Every drama’s best character is the Grim Reaper. Oh sure, you might think the best character is the wise-cracking best friend or the irascible grandmother, but no. The best character is the Grim Reaper. The tattered ghoul with bony fingers and old-timey gardening equipment might bum us out always and forever, but look at all the storytelling possibilities and pathos that death brings to a story! For example, Containment spent nine hours being borderline boring (save for the occasional meth head on a dirt bike), but then the Grim Reaper came trundling up to strike down its leading lady. And now, I hate to tell you this: Containment is wonderful and that’s the truth.
The reason I hate to tell you this is because Containment is likely finished after next week’s finale. Sure, The CW marketed it as a “limited series,” which is the TV version of making a self-deprecating joke before someone else can insult you. Containment is canceled. And the true tragedy is that, after last week’s episode and especially this week’s “Yes is the Only Living Thing,” Containment is finally a must-watch. A for effort, death. Better late than never.
One of the best occurrences on TV is when an actor returns to film scenes as a corpse. (Congratulations, Kristen Gutoskie!) I mean that; it would honestly be my dream job to play dead all day and get paid for it. But yes, despite any optimistic question marks after Katie’s death last week, this week’s episode confirmed the worst: She’s dead. Which meant that, yes, this week Jake had to clean up Katie’s corpse and push her into a furnace. The newfound love of his life! The scene was dark, even for The CW, and it opened an episode that never stopped being compelling. Grief is a hard topic to explore, so Containment kept things productive. Rather than wallow, Jake set out to accomplish something: Get drunk. It was on this mission to find booze that he encountered Jana, who informed him she was about to bounce, which reminded him he’d promised to help get Quentin out of the cordon somehow. We finally had a unifying goal just in time for the finale: Escape.
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The only thing more thrilling than watching all these plotlines dovetail — Teresa and Xander also joined the attempted exodus — was the similar way each character rustled up the $5,000 to pay their guide: Jewelry heists! Okay, fine — some of them acquired jewelry legally, but it was highly amusing to see Jake, Suzy, and Teresa immediately find expensive jewelry like they were Mardi Gras beads on a bar floor. (It was admittedly touching when Jake whispered “thank you” to the jars of ashes he’d grave-robbed.) So far, so good!
NEXT: Bad news
Then, in a particularly nasty twist, we learned the previous dude who’d attempted to exit the cordon had been murdered on sight by cops. This potentially poses a bit of a hiccup to the characters currently en route to that same exit, but it’s an issue best dealt with in next week’s finale. The truly tough part is that Lex is now personally supervising the future murders of anyone attempting to use the exit, which means we’re bound to see him forced to choose between allowing his friends to escape or watching them be gunned down. And again, after Katie’s demise, we now know anything’s possible. There very well could be a bloodbath in next week’s finale!
Speaking of Lex, he’s way more interesting as a gumshoe than as an authority figure. This week had him doing further investigation into the origins of the virus, tracking it back to the actual Patient Zero, an unfortunate animal researcher at a military base. But when Lex confronted Dr. Sabine with his new revelations and accusations, she reacted pretty much exactly as she should’ve: “Fight me later, fight the virus now.” AGREED. Like, sorry, all this conspiracy stuff might be interesting in the aftermath, but perhaps let’s get that cordon situation taken care of? Sorry to get too political guys, it’s just my opinion.
But back to the escape plan: Now that our characters have an actual goal besides, like, waiting, Containment itself had purpose. Even supporting characters like that dashing warlord felt more vivid and compelling, and I suddenly cared way more about the inconveniences of a micro-apocalypse. But the emotional through-line remained Jake’s loss of Katie, and a late-episode hallucination in which she visited him in his darkest hour felt earned and powerful. I was never truly charmed by their romantic banter earlier in the season, but now that she’s gone I actually do care about her? Death is tricky like that.
“Yes is the Only Living Thing” had the advantage of being a penultimate episode, and very often the penultimate episode is a TV season’s best. But the fact Containment is in the process of nailing its end-run is absolutely a relief to those of us who’ve stuck by it since the beginning. One wonders if it was even possible to generate this kind of urgency and initiative earlier in the season, or if all that set-up was truly necessary for greater impact. That question is for writers and producers to suss out, but as a viewer, I’d like to give the Grim Reaper a high five. In the case of Containment at least, it wasn’t until death that the show truly began to feel alive.
Containment airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on The CW.