'Containment' Needs To Make Us Care About Characters Other Than Jake Riley
Two episodes from the finale of the limited series run, 'Containment''s characters are underdeveloped and the plot is focused on the wrong things.
The body count is climbing inside the cordon, as people attempt to stay safe, sane and calm in the face of a deadly virus without phone lines, the internet, or radio communications. Following Leo Greene’s (Trevor St. John) article, which exposed the location of a fire escape, a possible way out of the cordon, Dr. Lommers (Claudia Black) and her associates thought it best to send the entire zone into the dark ages to avoid spreading panic (and information).
This week, Theresa (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) and her mother are held at gunpoint in their store. Twice. Xander (Demetrius Bridges) attempts to make his way inside the cordon to get Theresa, and Lex (David Gyasi) tries to juggle his professional responsibility with his compassion for the kid and his concern for Jana (Christina Marie Moses). Xander does eventually make his way in and sends a message to Leo Greene, thanking him for his help, and revealing to Greene that his friends (who may or may not be a couple? It’s pretty ambiguous) are dead.
Jana and the others from BitScan are still holding out in their top-floor office suite and Jana attempts to modify her phone to call outside the cordon with some spare components and an antenna from the top of the building. It works, and even though Lex doesn’t pick up the first time she calls (oops), she does eventually get ahold of him and their brief interaction by phone, voicemail, and drone uncovers a big part of the reason why Lex is struggling with his position as the face of the cordon.
Katie (Kristen Gutoskie), Quentin (Zachary Unger) and Jake (Chris Wood) are still riding out the cordon in the hospital, and even though Jake is super busy with all of his police stuff, he finds time to help Katie fashion a monopoly board from a piece of cardboard and some cut-up pieces of paper. He reveals that he has the entire board memorized like it is a very cool and heroic thing. He also gets sort of assaulted by a drug addict in a pharmacy truck, gets a lesson in antiviral development from Dr. Cannerts (George Young), and is still burning bodies in all of his spare time.
By and large, Containment is still picking out some strange stuff to focus on in the wider landscape of the cordon. There’s still a lot that we don’t know, and although Lex hints at it briefly, it feels like we’re skipping over big parts of the narrative to focus on characters who are still sluggish and underdeveloped. Character beats come out of nowhere, personal histories are mentioned once as plot devices and have little impact going forward; personality traits pop up at random to suit the scene at hand.
It’s weird that Katie and Jake are suddenly playing house in the hospital, with Katie doing Jake’s laundry in a bathroom sink and Jake hanging out with Quentin and fetching Katie’s prescription from a nearby pharmacy on a supply run. There’s a scene at the end of the episode with Katie and Jake raiding a lost and found full of questionable clothing choices during which they have a conversation about personal flaws and imperfections.
It’s a nice sentiment, but ultimately falls a bit flat. The show is trying to set Jake up as a hero and is using Katie to do it; it feels weird and disingenuous. Katie doesn’t have a real storyline outside of Jake and that feels wrong — she shouldn’t be there just to further his character, but that’s what it feels like more and more.
We’re two episodes from the end of the limited series run and Containment’s still failing at the big stuff. These characters are hard to care about, the plot feels strung together, and the big questions we have about the issues and implications facing this cordon are going largely unanswered. For now, Containment remains a great concept that’s underexecuted and underexplored – and it’s a shame, really.
The show has opportunities for great character work and compelling plots involving these characters, but those chances are being squandered and it’s a pity. There might be a good show hiding somewhere in Containment, but until the series widens its scope, makes better use of its characters and focuses less on #manpain, it’s just not realizing its full potential.