BrainDead: Season Finale – Punchline (Review)

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The final two episodes of BrainDead were aired back-to-back to bring this season one finale to a satisfactory end.  After all was said and done, the two hour finish delivered the punch line that the King’s had in mind all along.

What was the punchline? Well, according to the creators of the series; Michelle and Robert King, it is this: “Anyone one with half a brain can work in politics.”

Boom. Boom. (Or microphone drop, if that image works for the viewer.)

With this punchline the entire first season turns into a televised version of “Little Bunny FooFoo.”  Albeit a lot funnier and with a degree of cleverness that the joke never achieves.

All the characters in this Capital Hill horror comedy or “horromedy” (We know it is not a word, but it seems to fit nicely.)  were funny in all the right places. There was also  enough pathos inserted to keep the series from falling into outright farce.

The ticking clock, or calendar, with its emphasis on 38 days was not about anything else but the cherry blossoms. A lot went on over the last two hours of BrainDead in its season one conclusion.

Luke found out that the CIA were lying and reacted accordingly.  Laurel almost gave up the fight but changed her mind at the last minute. Gareth proposed to the senator’s sister and later confessed that he loved her. (A little bit backwards but it was cute nonetheless.)

Healy stages a “sit-down,” aping the real-life democratic sit-down over gun control earlier this year. He then outsmarts Red’s budget with a little help.

Gareth, after seeing Red’s queen last week helps Laurel out. This teaming up works but it is not without a few hiccups.

Red is still pretty messed up after his queen is injured and his tearful and confused spiel at the budget vote was hysterically funny.  Due to his apparent weakness Ella goes in for the kill, only to have it  backfire.

It turns out that all Senator Wheatus needed was Ella’s brains to fix his health issues.  A rejuvenated Red goes on the attack to get his budget passed.

Later, Red tries to kill Luke but fails.

Gustav and Rochelle go undercover to kill the cherry blossoms in the first greenhouse and almost get caught.

Luke’s sit-down goes on Periscope and cannot be shut down.  The CIA “Director Director” and Red blackmail Healy into stopping everything and voting.

Gustav turns out to have been an officer with the NSA all along, much to Rochelle’s irritation, and even the FBI have to step away from that.  Laurel drives the bugs out of her father’s brain with shame.

Later, she attempts to do the same with Red and almost succeeds. Senator Wheatus tries to shoot Healy but Gareth arrives in the nick of time to save her. The three struggle to control the gun and Red is shot in the buttocks.

The queen bails and tries to escape the room. The newest intern comes in and inadvertently kills the alien bug. The remaining alien horde screech in pain and dismay. They all swarm to  their dead queen and huge  group of politicians are now bug free.

Singing narrator Jonathan Coulton croons that apparently having half a brain is not an issue for senators. He also informs us that Gareth and Laurel have moved in together and that Luke now works on Wall Street.

The last episode, number 12 “The End of All We Hold Dear: What Happens When Democracies Fail: A Brief Synopsis” has Coulter and Johnny Ray Gill’s character break the fourth wall. It is amusing and a nice touch. Although Gustav only breaks the wall by acknowledging the guitar playing Coulter.

Just before the end credits roll for the last time in season one (or forever if the show is not brought back) a new queen is seen on the cherry blossoms that line the road. The new alien bug leader is a different hue, suggesting that the invasion force have evolved.

Overall the season finale was a good wrap up of everything that transpired. It managed to get in at least one political in-joke, or observation;  that most people would not know their senator if they met him or her.

There was a fair amount of comedy but the scene about the ninth birthday party camera was a tear jerker.

BrainDead may well be a “one-off” (for a number of reasons) but it was a brilliant little summer filler, even if the network had no faith in the show.

Pina, Winstead, Tveit, Shalhoub and James all just killed it. This cast shared a brilliant chemistry  and took the viewer on an amusing journey through a “space invasion” series disguised as comedy horror.

With a punchline that seems alarmingly close to the truth, the series may not be allowed to return…


BrainDead: Season 1, Ep 11 – Red’s Queen & the CIA (Review)

BrainDead Logo screenshot

Gustav makes it back this week, after his conspicuous absence, and things go marching forward in BrainDead land. This penultimate episode (the last two remaining segments are set to run consecutively on September 11 for a season finale) amps things up nicely. Red’s queen is attacked and the CIA help to trap Luke.

