BrainDead: Season 1
I pride myself on being fairly well into what television series are on the horizon but every so often something of significance gets past me. Because of this, I’m exceptionally thankful to receive preview screeners when the show eventually comes to DVD. The latest example of this was a series broadcast on the CBS network, ‘BrainDead.' The first thing that piqued my interest is that its representative of a hybrid genre combining political thriller and science fiction, A somewhat closer examination of the crafting of the series the first thing that is noticeable all the specifics of the contributing genres. On the political side, manifesting the thriller side is a familiar thematic motivation that has served as the foundation for some of the greatest films of this category. It concerns a sinister plot for sleeper agents to co-opt the American government from within. There are several degrees of similarity to such iconic movies as ‘Manchurian Candidate’ or ‘Seven Days in May.' Brilliantly executed the circumstances altered by the inclusion of the science fiction elements. Once again elements are borrowed from some of the great classics of sci-fi, particularly ‘Invasion of the Body Snatches’ or ‘Invaders from Mars’ with alien’s intent on taking over humanity by stealing the bodies of Earth’s population. The combination of these seminal themes on their own have great potential success but the show runners, Robert and Michelle King, took advantage of a particular event in the American political scene, a Presidential election. As it so happens, this election cycle is one of the most tumultuous, dirty and social media driven elections in history. The combination of all these factors was under normal circumstances be a recipe high potential success considering how unbelievably surreal this presidential campaign has been, an alien invasion targeting a political hierarchy somehow seems to be more believable than ever.
Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a documentarian producing films of exceptionally esoteric subjects that under the best of the condition happy extremely limited target audience. As with any documentary, filmmaker funding is crucial to the success of the project. For Laurel current project comes to a screeching halt funding falls through. She happens to be rather the black sheep of the family were known for their success in the political arena. A brother, Luke (Danny Pinto) is the Democratic Sen. from Maryland services the Majority Whip. Their father, Dean Healy (Zach Grenier), retired US Sen. who is still one of the major power brokers in DC. He is constantly pushing Luke to climb higher in the political hierarchy. He is also disappointed in Laurel was turned her back on the family business to become an unsuccessful documentarian. Because of the election, all of the power elite are scrambling to secure the positions. Dean is intent on coercing Laurel to help a brother offering her funding for her documentary film in return for one year of service. She demands a compromise of half funding for six months. He takes the position of Constituent Coordinator, which requires her to be the liaison between her brother and the people of his state. This function is as close to a fabricated job as possible requiring her to spend endless hours listening to the crackpot requests the people of Maryland. There’s a lot of resentment for Laurel from the rest of the staff because the government is on the verge of shutting down as a result of the unsigned federal budget the Congressional Republicans are blocking to undermine the Democratic majority. Leading the opposition is the senior senator from Maryland Republican Raymond "Red" Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub). At this point, an aspect that initially appeared to be an incidental side plot becomes crucial to the story. I’m here had been examined by a team of researchers were about to lose their funding. They require a mere $40 million to continue because of the deplorable economic situation of the government they are unable to obtain. Nobody seems to notice when ants emerge from the meteor and begin to call into the ears of people. Once there they begin eating the brain starts to lose out their ears. On occasion when the takeover is not only successful this scholar dramatically explodes. The purpose of the alien insects is to take over the bodies of the figures to manipulate the US government there on nefarious agenda. Initially, like the Republicans that come under their control when the need presents itself, the Democrats also targeted. There is a musical cue that indicates that the aliens have successfully possessed people. When there is a need to indicate someone has provided the extraterrestrial ants with a dinner of gray matter, seem obsessed with playing the song, ‘"You Might Think’ by The Cars. If you remember the video for this song back when MTV showed music videos, the themes included insects with human faces entering the head of people.
Frequently television sets are visible always tuned to one of the cable news networks. The images depict either Secretary Hillary Clinton or controversial entrepreneur, Donald Trump. This might initially appear to be little more than a plot contrivance taking advantage of the potentially dangerous election. After only a modicum of deeper consideration, it becomes apparent that there is a calculated plan at work. This provides temporal context informing the audience that this is happening now. By juxtaposing the fictional events with those that sufficiently dominant every minute of the news cycle that enfolds their lives.
Whenever a conspiracy theory acts as the major motivation for a story, a particular archetype is required, the lone investigator, a role filled by Gustav Triplett a.k.a. Dr. Bob (Johnny Ray Gill), an autodidactic polymath, entirely drawn into the mystery after witnessing an infected person’s head explode. He is the nucleus of an ad hoc resistance to the covert alien invasion. His investigation provides the initial understanding of what is going on. Eventually, jhe is joined in his mission by Rochelle Daudier (Nikki M. James), a medical doctor who befriends Laurel and Dr. Bob. Laurel was pulled into this quagmire when as part of her job she is contacted by a woman who convinced the man that looks like her husband is somehow not him. Laurel is trapped in a politically awkward position by a flirtatious relationship with Gareth Ritter (Aaron Tveit), a member of Senator Wheatus’ senior staff. There is romantic chemistry between them despite their political and ideological differences. This plot point infuses a touch ‘star-crossed lovers’ to the mix reinforcing the familiarity of some of the major themes. There is such ingenious craftsmanship behind this series is a true shame that it became canceled before its time. When a series comes along that displays such precision in its conception and implementation, it seems that all too frequently the studio network executives in charge of programming demonstrate such short-sightedness. The delicate balance between thrills, drama, suspense and comedy achieved with a rarely seen panache that made this show immediately infectious. Complications resulted from affairs between high ranking power players that add the ideal hint of salacious plot threads to humanize the series as a whole is combined with strong character arcs that flesh out the characters making them multi-dimensional and relatable. Tony Shalhoub is one of the best-known comic character actors who gathered a significant fan based during his eight-year run as the titular star on ‘Monk’ with an incredible eight consecutive Emmy nomination winning three of them. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been a sought after journeywoman actress for years making a substantial impact in the independent film community. It is talent such as this that brought a certain gravitas it the series without sacrificing an iota of its zany entertainment value.