Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Review - 'Containment', Episode 5 - 'Like A Sheep Among Wolves'







With Lex already struggling with the dubious morality of his role as the public face of containment efforts, there is a definite sense of escalating tension between him and Dr Sabine Lommers as Containment moves into its fifth episode.

With the situation in the quarantine zone seeming to steadily worsen, Lex wants nothing more than to play a more active role in actually helping the people currently trapped behind the containment wall. Fortunately, Lex gets his chance when Dr Lommers puts him in charge of a plan to deliver a shipment of food into the containment zone – though, unfortunately, he will have to do so without the support, or time to prepare, that he believes a food-drop would require.

Within the containment zone, the announcement of a food-drop proves to be an inevitable trigger for escalating tension. Realising that the role of maintaining order at the distribution point will, essentially, fall entirely on the shoulders of the seven officers still willing and able to stay on active duty, Lex is naturally concerned that the distribution of food within the containment zone can only possibly end in chaos. Meanwhile, within the containment zone, Jake finds himself in the unenviable position of leading these efforts – and, he happens to agree.

Their fears are, of course, quickly confirmed when the gang that took over the store belonging to Theresa's mother, in the previous episode, takes the opportunity to secure more power, and influence, for themselves in this increasingly chaotic situation. Forcing a tense stand-off with the police, there plan is a simple one – steal the supplies of food, in order to sell them back to the increasingly desperate citizens. Xander, meanwhile, finds himself in an unenviable position of his own – having successfully broken in to the containment zone to be with Theresa, only to find himself forced to take part in the gang's callous plans.

Honestly, this sort of situation felt like exactly what Containment needed. The distribution of food proved to be an effective catalyst for bringing much of the cast together, in a very natural way – giving character who hadn't had much opportunity to interact, before now, the opportunity to briefly cross paths. It also allowed for some suitably tense moments, with Jake forced to come to the uncomfortable realisation that, within the containment zone, the police are both out-gunned and out-numbered.

The food distribution even gave Jana (a character who hasn't been able to make much of an impression on me, despite the seeming importance placed on her) some more room to grow as a character, as she ventures out along to secure more food for her own small group of survivors. Ultimately, this sub-plot served two, equally useful, purposes for Jana, as a character.

First, it provided her with a great scene with Jake, as the two briefly came face-to-face. It is strange to have to admit that I actually find Jana and Jake's relationship to be more convincing now, when explored through her conversation with others, then I did when they were actually able to share screen-time – but, that seems to be exactly the position I find myself in, here. David Gyasi and Christina Marie Moses didn't seem to have all that much in the way of natural chemistry in their few scenes together – but, the more distant the memory of those awkward scenes become, the easier it is for me to accept that they are, actually, two people in love.

Second, her journey out of her secure little sanctuary placed her firmly in what would easily count as the tensest moment of the episode, as she finds herself required to make her way through a car-park full of scavengers. The last minute rescue, as she found herself cornered, might have been expected, at this point – but, it still provided an entertaining moment of action.

Overall, along with the very genuine sense of tension, this episode also provided a variety of great character moments. Jake and Jana's brief moment of interaction was much appreciated, as I've already said – but, we also had some genuinely moments between Bert (Charles Black), and his wife (who, for those still trying to keep track, is also Theresa's grandmother) Micheline (Sandra Lafferty), that managed to be both funny and genuinely touching. Theresa, herself, might have been oddly absent for this episode – but, the sense of quiet moral outrage that Xander clearly feels at finding her family's story taken over, and finding himself pressed into service working with a criminal gang, also promises to lead somewhere very interesting, in the future.

But, the true high-light, though, is the interaction we see between Jake and Lex, in their brief meetings in the shipping container converted into an point of entry into the containment zone. With David Gyasi and Chris Wood proving to have an easy rapport that feels very natural, in their respective roles, it seems like a shame that these moments of interaction are likely to always be somewhat rare.

Just in case we didn't fully appreciate the severity of the situation, this episode also takes the time to introduce us to a young girl left homeless within the quarantine zone. There are two separate scenes devoted to showing her poking through garbage looking for food, before the inevitable reveal that she is, actually, already infected. Then, the next we hear of her, she has died. Honestly, the writer's might have been laying it on a bit thick, here – but, I suppose I can understand the need to inject more moments of genuine tragedy. After all, without moments like this, the whole situation would lack that sense of 'reality' that the show is clearly aiming for. It is a shame that, in the end, this young character really only seemed to exist to provide more drama for Jake, after he briefly encounters her – but, it's also difficult to deny that Jake's reaction to her death felt very real.

Elsewhere, we also had more development on the 'cover-up' plot-thread that has been hinted at since the first episode – with Katie Frank's curiosity about the earliest moments of the outbreak eventually leading her to the realisation that the young Syrian man labelled as 'Patient Zero' couldn't have been the first infected, since he wasn't the first to die.

It's an interesting development, sure – and, it also provides some effective moments of 'dramatic irony', with the audience already well aware that Dr Cannerts is lying when he attempts to dismiss her concerns. But, I do have to admit that I am a little worried about where this 'cover-up' aspect of the series might be headed.

The idea of there being more behind the outbreak than what we were, initially, led to believe is not the issue for me, of course. A touch of mystery can only enhance the drama of the season, going forward, after all. But, then, we have the episode end with a twist that seems to push these hints at a likely cover-up into the realm of full-blown conspiracy – and, that's where I have an issue. Keeping in mind that I have no way of knowing exactly where things are headed, here, I still find myself feeling a bit worried that, if this conspiracy proves to be too vast and far-reaching, it could just end up undermining the veneer of realism that this series has tried to create. At worst, it could just end up all feeling a bit silly.

That hasn't happened yet, though. So, for now, I suppose I should just try to give the series the benefit of the doubt.

So far, Containment has proved to be a somewhat inconsistent series. But, it has been one that has, also, always seemed to have the potential to grow into something genuinely interesting. By managing to find a good balance between genuine tension, and effective moments of quiet drama, the season's fifth episode probably provides the best example of that potential that we have seen, so far. If Containment can continue to build on what has been established here, then it is a series that still has plenty of time to grow into something genuinely fascinating.

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