TV Series Review: Containment

containmentI watched the last episode of a CW limited TV series Containment last night and it was powerful. In fact, the entire series is extremely impressive, and I don’t say that much about television anymore.

Here’s the series summary from Wikipedia:

Containment is an American limited series, based on the Belgian TV series Cordon. The show was officially ordered as a series by The CW on May 7, 2015, and debuted on April 19, 2016. The series follows an epidemic that breaks out in Atlanta, leaving a section of the city cordoned off under quarantine and those stuck on the inside fighting for their lives.

Oh, no wonder it seems original, it’s based on a television series from another country.

Actually, the Wikipedia description hardly covers it.

The show starts out at Day 13 of the containment with National Guard troops entering the cordon, the area is surrounded by barbed wire fences and stacks of cargo containers to form a solid barrier, to suppress a riot. Entry and exit to and from the cordon is controlled through certain of the containers guarded first by police, and then by soldiers as desperation escalates.

Jump back to Day One. Supposedly, patient zero, is a young Syrian man who has just arrived in Atlanta. Sick, he goes to a hospital emergency room but leaves against medical advice…but not before infecting his doctor. The doctor dies horribly hours later, hemorrhaging blood from every orifice.

Then our cast of characters are slowly introduced, a collection of individuals and families who, on the surface, seem to have nothing to do with each other, but a little at a time, how they are connected is revealed.

As the infection, supposedly a mutated flu virus that is 100% fatal in every case, spreads, Dr. Sabine Lommers (played by Claudia Black) from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) takes charge under federal jurisdiction, and orders a Cordon Sanitaire, around an area of Atlanta which includes the hospital. This traps 4,000 people inside with no way to escape, leaving them at constant risk of exposure and death. This was only supposed to last 48 hours, but then things go horribly wrong.

Lommers enlists the aid of Police Major Alex ‘Lex” Carnahan (David Gyasi) to maintain order. Carnahan has a reputation for being trusted and it is believed his influence will keep people inside and outside the cordon from panicking. However, from the beginning, it seems he is a pawn of Lommers, caught between doing his duty and discovering the truth, a truth that we begin to see, is being concealed from the police and everyone in the cordon, including the true identity of patient zero and how he was originally infected.

A rogue reporter Leo (Trevor St. John) tries to warn Lex that he’s being played, and while Lex doesn’t want to believe it, Leo presents evidence that begins to convince him.

Only about ten police officers are in the cordon, principally Jake (Chris Wood) one of Lex’s officers, who has to take charge of this living hell in spite of the threat of deadly infection, violent drug addicts, looters, and gangs.

Jake meets and falls in love with a school teacher Katie Frank (Kristen Gutoskie) who was visiting the hospital with her class of children, including her son Quentin (Zachary Unger), when the cordon was declared.

People must not touch each other and must remain four to six feet apart, and yet a tremendous amount of intimacy is communicated between Jake and Katie, simply by spending time with each other.

Among the others trapped inside are Jena (Christina Marie Moses), Lex’s girlfriend and pregnant teenager Teresa (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) whose boyfriend Xander (Demetrius Bridges) breaks into the cordon to protect her and their unborn child. Jena takes the lead in protecting a small band of refuges, including Teresa and Xander, from the dangers of the cordon.

At the hospital, medical researcher Dr. Victor Cannerts is desperately seeking a cure for the virus…but Jake and Katie, with Jena’s help, discover that he has a hidden agenda.

The ensemble cast are brilliant, the writing is first-rate, and the level of suspicion and suspense, of heartbreak and tragedy, is consistently compelling in each and every episode. It’s wonderful tale of mystery, betrayal, conspiracy, and heroism. The situation inside the cordon brings out the best and the worst in each person, both those trapped inside, and those on the outside trying to rescue them.

A recap of the series finale was published at TVLine.com (warning: Spoilers!).

When I first saw this was a limited series, I expected it to be a summer filler that, by the final episode, would wrap everything up. Well, it did and didn’t. Most of the strings were tied up, the real villain behind the conspiracy is called to the carpet, and Cannerts finds an important clue to a cure. But by the end of the series, 4,000 people are still trapped inside, and people are still getting sick. That’s on Day 19.

containment 2Only one person gets out, and he’s someone I didn’t want to escape.

People die, and in ways not for the faint of heart, so if you don’t like seeing blood, you may want to close your eyes during certain scenes.

People die, and you learn to love them before they do. The sense of injustice and tragedy is woven heavily through the fabric of this show, especially the final episode. I was particularly heartbroken at the fate of Bert (Charles Black) and his wife Micheline (Sandra Ellis Lafferty).

I don’t know if the CW will make the entire series available at any point, but if they do, I highly recommend that you watch it. I haven’t been this enthralled by a television series for a long, long time.

In re-reading this review, I realize that I’m not able to communicate just how well this series worked, so please, please, if you get the chance, watch the limited TV show Containment. You won’t be sorry.

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