You might think (sorry) that BrainDead would continue on the comedy heavy presentation it has thus far relied on. “The Power of Euphemism: How Torture Became a Matter of Debate in American Politics” still has a deft comedic touch but it shifts into horror. Beginning with a threat to Laurel. This key change resulted in the first really disturbing episode this season.
A succinct recap of episode seven, has Gustav transmitting the bug signal instead of just using it to track who is infected. Gareth learns that Laurel believes bugs are eating people’s brains. Rochelle and Gustav learn who is infected. They also find hat their abbreviated signal changes the bug people’s behavior.
Red has a huge female alien bug scarper out of his earhole and lay eggs. Wheatus then sacrifices “Mike the Intern,” so his head will explode in front of the FBI director; Louis Marchant (Jeremy Shamos). Laurel is then targeted by Red Wheatus for questioning under torture by the FBI.
This is where BrainDead shifts gears substantially. Tapping into modern America’s fixation with terrorism and fighting fire with fire puts this episode firmly into real terror. The USA has been governing by the use of well place fear mongering since 9/11.
Torture of suspects and people brought in for questioning is a real issue. Have trouble believing that? Google Guantanamo Bay. The white hatted good guys that the US have always strived to be took a vacation at that little resort.
The “Bay” was not the only instance where the “heroes” resorted to tactics used by the “enemy” to extract information either. In a time where the American government uses drones to spy on its own citizens (All in the interests of national security.) is this episode too much?
No, it is not.
Laurel’s predicament is a seat squirming exercise for the viewer. We want to believe that there will be a last minute reprieve. (There is but it is very last minute indeed.) Right up until things go pear shaped for Red and his bug cronies, the FBI are primed and ready to “control immersion” (waterboard) Laurel. This as a startup to the proceedings. One can easily imagine things going rapidly downhill from there.
Sidenote: The splendid and prolific character actor Kurt Fuller plays J.K. Cornish as a smiling Mr. Nice Guy. He even shakes Laurel’s hand after her ordeal is over. This was a bit of brilliant casting and Fuller just kills it as the “master interrogator.”
The suspense level is high. Laurel keeps stalling her potential torturers with legalities. Her brother; Senator Healy, signs the papers authorizing the Q&A initially. He then has second thoughts and learns that the FBI intend to question his sister.
This was one long edge of the seat moment where the comedy/horror element was dropped by the inclusion of this storyline. The FBI, and the Republican, catchphrases in this episode were: national security, ticking clock and links to terrorism. The most frightening part was the tenuous link the authorities made between Laurel and a muslim ambulance driver.
Scary? You bet. Far-fetched? Do not bet your White Anglo Saxon Protestant life on it. With a real life presidential candidate who seems to have escaped from Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” this episode is not OTT at all.
Show creators Robert and Michelle King (no relation to Stephen apparently), along with Laura Marks, have taken the comedy down a notch. There are still funny moments in the episode; think Gustav and Rochelle getting bug people to walk into walls and hold their hands up, but these take a back seat this go around.
In a country where local police departments have been outfitted to fight a small war, where the NSA spies on the populace via Xbox, laptops, phones, drones and devices that can look through your walls, this series just left its comedy dangling. It has instead slipped into fictional horror that could be imitating real life.
BrainDead has given its protagonists a weapon now, via Gustav’s frequency device, so when the show resumes its comedy and horror mix the good guys have a fighting chance. Laurel escapes her worse than death fate this episode leaving her to fight another day.
CBS moved the series to Sunday and as a result the show’s popularity has risen substantially. Tune in and see how Laurel and her team do in the fight against the bug people. Barring that, stop by to see what crawls out of Red’s ear next.