Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Review - 'Containment', Episode 11 - 'Nothing Gold Can Stay'

While the previous episode of Containment had been a rather uneventful one, overall, it did still manage to bring things to a close with two equally important plot-threads – both of which are carried forward as we move into the show's eleventh episode.

The first concerns Lex's attempt at an ultimatum for Dr Sabine Lommers, as he attempted to force her to resign following the revelation that she was somehow involved in the attempted cover-up of outbreak's true origin. Here, we had the 'conspiracy' plot-line finally brought properly into the spot-light, in a genuinely interesting way. Then, we also had the element of tragedy brought about by the revelation that Katie was actually infected, after all – despite the previous episode seeming to go out of its way to suggest that everything was fine. On this note, though, there was still the faint glimmer of hope to be found in the fact that Dr Cannerts was still desperately working on some form of treatment.

Regarding the 'conspiracy' plot-line – things took a dark, though not entirely unexpected, turn within moments of the episode opening. Rather than announcing her resignation at the press conference, as Lex had attempt to intimidate her into doing, Dr Lommers instead managed to skilfully turn the whole situation to her advantage – laying the blame for the outbreak entirely at the feet of Dr Cannerts, while giving the impression of being completely innocent. This new development left Lex reeling, as he grasped for whatever support he could find – while Leo, meanwhile, suggests that it might be time to give up their quest for the truth entirely, now that they have been so thoroughly out-played. There is still so much about this cover-up that hasn't been revealed to the audience, yet – but, the idea of Dr Lommers being re-cast in an almost villainous role, as she proves more than willing to sacrifice others for the sake of her own career and reputation, definitely adds an interesting new element of complexity to the whole situation.

On a more purely emotional level, there was the issue of how much longer Katie had left, now that it had been revealed that she was infected. Obviously, the usual standards of contrived television plotting would suggest that Dr Cannerts' last-ditch efforts to develop some form of treatment would prove to be successful – and, that she would ultimately survive. But, as the episode progressed, it became more and more apparent that this wasn't necessarily what the writers had in mind. Instead of a simple cure, that would have cheapened the moment of reveal which ended the previous episode, what we get, instead, is a sense of genuine, and inevitable, tragedy as it becomes increasingly evident that Katie might not actually survive, after all.

It's a sequence of events which leads us directly to some of the best scenes that the series has had, so far – with Katie and her young son, Quentin, sharing some particularly effective moments, together. In the role of Quentin, Zachery Unger has often given a perfectly serviceable performance – but, without the opportunity to truly be exceptional. Here, though, the young actor is finally given the chance to prove that he can hold his own alongside his older co-stars – and, he makes the most of it.

While Katie and Jake have shared a variety of effective scenes together, over the course of the series, I do have to admit that I have occasionally had a bit of trouble accepting their rapidly developing relationship. The speed with which they progressed from being vaguely interested in each other to being entirely committed to the idea of a long-term relationship has always felt a little contrived, to me. For that reason, unfortunately, I still found that I wasn't entirely won over by the scenes that they shared, in this episode – but, it is difficult to deny that Kristin Gutoskie and Chris Wood were each equally committed to given their best performances.

Dr Cannerts, meanwhile, is in the process of making a very interesting transition into a genuinely sympathetic character, as he finds himself dealing both with the fact that his own superiors were willing to make him a scapegoat and with the likelihood that his efforts to save Katie might prove to be futile. The scene in which he felt compelled to finally confess his own small part in covering up the identity of the true 'Patient Zero' was the best moment we have seen from the character, so far – and, George Young did a great job of portraying that sense of repressed guilt and grief.

To add some element of positivity to the episode, we also had Bert's (Charles Black) desperate efforts to make his way home, with the medication that his wife, Micheline (Sandra Ellis Lafferty), needs – despite being left severely injured during the riot of a couple of episodes ago. Given how increasingly bleak things are for the rest of the cast, it is probably fair to say that this episode needed the lighter element that Bert provided, here.

I do have to admit, though, that I didn't much care for the idea that it would be Jana, of all people, who would come to Bert's aid as he struggled to make his way home, to his wife. The whole idea that, with all of the other people who are also trapped in the containment zone, the only person willing to stop and help him would be another of the show's main cast of characters created a sense of this fictional world just being a bit too small, for me – as though we are expected to believe that no one beyond this small group of individuals would have been willing, or able, to do the same.

I'm sure it must have seemed like a good idea to have Jana and Bert cross paths, liks this – but, honestly, I think that the scene would have been more effective if it had been an entirely new character who had come to Bert's aid. It would have been a simple, though effective, way of broadening the scope of the series a little, and of suggesting that there are other people, beyond the show's main cast, who are also just trying to get by as best they can.

That's just a matter of personal preference, though. Bert and Micheline may only be supporting members of the cast – but, the attention that they receive, here, was still very much appreciate.

The end result of all of this is that the eleventh episode of Containment is easily the best of the series, so far. With its focus on Katie's rapid deterioration, and the reactions of those closest to her, the episode manages to reach a level of genuine emotional drama that it has, occasionally, failed to reach in the past. Also, now that the 'conspiracy' plot-thread has come to be centred around a particular individual, there is a renewed sense of focus and urgency which should, hopefully, carry the series toward a genuinely compelling finale.

There are only two episodes left – so, hopefully, that will prove to be the case.

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