In its second episode, The CW's ickiest thriller showed more personality
Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW
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The main thing to know about Containment so far is it’s not the kind of show you should watch while eating a spaghetti dinner. Maybe also avoid beet salads or borscht, or really any food that is both red and wet. Although, if you have any appetite at all during Containment‘s many scenes involving dripping gristle and viscera, then maybe just eat whatever you feel like! Proud of you. But I’ll be over here reminiscing about the time food seemed like a good idea.

“I to Die, You to Live” began with a grisly autopsy and featured several scenes of humans oozing bodily fluids from their face holes. Because this show made no promises of becoming a zombie apocalypse thriller, it’s these gruesome deaths that are the primary threat to the characters’ happiness. As we learned in this episode the fatality rate is 100 percent, so if anyone so much as sniffles, we can expect the Grim Reaper to come sprinting. In that regard, the tension derived from this premise is relatively minimal, which was why Containment‘s second episode focused on what life might be like when you’re forced to sleep in waiting rooms and subsist on food you found in the break room: Not great!

Because Containment‘s characters are mostly separated by electric fencing (and the premise itself), it’s taken on a sort of anthology-vibe as each story line felt relatively independent from the rest. Like, though it was by no means the most major plotline, my favorite was probably Jana’s imprisonment in her computer lab alongside some coworkers. There was just something charmingly sad about grown women in blue hazmat suits (resembling footie pajamas) playing ring toss with office supplies while openly musing about what their families were up to at that very moment (or, in this case, their birth mothers whom neither seem to have met). But with Containment‘s setup out of the way, it was weird scenes like this that began to truly reveal the show’s personality, and that weirdness was very welcome.

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In what could be described as the show’s main plotline, authorities discovered that Patient Zero’s younger brother had a girlfriend, so Dr. Sabine and Major Lex needed to track her down in case she’d been infected. Using a Big Brother-esque mainframe not unlike the one in Person of Interest, they used citywide security footage to track her whereabouts to a teen sleepover somewhere inside the cordon. Though hunky Jake and his tanktop were still seriously very ticked about getting trapped inside the cordon, he somehow gathered himself, put on his facial splash-guard, and helped detain the young woman. But as last week’s flash-forward revealed (spoiled?), the virus was far from contained, so it was probably too early to celebrate just yet.

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In a surprise twist, the pregnant teenage girl (Teresa) suddenly became one of the best characters? Sure, she still spent most of her time wandering around FaceTiming with her boyfriend and rubbing her tum-tum all stressed-like, but she had a great moment in this episode when she went to visit her Parkinson’s-afflicted grandmother and suddenly realized that on her way there she’d been exposed to the virus while hugging an infected friend on the street. Without alerting her grandmother, Teresa simply and calmly poured bleach over everything she’d touched and slipped out the back door. Though she’d later be very freaked out about her own health and safety, it was very powerful to see her snap into action and protect her grandmother first. Also it needs to be said that seeing (a) an elderly character with (b) a neurological illness on network TV felt refreshing and compelling. Everybody loves sexy 20-somethings, but the presence of underrepresented characters always seems to grab my sympathy with the firmest grip.

Other plotlines also benefited from the premise’s slowdown. While last week’s pilot forced Jake and Katie into a totally implausible flirtation, this episode found them behaving like actual human beings with survival priorities. Katie was still saddled with the responsibility of chasing unpleasant children around the hospital’s HOT ZONE, and Jake’s plotline involved a lot of glowering about being trapped in the cordon with normal folks, but their interactions felt more real and organic this week. In their biggest moment — somehow both understated and powerful — the two characters parted ways so that Jake could go crash at the field office. But then he walked back into frame, having changed his mind on the spot to stay with Katie. Again, it was less a flirtation and more a logistical decision born of integrity, but it felt way more fireworks-y than any amount of aw-shucks quips about being single. You know?

These small character moments will undoubtedly be what bring viewers back to Containment every week, but the hugest thrust remains the governmental reaction to the impending outbreak. As the face of the operation Dr. Sabine is still very compelling (mostly because she’s Claudia Black) even if we still don’t know much about her. Additionally, Containment has begun to examine how the media might handle a situation like this, complete with on-the-ground bloggers and even a brief look into racially charged police brutality. The episode’s final tease — which upped the ante from last week’s electric fence construction — involved the erection of a frightening-looking and somewhat more permanent barricade of shipping containers surrounding the cordon. Our heroes clearly weren’t getting out of there anytime soon. But now that we know a mass outbreak is coming, Containment needs to jump to that moment sooner rather than later. There are only so many hallway conversations and scenes of extras answering phones to keep our interest for 11 more hours.

Still though, only two episodes in, the characters have begun to feel realer and more compelling, and the show’s tone has settled into a low-level doom mixed with cute moments. That’s the kind of place I can see myself choosing to hang out in every Tuesday night, which is saying something considering how gross it all is. In other words, it’ll probably be a good idea to finish that Sloppy Joe before 9 p.m.

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