I almost didn’t give this show a second chance after a tonally inconsistent and messy pilot, and while the second outing isn’t nearly as gripping as I wanted it to be, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
The first half of Playing Politics (seriously, those episodes titles though) is just as weird and confusing as the pilot: there’s no reliable tone and the writing is still trying to figure out what show it’s going to be. Luckily, the last 15 minutes or so course-correct with the addition of several intriguing new characters.
As hilarious as the political satire has been, it was hard to feel invested in BrainDead if the characters weren’t going to try to find out what’s happening to the politicians’ brains in D.C., and therefore Gustav’s introduction is exactly what this show needed. He certainly seems like the underdog we’re all going to be rooting for, and his presence thankfully moves the plot further. Not only is he smart enough to realize there’s a bug problem now, but also by the end of the hour Laurel (our protagonist) finally makes contact with him after she becomes suspicious too.
Her two new college friends, Abby and Stacie, certainly help make the show feel more grounded as well. The way the writers tease Abby’s possible “infection” is pretty nifty after she makes a couple of hilarious Trump-like remarks (“Help America Rise Again”) coupled with a sudden emotional outburst. I won’t tease the chilling cliffhanger ending, but it certainly made me stick with this show.
The political drama is definitely the least compelling thing about this show. I find Laurel and Gareth’s back-and-forth bickering and scheming to be a bit too Scandal-like—while that’s not a bad thing at all, I’m sure that’s not what the writers are going for—and it’s hard to care about Tony Shalhoub’s character at this point when the alien ants that crawled into his brain merely turned him into a drunken fool as opposed to what they’ve done to Luke’s secretary/mistress Scarlett (Paige Patterson). She is creepy, intense and fascinating as hell, especially when she fails to seduce her married boyfriend because of her hilarious pain noises, and I’m looking forward to see what the writers do with her next.
Exploding Bits & Brains
– The opening recap song is EPIC. It’s also tonally weird and confusing, which is so very fitting. Watch it here.
– The title credits don’t appear until the 13-minute mark, which really reminded me of Alias.
– The second head explosion was really intense and dark. That stunning shot of the body being pulled out of the CAT scan, headless, is jaw-dropping.
– The B-subplot involving Laurel and the dying girl isn’t much. Luckily, the show steers away from standalone cases like that in the third episode.
– “You Might Think” was used only once in this episode. I’m so intrigued to know what is it about this song that the “infected” love so much.
– I’ve never seen The Good Wife, but apparently Braindead is full of guests and extras that were on that show as well.
Laurel: So you’re saying, don’t feel?
Luke: No, I’m saying only feel if it makes you effective.
Laurel: God, politics.
Abby: If by “right wing” you mean we’re right, then…yep!
Laurel: No, things are changing. My friend became a political fanatic overnight. Last week, she was writing a novel. This week, she’s raving about Trump.
Gareth: And why do I think if she was raving about Hillary, she wouldn’t be quite so fanatic?
The weird campiness continues in the second episode, but the second half of the hour is promising enough to stick with this show.