It’s been done many times, but somehow television insists on feeding us apocalyptic stories. Containment is actually based on the Belgian series Cordon and has been developed by Julie Plec, who also created The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and The Tomorrow People. When the first trailer was released nearly a year ago, I actually had some high hopes because it seemed like the series could manage to stay away from common tropes and actually attempt at doing something different with a more serious and realistic tone. After watching last night’s Pilot, I’m lowering my expectations a bit.
I’m not going to be the one to judge an entire series based on its Pilot. I actually struggled through the first few episodes of The 100 and then binge-watched the whole thing in under three days (and so did many others). However, if Containment‘s pilot is any indication of what’s to come, then the series might not be as interesting as I had hoped for it to be. The Pilot was plagued with recurring tropes that we have become so tired of seeing in these kind of series: there’s couples getting separated for the sake of drama, flash-forwards to present times when it’s just pure chaos, an angry mob complaining…
The pacing and distribution of the events was also problematic. It would have probably been best if the first episode focused only on the introduction of the characters prior to the outbreak and then let the entrance of of Patient 0 in the hospital for the last minutes. While the characters were likable and it was quick to get familiarized with them, I can’t say that I care for any of them yet (I can’t even remember most of their names!). Even if the character interactions and the health federal investigation seemed to flow naturally together, it still felt like the focus was quickly switching from one thing to the other, which caused me to focus more on understanding the cause of the outbreak rather than on sympathizing with the characters who are going to be affected by it.
Speaking now of the disease itself, it seems to be some kind of bloody flu that turns their patients rabid for a short while and then ends up killing them. It’s not like zombies, so you don’t need to get bitten or scratched by them to get infected. Patient 0 was Sayid Nassir, a Sirian man, which makes the characters deduce it could be a matter of bioterrorism. Even if it’s just still a theory at this point in the story, the show manages to stay relevant with real life topics (especially considering this was written over a year ago), but I still can’t help but cringe when I think how this all relates to the current global debate on refugees in America (and over the world, for that matter). As a result of this speculation, they treat the outbreak as a matter of national security and put the whole city (Atlanta) under quarantine inside a cordon. This can be seen as the perfect setting for a show like this: put a bunch of humans inside a “box” and see how they react. Even if you can clearly see what the show is trying to do through the narrative, I believe this is also a quite interesting take on virus outbreaks. Very often, shows like this are all about viruses expanding all over the globe, but then they only focus in one area and they don’t explain what’s happening elsewhere. In Containment, the area is actually cordoned, so the decision is justified. The quarantine situations is meant to be a “temporary” fix, just “48 hours”, but we can already guess that that’s far from the truth (especially considering how they added that “Day 1” counter).
Overall, my first impressions of Containment are that it’s nothing extraordinary (yet?). We will have to wait and see how the story progresses. It could still do something different, but so far it comes out as a pretty basic set-up. If you generally like apocalyptic shows, you will probably enjoy the series because it’s still entertaining. However, if you want something different, you might want to wait it out to see if the series can pull a The 100 and actually bring something new to the table.