Thursday, 12 May 2016

Review - 'Containment', Episode 4 - 'With Silence And Tears'

While the first two episodes of the season suffered, somewhat, by focusing on establishing the 'viral outbreak' premise at the expense of development its cast of characters, the third episode seemed to manage to find a good balance between the two. For the fourth episode, though, the series seems to have made a complete 180 degree turn – with the viral outbreak seeming to be pushed more into the background, as we spend more time with those who find themselves caught up in it.

On the surface, this would seem to be exactly the sort of shift in focus that Containment would seem to need – the fact that very few of these character had been able to make any sort of lasting impression had, after all, been my main issue with the series, so far. Although, to be fair, the end result of all of this was an episode which, in comparison to what we have already seen, did feel rather slow.

Lex remains the most interesting character that we have met, so far – and, the increasingly difficult situation that he finds himself in definitely serves as the most intriguing aspect of Containment. With this episode, in particular, we find Lex caught up in a genuinely compelling moral quandary. Still reeling from Dr Lommers' decision to cut off all forms of communication into the containment zone, Lex now finds himself required to deliver public announcements that he happens to know, for a fact, simply aren't true. Publicly claiming that the situation within the containment zone is under control, while privately knowing exactly how increasingly desperate efforts to contain the virus has become, has begun to play on Lex's conscience in a very profound way – and, for the audience, the result is a genuinely fascinating character arc. It also doesn't hurt that, so far, David Gyasi has done a great job of portraying this increasingly complex figure.

Unfortunately, by contrast, Jana remains the show's weakest link. Up until this point, it has seemed that her only true purpose for even existing was to add a bit of extra drama to Lex's story, by giving him an emotional connection to the tragedy currently taking place on the other side of the quarantine walls. Admittedly, things to start out rather promisingly for Jana in this episode, though – with her using her technically expertise to get passed the block on communications by, basically, constructing her own phone. It felt like exactly the sort of pro-active decision-making the the show's weakest character needed to finally stand out – and, by revealing her technical expertise in this way, it also managed to give the impression that we would be seeing more of her resourceful, in the future.

Unfortunately, for now, the end-point of this sub-plot amounted to little more than Jana briefly making contact with Lex, and adding a bit of extra drama to his own story. In the end, it was just something of an anti-climax – and, also, something of a waste of screen-time. It also doesn't help that none of the characters that exist alongside Jana, in their secure little sanctuary, are anymore interesting than she is.

Elsewhere, we had a handful of interesting little character moments for the rest of the cast. Leo Greene, the video blogger who had caused so much difficulty for Lex in the previous episode, is given the opportunity to slowly transition from smug and unlikable antagonist to a more sympathetic figure, here, as the very genuine concern he feels for the contacts he had within the containment zone is revealed. Since it seems as though the series is clearly moving toward Lex and Leo working together to uncover whatever deeper mysteries might be at work, here, any time spent trying to humanise Leo feels worthwhile.

Xander (Demetrius Bridges), meanwhile, sets out on a personal quest to break into the containment zone – determined to be there to support Theresa (Hanna Mangan Lawrance), and their unborn child. It's reckless, sure – but, it's a form of recklessness that comes across as feeling very real. It also brings Xander directly into the centre of the drama, in a very interesting way, as his efforts bring him into direct confrontation with Lex, before earning some unexpected support from Leo.

Theresa and her mother, meanwhile, find themselves caught up in an increasingly dangerous situation as the store which they own and operate is taken over by not one, but two, different gangs. While I do have to admit that this whole sequence of events, with one violent gang showing up just in time to interfere with another, is a coincidence that comes across as almost farcical, it does still manage to promise some interesting moments of tension in the future – especially when Xander, too, manages to stumble into this dangerous situation.

Elsewhere, Jake Riley and Katie Frank manage to add some surprising, though much needed, moments of levity to the episode with the entertaining rapport that has built up between them. Along with Katie's young son, Quentin (Zachery Unger), the three seem to be slowly entering into an odd family dynamic which actually manages to feel very natural. Watching the three of them working together to try to recreate a Monopoly board, or Jake and Katie flirting while trying on a variety of funny hats that Jake had pilfered, probably amount to the most natural moments of human interaction with have had on the show, so far. Sure, it's all likely to end in tragedy as the season runs its course – but, for now, their moments of interaction are proving to be a good source of genuine warmth, and good-natured humour.

In the end, the basis of this episode was purely on providing us with moments of interaction between its cast of characters. It may not have been the most exciting episode, sure – but, for my part, the time spent providing these character with further development was very much appreciated. Lex remains the best part of the series, for me – though, thanks to this episode, characters who I had been largely ambivalent about, before now, have started to grow on me. It was a very slow, and somewhat uneventful, episode, though – so, while a moment of calm like this can occasionally be useful, I am left hoping that the pace will pick up a bit in the next episode.

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