Ask any etiquette expert and they’ll tell you: Nothing ruins a social gathering like the sudden invasion of crazed meth-heads. It doesn’t matter what the occasion — a wedding, a birthday party, a fundraiser for the Governor’s re-election — there is almost no scenario in which the sudden arrival of crazed meth-heads will improve anyone’s night. But the same could be argued for a quarantine zone during a viral outbreak: Meth-heads will ruin that, too! But while the characters of Containment learned that the hard way this week, the show itself benefited from a sudden burst of energy. Meth is a hell of a drug.
Speaking of manners, Containment is a very polite show. Yes, it would simply love to bring us the post-apocalyptic zombie carnage of The Walking Dead, but perhaps just for a few city blocks and let’s call it the flu. It’s basically the gentleman’s zombie show. But even if it declines to go full-blown 28 Days Later on us, “Inferno” still managed to corral several disparate characters into one claustrophobic space so that they could fight off invading villains by any means necessary. The best means, of course, being EXPLOSIVES. Even better, “Inferno” managed to weave in a genuinely sad self-sacrifice moment and by episode’s end the characters were forced out of their comfort zones and into the narrative wilds. And it was about time.
Picking up where last week’s episode left off, the gang in the data recovery center attempted to deal with the gunman currently holding Theresa’s mother hostage. Jana and company intended to comply with his commands, but their transaction was interrupted by aforementioned gang of bloody-faced meth addicts who were currently Die Hard-ing their way upstairs in search of any chemicals to huff. The tweakers’ motives were almost cartoonishly ridiculous, which somehow worked to make them less predictable and therefore more frightening. A scene involving meth-heads stalking through the building’s air conditioning vents (complete with Jana fending them off with an improvised blow-torch) had echoes of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13, two reference points I never expected to see on The CW.
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It’ll never not be entertaining to watch characters attempt to survive action-packed scenes like these, but the added character development of watching them become heroes only added to the show’s enjoyability. In this episode Jana’s character arc quickly went from standoffish wet-blanket to Linda Hamilton-esque BAMF, while Jake finally got to embody the grizzled bad-ass he’d been merely doing an impression of all season. The stakes never flagged, particularly after Jana beat a man to death with her satellite phone, and later her surly office-mate was murdered with a hatchet and his corpse sent up the elevator propped on its feet. “Inferno” had actual horror movie moments scattered throughout and it was a joy to behold.
NEXT: A tragic death [pagebreak]
But all the action and tension wouldn’t have been worth anything if there hadn’t been collateral damage. After a particularly satisfying bit in which Jana and Jake tricked the invading meth-heads into entering a gas-filled conference room where they were exploded to bits, one of the not-quite-dead meth-heads jumped up and bit Theresa’s grocer mother right on the neck. Yep, meth-heads were actual zombies in this episode, and the jump-scare was just enough fun to make us forget that drug addiction probably deserves more empathy than this. Whatever, it’s TV! And now Theresa’s mother was almost certainly infected with the flu. Theresa’s tear-filled goodbye before her mother went off to find a quiet place to die was utterly heartbreaking. Too often lead characters are devoid of personality in order to function as better audience surrogates, but it leaves them unmemorable and bland. In this case it took devastating tragedy to bring Theresa to life finally. I just feel like I finally get her.
Outside the cordon, Lex was continuing to make the weird, desperate decisions of a man who has no idea what he’s doing. For one thing, he was truly not enjoying collaborating with the National Guard in any way, shape, or form. Which was a problem in that he’d suddenly decided he needed to sneak into the cordon for a quick visit and got caught in the act. This was probably going to impact his career in my opinion. But on the upside, his actions were just the right amount of dumb bravery he needed to prove to his father that he doesn’t always play by the rules. So, you know, at least Lex was slightly less boring this week?
For the most part Containment stayed, um, contained to Jana’s office building and it’s no surprise that kept everything taut and riveting, to say nothing of how much more interesting it is to have characters we’ve been following for six episodes finally meet and speak to one another. Katie may not have appeared in this episode, but hearing Jake talk about her to Jana still felt like a progression in their relationship. Yes, Containment will still slow down long enough to get soapy, even amid meth-head onslaughts, so that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. But at least there weren’t, like, six of these conversations in a row this week, you know? Also, I mentioned the meth-heads, right? They were great.
Because many of us read entertainment news, we know Containment isn’t long for this world. But if “Inferno” is any indication of how fun it can be, then at least it’s going out on a high. A meth high. (Sorry.) This show may not be a zombie show, but it’s clearly a fan of them. Now it finally feels like the party’s really getting started.