By Dave B.
Containment (2016, currently on Netflix) is a CW show that chronicles a terrifying viral outbreak in Atlanta that requires a square block of the city to be quarantined. The 13, hour-long episodes of Containment don’t bring much new to the disease disaster genre, but the show feels like a fairly plausible look at the challenges faced in trying to control a deadly contagion in a major American city.
Full disclosure, I have a touch of hypochondria. It’s not anything that severely impacts my life, but I definitely wash my hands more than the average person and I tend to avoid touching things in public spaces unless I need to. Doorknobs are clearly the devil’s invention. I mention this because the main thing that I liked about Containment is that it showed how people’s behaviors can contribute to the spread of diseases. People touch EVERYTHING. All the time. Not even out of necessity. Just because they require tactile sensations ALL THE TIME.
In Containment, there were two main rule to keeping yourself and others disease-free: Remain four to six feet away from people at all times and don’t touch anything without gloves on. Do you know how often characters follow these rules? Unsurprisingly and completely realistically, basically never. Let me explain what remaining four to six feet from people entails: If you are in line for something? Don’t be all up on the person in front of you. If your kid stubs their toe? Don’t run over and hold them (they’re more likely to survive a stubbed toe than a hemorrhagic fever). If you’re scared? Learn to live without a hug for a while. Most people can’t do these things, not only because of their need for human contact and tactile sensations, but also because people give far less consideration to others than they assume they do. It’s not about you getting sick. It’s about all of the people that you will infect before your symptoms manifest themselves. People can’t keep that thought at the forefront of their minds and while it would be terrifying to live through, but kind of fun to watch. From a safe distance, of course.
Now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system, Containment isn’t necessarily a great show in a traditional sense. The acting is decent. Claudia Black (one of my favorite television actresses) has a major role and delivers a typically strong performance. The first half of Containment is much stronger than the second half. This is largely because the show suffers from of CW’s tendency to go overboard with the melodrama and this becomes particularly egregious as the show progresses. Episodes eight through ten are a slog and nearly unwatchable. There are some genuinely touching moments throughout the season and that’s a plus, but viewers may frequently find themselves wanting less talk and more action. The show’s premise is excellent, but it’s execution is inconsistent, especially when it veers from the main storyline.
I would say that Containment is a solid, but not exceptional show. It mostly hits the right notes and provides a realistic glimpse at how Americans could respond to the presence of an extremely contagious and completely deadly pathogen in their midst. And yes, Containment was cancelled after one season, but it this case, I don’t particularly object to that decision despite my generally positive view of the show. I think it could be difficult to compellingly portray a similar situation for more than a single season. That said, because of the realistic elements of the show, Containment gets my recommendation.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.