“Six Points on the New Congressional Budget: The False Dichotomy of Austerity vs. Expansionary Policies”  opens with the recap song guy; Jonathan Coulton singing about Gunsmoke instead of BrainDead. It is all about the stress. Germaine’s baby is not mentioned in this episode as this week is  all about the bugs.

Gareth inadvertently spots Red’s queen laying eggs as the senator coos to his parasite. He is shaken and goes to see Laurel.  She takes him to see Wu, Triplett and Daudier. Now that they have found the queen, they hope to destroy it and its “hive.” Ritter is not altogether sure about any of this.

Red pushes for a budget vote. The new budget, drafted by his people and Ella’s has the internment camps buried within the proposal. The senator pushes for a 48 hour turn around. Luke smells a rat and calls everyone together to find what Red has hidden in the budget.

Meanwhile, CIA agents meet with Luke to vet him for the post of new CIA director.  The men question staff, Laurel, his ex lovers and express concern. Along the way they speak with FBI Agent Onofrio (Charlie Semine) who tells them about the bugs.

Red tries to bribe Laurel into leaving Capital Hill to make her Malaysian music documentary and Triplett reveals a way to remove the queen bug from inside Red’s head.  The bait is monkey brains and it works.

As the senator’s queen leaves her host to eat the brains, Laurel, Gustav and Rochelle all attack Red and try to kill the queen.  (This is one of the funniest scenes in the series.  Laurel and Rochelle roll up magazines to bash the alien insect to death.) Red is upset that his queen is being threatened.

The alien bug escapes and the new intern comes in. Red is released and he tell his new assistant to call the police.  The trio have to leave empty handed, so to speak.

Luke passes the vetting process and meets the man with the secrets at the CIA. He is told that the agency knows about the alien bugs and were about to arrest Red and the “other ringleaders” when Laurel and her friends attacked Senator Wheatus.

Healy falls into the trap set by Red and agrees to “back off.”  The senator comes out to speak with the “Director’s Director” of the CIA.  The man tells Red he believes that Luke bought it.

In BrainDead this week it appears that the alien bugs have evolved or,  at the very least, learned more about their human hosts.  While Laurel and her friends are learning how to bring the parasites out of hiding, the bugs themselves are getting better at manipulating their hosts and potential hosts.

Gareth may be shaken to the core by what he saw in Red’s office, but he is fully “Team Laurel” now.  Of course he was headed out the door even before spotting the queen laying eggs. At the start of the episode he was  drafting his letter of resignation.

Another issue brought up, ever so fleetingly, was the subject of those cherry blossoms. As the new intern Gary (Spencer House) points out to Red, the season is almost over. The flowers are dying out.  Will the bugs be able to “switch hit” from one blossom to another?

So far, these invading little parasites have proven to be quire resourceful.  As Team Laurel discover something to use against the alien infestation, the creatures change gears and directions.  It is going to be interesting to see how  this season ends.

Gareth’s loss of faith was amusing and a little touching.  He reverts to a more submissive role. The scene where Laurel comes to comfort him and he says, “We can have sex if you want,” takes him out of the stereotypical male role and it is endearing.

Luke has not realized that the entire CIA vetting process was a diversionary tactic. He is so focussed on finding what Red has hidden in his budget that the timing of the thing did not strike him as being odd.

Healy’s own ambitions also blinded him to the dubious nature of this offered position.

It should be noted, that while the queen was not terminated with extreme prejudice by a rolled up magazine, it was injured.  As Red moves up to speak with his CIA shill, he is limping…

BrainDead will air its season one finale next week, September 11, on CBS.  Tune in and see how this one ends as the network may not bring it back.


Zach Grenier  –  Dean Healey 

BrainDead: Season One, Ep 10 – Bug People Unite & Rosemary’s Baby (Recap/Review)

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BrainDead “The Path to War Part Two: The Impact of Propaganda on Congressional War Votes” shows the bug people uniting under a common goal. It also borrows heavily, and amusingly, from Ira Levin‘s Rosemary’s Baby.  Not to the extent of old Satanists plotting to bring the devil into the world, but at least hinting clearly that something is not right about Germaine’s new baby girl.

The singing recap took a moment to show Michael Moore in bed with Laurel again, which we know never happened but Moore plays it for laughs and we love it. Thanks to Jonathan Coulton and the creators; the Kings and writer  Lawrence Kaplow for the giggle.

