Article first published as CONTAINMENT Review on Seat42F.
Beginning this week, the CW is broadcasting a miniseries (remade from the Belgian program Cordon) called CONTAINMENT. It tells the story of a viral outbreak in a major city, as seen through the eyes of individuals in law enforcement and the medical field, as well as a few who just have been unlucky in their timing and location. Things spiral out of control as the horrific disease spreads, and panic ensues.
While CONTAINMENT probably most closely resembles Outbreak or its like, it will most likely be compared to The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, given the popularity of zombie programs right now, which are often caused by a virus. To make the parallels even more clear, CONTAINMENT is set in Atlanta, Georgia, the same place The Walking Dead begins, and goes inside a hospital. Plus, there are riots and fences and panic in the streets, much as in the first season of Fear the Walking Dead.
These comparisons will not do CONTAINMENT any favors. While The Walking Dead is focused on serious character development, the zombie outbreak really being secondary to the story, CONTAINMENT’s plot is driven by the illness, with the characters coming secondary. Although there are a lot of varied personalities, none are anything new on television, and the ensemble could easily be pulled from almost any soapy serial drama. The relationships are needlessly complicated, and characters are artificially separated as events unfold.
CONTAINMENT features an ensemble with no true leading man or lady, a number of them getting roughly equal screen time, and no high-profile actors steal focus from the others, either. There’s Lex (David Gyasi, Interstellar), a cop who early on makes the decision to send his best friend, Jake (Chris Wood, The Vampire Diaries), into danger. Lex’s girlfriend, Jana (Christina Marie Moses, Odd Brodsky), also happens to be Jake’s ex, and turns to Jake for advice when she gets cold feet about moving in with Lex. It’s this trio, in particular, that make the entire series feel contrived, unoriginal, and not at all grounded in reality.
Besides that trio, Katie (Kristen Gutoskie, Beaver Falls) is a school teacher whose class, which includes her son, is visiting the ground zero hospital as events go down; Sabine (Claudia Black, Farscape) is a CDC honcho brought in to manage the situation; and Teresa (Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Spartacus: War of the Damned) is a pregnant, unmarried young woman who plans to run away with her boyfriend. There are also a few others, but none that I can recall enough to name at present, and the CW’s website, lacking a cast page most networks have, doesn’t really make it easy to look up the main players.
In short, though, from the batch you see, I think it’s pretty clear that CONTAINMENT is not going for something deep and moving and realistic, but rather, pure entertainment. Like other disaster movies and broadcast network shows before it, CONTAINMENT is forcing situations to spark emotional reactions at moments where there should not be. Instead of focusing on dealing with the crisis as they need to, the main players will have their attention split by friends and loved ones who should either be out of the way or completely cut off from communication. It just doesn’t make for a very high quality show, and since the archetypes are so familiar, probably a pretty predictable one, as well. I’d call this one a skip.
CONTAINMENT premieres Tuesday at 9/8c on the CW.