BrainDead: Reading Far Too Much Into It (Review)

Poster for BrainDead

Perhaps it is because the TV critics’ darling; the King’s (Michelle and Robert that couple who brought the award winning “The Good Wife” to small screens) are behind BrainDead that they all seem to be reading far too much into the show.  Being critics they do have that irresistible urge to prove how clever they are, but seriously?

It is a comedy that borrows rather heavily from other tales and films.  The Puppet Masters by Robert A Heinlein is the first thing that springs to mind. A science fiction story where parasites take over the minds of their hosts.  Heinlein’s book is referenced in another “borrowed” bit of work, Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty.

The 1998 film, starring Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick and Usher, was about a parasite that invades a small town school. The teachers are infected first (spelled politicians in BrainDead) and each controlled individual switches to a water only diet and try to become better people. They also forcibly “recruit” new members to the alien water appreciation society.

Science is also tapped into with a nod and a wink to the recent-ish discovery of “zombie ants.”  While the ants in this study were not parasites themselves (the tiny creatures were preyed upon by a parasite that controlled their little ant brains) the delivery system of the alien parasites in BrainDead was clearly influenced by the 2014 scientific study.

So should we take point off for lack of originality?  The King team did create The Good Wife (an award winning series that finally ended after seven seasons) and this humorous look at Washington and American politics in 2016 may well have layers yet to be revealed.

There are references to the madness that makes up our presidential wannabes this year.    Lots of soundbites that include Hilary Clinton and the buffoon on two legs;  Donald Trump, but this election year is an easy target.  As the subtitle reads in the first episode, [sic] “No one knew why the candidates in 2016 were so odd.”

There is a snappy earworm of a tune that plays wherever a parasite infected person happens to be and that too is clever-ish. BrianDead stars Winstead as the documentary filmmaker sister of a senator played by Danny Pino

The Kings may well have a splendid comedic hit on their hands. While the “so-called” critics of TV land spout rhetoric  meant to show just how clever they really are, it is equally apparent that they reading far too much into the the show.

The scene with Tony Shalhoub is a clear indicator that the King’s are working a slow build up to the main thrust of BrainDead. This is comedy horror complete with an ’80s earworm and exploding heads. It is also a sly look at the division in the Whitehouse and the country right now in terms of political parties  and  candidates that no one really likes.

The first episode ends with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character parasite free but her brother the senator’s aide clearly is.  An announcer states that bipartisanism is dead and the camera pulls away and  out to end the shot.

BrainDead airs Mondays on CBS.  This could be great fun, a’la “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where the infected zoom in on the uninfected.  This does look to be interesting and fun although it is unclear just why Mary Elizabeth Winstead looks so much like Wynona Ryder in the first episode. It will be just as interesting to see how much of the “source” material goes into future episodes of the show.


Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

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