flee – only for the episode's true threat to be revealed moments later, when the group of drug-addled thugs who had been causing trouble of the past few episodes suddenly launched a full-scale attack on Jana's safe haven. What do they want? Well, as it turns that the data recovery centre where Jana, and her friends, have been hiding out since the outbreak began also happens to hold all of the chemicals a group of meth-heads could possible want to cook up some more drugs.

With a horde of crazed junkies desperate to force their way into the data recovery centre through any means necessary, this episode of Containment seemed to take on very overt elements of classic 'zombie horror' – and, it was all genuinely entertaining. Seeing this group of desperate survivors force to fight back, using whatever weapons they could find, made for some of the best moments we have seen on the series, so far.

As reasons for large-scale violence go, it all bordered on completely absurd – but, at the same time, it's difficult to deny that this sort of development is exactly what the series needed. Although, I do have to admit that the moment in which one of the meth-heads suddenly bit Theresa's mother, leaving her potentially infected, came across as unintentionally funny – since it left me with the strong impression that the writer's had momentarily forgotten that they weren't actually writing a 'zombie outbreak' story.

More importantly, though, the devastation left behind by this sudden attack is exactly what was needed to actually get me, at least somewhat, invested in these characters. Jana was given many opportunities to prove herself as both brave and competent, throughout the episode – and, as a result, finally began to stand on her own, as something other than 'Lex's girlfriend'. Jake was given plenty of opportunities to further cement his status as the most traditional 'hero' character, on the series. Dennis (Yohance Myles), a character has been present since the beginning but who has also never made much of an impression, also had some great moments – with his somewhat amusing attempts at bravado ending in very real fear when he finally found himself in danger.

Outside of the cordon, meanwhile, Lex's plot-line takes a series of increasingly odd turns throughout the episode. First, it became increasingly obvious that his time as the person in charge of maintaining the security of the containment wall has come to an end, now that the National Guard has arrived. Then, we receive an unexpected bit of insight into Lex's own background, when we are suddenly introduced to his father – an angry and resentful man who, it seems, lost his own position in the police force as a result of the machinations of a racist superior officer. And, finally, we have Lex set on following in Xander's footsteps, when he makes an attempt to break into the containment zone after receiving a desperate call from Jana – only to find himself placed under arrest.

It was a strange, and somewhat unfocused, series of developments for Lex – and, his time on-screen just didn't seem to add anything to the episode. The strangest detail, though, is that the previous episode's newly formed partnership between Lex and Leo seems to have been pushed aside. It makes sense, of course – with Lex currently relying on Jake to get the corrupted data he was able to recover to Jana, so that she can restore it, there really isn't anything that either of them can do to push forward the 'conspiracy' plot-thread, just yet. But, it does create an odd sense that Lex's time on-screen, here, is really just a case of the episode spinning its wheels, once again. Honestly, I never thought I would say this when the character was introduced, but I think that Leo's absense actually hurt the episode, somewhat – at least, as far as Lex was concerned. Although, that being said, the fact that Lex ended the episode in the custody of the National Guard does promise to add some fairly significant new complications, in the future.

Overall, this episode's focus on action felt like exactly that the series needed. While, in the past, Containment has been a series which has been able to get some mileage out of its fascinating premise, and its moments of genuine character drama, this would have to be the first episode in which the series has managed to be genuinely tense and exciting. Although it wasn't entirely without its faults, that fact alone would have to make this the most succesful episode of Containment, so far.

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