RogerBW's Blog

Braindead 25 April 2017

2016 political science fiction, 13 episodes. Alien insects are taking over American politicians. This causes surprisingly little disruption.

"Nothing dates faster than satire", said someone whose details I can't now locate, and it's particularly true of this series: it's a perfect capstone to the world of pre-Trump procedural shenanigans and government shutdowns, but it all became obsolete just as soon as one party got a leader who was prepared simply to ignore the rules.

But before that… the point of the show, which is both where it works and where it fails, is the tension between satire and the serious dramatic story of an alien invasion by unconventional means. Sometimes, as in the earliest episodes, the two tensions blend well; sometimes they pull the thing apart, such as in the episode which is clearly set up to be The One About Torture, which is too satirical to work as drama and too dramatic to work as satire.

Still, the writing is snappy, direction doesn't get in the way of storytelling, and the cast do an excellent job. For all Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems to be trying too hard to channel her inner Aubrey Plaza, she manages to convince as Laurel Healy, a would-be documentary filmmaker working for her senator brother, and one of the first to find out about the bugs. Johnny Ray Gill shines as a man willing to believe anything if it aligns with his paranoia. Tony Shalhoub as one of the leaders of the infected is, if anything, too convincing.

I think the problem may be that the show's trying too hard to be balanced, to keep both Democrats and Republicans from being offended by the depictions of Their Party. Here's a dig at one side, so wait for it, there's a dig at the other. This ends up being anodyne rather than digging satirical teeth into the promising subject matter.

But if you don't mind weakness in the satire, the dramatic story is a good one, and the series as a whole is nearly as clever as it thinks it is. It didn't get renewed, but there is a conclusion.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 12:34pm on 25 April 2017

    "This causes surprisingly little disruption." Thanks for that sentence - it made my day!

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