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Containment s01e01: Pilot

A review by Nalini Haynes

Containment is the US remake of European TV series Cordon, created by Carl Joos.

It is a hospital in Atlanta, USA, in the present. A doctor in isolation is questioned about a patient. Through the foggy haze of her diseased mind, she pieces together that she had physical contact with him when he took a pen from her to sign out as a patient.

Police hunt for the man who is an illegal immigrant.

His family are looking after him because he’s fallen ill. So have his family.

Alex Carnahan (David Gyasi) sends his friend to capture this illegal immigrant, to bring him in for questioning because people are rapidly falling ill with similar symptoms.

Everything goes to shit.

It’s tempting to explain all the threads of the story but interested viewers will want to watch the series for themselves. Suffice to say that there are several storylines introduced in this episode as an epidemic takes hold. A perimeter is established to prevent the disease spreading, hence the title Containment.

The pilot shows a number of relationships where couples are separated by the perimeter, developing human interest. The parallels with the Berlin Wall and other equally notorious walls should resonate with audiences.

Claudia Black is a medical expert brought in from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control); she’s convincing, dynamic and obnoxious in full measure. It’s good to see her in a significant role once more. She’s ageing well: it’s great to see her both looking her age and looking good on television. She’s rocking her 40s.

Containment passed the Bechdel Test because women talk to one another including one conflicted mother-daughter relationship where the mother wants her pregnant teen daughter to adopt the baby out. Furthermore, Claudia Black as Sabine Lommers is in charge, taking steps to protect the world while political animals dither and argue.

People of color have significant roles so Containment hasn’t been whitewashed. There’s a colored guy front and centre in the series poster!

However, authorities leap from Patient Zero being a ‘sick man’ to ‘biological terrorist’ upon learning that he’s Syrian. This was immediate and confronting. Patient Zero’s family are almost-innocent victims: they harbor him, knowing he’s an illegal immigrant hiding and not formally seeking asylum. Otherwise, the family’s innocence brings some balance to ‘Syrian sick man equals terrorist’ but I’m concerned about the impact on genuine Syrian refugees where this series is shown.

Containment looks like an excellent speculative fiction television series with a good budget, thoughtful and (fairly) well-researched writing. There are exceptions, like when two primary school children get past a locked door into the contagious diseases unit. Also, an employee, knowing the hospital is already in lockdown, chucks his ID at a couple of people then walks away in the full knowledge that they’ll go into the contagious diseases unit. Mostly it’s well-written.

My primary concern with Containment is that it may be like Threshold: Threshold had a good premise but was too bleak. It wasn’t until the last couple of episodes that tiny grains of hope were seeded. Without hope there isn’t much point following the story, which is probably why the series was axed after 13 episodes with no conclusion. I hope Containment doesn’t go down the same path.

The rapidity of events, the seriousness of an artificial virus and the real threat we face today from accidental or deliberate release of biological agents into the world make Containment relevant.

We can reveal in fear-based adrenaline while vicariously experiencing this drama, knowing that — for now — the story is fiction. Containment looks like a good science fiction/horror/thriller series so far. I hold out hope for an excellent series.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Director: David Nutter
Writers: Julie Plec, Carl Joos (based on his Cordon television series)
Stars: David Gyasi, Christina Marie Moses, Chris Wood

Containment: 5 characters face the front. Some are PoCs. /cheer

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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