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'BrainDead' recap: 'Playing Politics'

Updated

Michael Parmelee /CBS

BrainDead

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
1
run date:
06/13/16
performer:
Tony Shalhoub, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Aaron Tveit
broadcaster:
CBS
genre:
Comedy, Drama, Horror

We may be only two episodes in, but BrainDead is quickly establishing itself as a show that refuses to be categorized. Is it a straight comedy? Is it a biting satire? Is it a gross-out horror? Sort of! Who knows? And just to muddy the waters even further, this episode adds a little whimsy, kicking off with our first extremely catchy musical recap, set to a jangly, folky acoustic guitar.

Sample lyrics: “Some kind of meteor came down; no one knows where it’s from. They shipped it off so they could study it in Washington. Guess what! It’s filled with space bugs and now they’re loose and eating people’s brains.”

Yeah, that about sums it up.

So here we are, two episodes in, and I may not be sure exactly what BrainDead is, but I do know I’m enjoying the ride so far. While the pilot suffered from the same thing every pilot suffers from — an overabundance of exposition/setup — the second episode showed Laurel getting down to business, trying to end the government shutdown, investigating Dr. Daudier’s exploding head, and (finally!) facing off against those space bugs, although she doesn’t have much luck. At the top of the episode, her own apartment is infested, and she quickly learns that traditional bug spray has no effect. Fortunately, she has the exact same reaction I would have upon learning bugs were invading my apartment: She gets the hell out of there. Good job, Laurel.

Side note: In addition to satirizing the partisan nature of D.C., BrainDead also takes aim at the cable news networks, switching between a Republican-leaning news channel (staffed by Misty Alise, a Megyn Kelly look-alike) and a Democrat-slanted one (headed by Claudia Monarch, a Rachel Maddow doppelgänger). It’s not a subtle comparison, but it’s fun to watch the two channels report the exact same news, while always placing blame on the other side.

By the time Laurel gets into work, there’s an FBI agent named Anthony Onofrio waiting for her. (And Scarlett is berating him for wearing a flag pin/accusing him of being a fascist.) Together, they sit down to go over exactly what happened to Dr. Daudier, and Laurel explains that yes, his head really did explode. And no, she’s not sure why. That’s about all she’s got — except for the fact that it was really, really gross.

(One clever detail of note: Laurel’s office window looks right out at a statue of a man on horseback. The only thing is the man is facing away from the window, which means Laurel spends her days staring at a bronze horse’s rear end. Ah, Washington.)

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Even though the government is shut down, Laurel still has constituents to address. This time, it’s a young girl named Annie and her father. Annie has cancer, and the two are on a cross-country trip to visit a bunch of U.S. monuments and to raise money for cancer research. Their last stop is the Lincoln Memorial, but the only problem is that it’s closed due to the shutdown. Laurel’s moved by her story, so she tries to get her brother to help, but he quickly turns Annie into a political chess piece, taking her on national television and shaming the Republicans for the shutdown. The Republicans, for what it’s worth, dig up dirt on Annie and her father, spreading the word that her dad is a schoolteacher who’s not only an atheist, but one who taught his students that Lincoln was gay. It’s a disgusting moment for Laurel, especially when all she’s trying to do is help one little girl wade through the bureaucratic nonsense that is the government shutdown, but it at least ends on a positive note: Laurel manages to sneak her in to the memorial, and it’s a nice reminder that Laurel’s job isn’t always terrible. Sometimes, she actually gets to help people.

NEXT: Exploding head No. 2

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