Third-episode verdict: Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4 for Summer airing

“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.”

– Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

There is a yawning gulf between the ambitions of Containment and their implementation. An adaptation of Belgium’s Cordon, it sees a Syrian migrant come to Atlanta, Georgia, apparently infected with a bio-engineered avian flu that kills 100% of people who comes into bodily contact with him and anyone they subsequently infect. The US authorities decide that the best thing to do is erect a cordon sanitaire around the infected area, in an effort to stop the disease spreading. But is there more to the story than this and will the cordon be effective?

So far, so catnip to TMINE, which does love a good killer virus story. But as we discovered from the first episodeContainment is desperate to be down with the kids. This isn’t the story of a terrible threat to the world, of bioterrorism, of secret government conspiracies. This is “yes, there is a terrible threat to the world, but can we talk about our relationship now? Ooh, look! Someone’s posted something on Twitter!”

I kid you not – the horrifying cliffhanger at the end of episode three is (spoiler alert) the cordoned off area loses its Internet and mobile phone access. Maybe that sends shivers down the spine of the previous average CW viewer, but I’m actually the median age of the current crop and it simply made me laugh, so it’s probable the show has misjudged its audience.

The show also doesn’t seem to know if it has a point. Despite its pretensions at wisdom, it’s one part “don’t believe the government”, with its suggestion that the bioweapon might have been engineered by the US government, perhaps to justify further military action in Syria as retaliation for its supposed act of terrorism, to one part “trust in authority”, as it’s very clear that its dogged Internet journalist (Trevor St John) is behaving very irresponsibly by telling people the truth about the outbreak and what’s happening, since people can’t be trusted to behave sensibly and they really just need to do what the government is telling them. It’s a universal cynicism that could possibly be summarised as “trust in yourself and other good people”, but that’s ultimately the same empty philosophy that leads to all those people behaving irresponsibly because they know what’s right.

Otherwise, the action is mainly emotional. As soon as anyone has to make a hard decision, they have to have a little 😢. The investigation of the conspiracy theory largely consists of goodie cop 👼🏿 (David Gyasi) being 😡 at suspicious government doctor 😈 (Claudia Black) to tell him what’s really going on and her refusing, while 👺 (St John) is 😡 at  👼🏿 as he’s such a government stooge, both of which leave 👼🏿 feeling 😰. Meanwhile, couples, who are inevitably on either side of the cordon, spend their time wanting to 🏃🏻to the other and feeling 😰 when they can’t. And everyone inside the cordon is just 😡 they can’t get out because it’s just so unfair and wishing they had 😷 and 🍞.

It doesn’t help either that most of the show’s big, horrifying reveals are just basic science. What’s that, early third-episode reveal? Everyone inside the cordon might get sick and die because they’re near the sick people? Stunning. Who’d have thought it? Why didn’t the government tell us that sooner?

Containment is basically low-rent bobbins for people who quite fancy watching The Walking Dead but find it a bit too slow and scary, and wish there was more texting in it. Nothing about it rings true, the emotional challenges people face are trite and ersatz, there have been approximately two Southern accents deployed the entire season, and no one seems that interested in suggesting any real terror. Avoid.

Barrometer rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? Yes
TMINE prediction: A limited series so supposedly wouldn’t be coming back for more episodes anyway, but if there were any plans for a second season, I imagine they’re being dropped ASAP


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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