The episode begins with Luke fighting desperately to stop a war with Syria. He also tries half-heartedly to stop having sex with every attractive female he meets or works with.  He tasks Laurel with critiquing the new “anti-war” video as he tries to keep the Senate from voting with Red Wheatus.

It appears that Luke Healy is a sex addict. He cannot stop sleeping with his many paramours even when he tries to break it off. The only one who does not tumble into the sack with him is  the infected Scarlett

His secretary calls Luke a “weak man” and implies that she will be talking to Germaine (Lily Cowles). 

The bug people extremists are urged to unite by both Pollack (Jan Maxwelland Red.  Democrat Noah Feffer (Michael Esper) joins forces with Red’s republican attack dog Jules (Natalie Gold).  This cooperation between factions is a new thing in the world of alien bug people. Before only Red and Ella “joined” very reluctantly so the king and queen could procreate.

“Famous” documentary filmmaker Ben Valderrama (Michael Zegen) cannot stop zeroing in on the “one percent” with his video. He also goes after Gareth and later provokes Noah into attacking him. In the end Laurel recuts the video and it goes viral, just as Luke had hoped. 

Laurel becomes concerned about Germaine’s baby and goes to Rochelle for advice. At one point it seems as though Daudier could be infected.  After learning that the doctor treating Germaine listens to The Cars, “You Might Think” shades of “Rosemary’s Baby ” blend into the proceedings. This makes Rochelle’s actions seem even more suspicious.

Germaine has the baby.

The episode ends with Red’s war against Syria being voted down after Laurel’s video goes viral. Valderrama takes credit for the video and Germaine will not touch her baby. As she leaves the baby’s room, she turns on the mobile above the cot.

The mobile’s bunnies move slowly to “You Might Think”

Triplett is missing from this episode of BrainDead, this makes the second week that he has been AWOL.  Gareth and Laurel look like they might be rebuilding that burnt bridge and Luke looks to be in danger of infection from either Germaine or Grace (the new baby).

The bug people have united twice and Germaine’s baby may be the first human/alien bug hybrid in Washington.

BrainDead airs Sundays on CBS.


BrainDead: Season One, Ep 9 – Murder Times Two (Recap and Review)

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This week’s episode of BrainDead featured the best singing recap ever. Apart from the fact it was hysterically funny (that fast bit was brilliant) it featured the recap singing artist Jonathan Coulton holding  a “name sign” and waving. How excellent is that?  Apart from the recap hilarity, the episode also featured  murder…twice.

In “Taking on Water: How Leaks in D.C. Are Discovered and Patched”  Laurel and Gareth hit a very rocky patch.  Red hires and then spectacularly fires a special investigator; Lawrence Boch. (Played by Blindspot actor Michael Gaston, who  is apparently doomed to be shot in the head this year regardless of what show he is on.)

Triplett and Rochelle are absent from the proceedings this week. However Red is still on the warpath and his sexual partner, so to speak, from the previous episode  sides with him briefly.

After Senator Wheatus lied about the CIA briefing, someone leaked to the press that the Syrian threat is not real but a fabrication. Kara Wright “broke the story” and Boch has her arrested for failing to name her source.

Red also instigates investigations into both Luke and Laurel’s personal lives. He hopes to find something that substantiates his claim that they leaked information to the press. It is this investigation, run by FIA (Freelance Investigation Analyst)  Ashley Cook (Tracie Thoms) that causes the problems between Gareth and Laurel.

Cook comes up with a huge list of sexual liaisons that Laurel had in college and the affairs that her brother Luke takes part in. Gareth is privy to the files, at Red’s request, and he becomes disturbed at the information on Laurel.

They have their first big fight and Laurel kicks him out of her apartment, with a doggy bag. Later, Cook reveals that Laurel had sex with Michael Moore at a Sundance festival. When he, rather unwisely, asks her she admits to it. (Although later it turns out that Cook’s information was incorrect.)

This is the last straw for Gareth who cannot get images of Laurel in bed with Moore out of his head. (This was, except for the singing recap, the funniest bit of the episode. Michael Moore with a gloating grin on his face coming up from under the covers was hysterical.) It is also the last straw for Laurel who kicks Gareth out of her flat again.

Boch continues his investigation into both Luke and Laurel.  Meanwhile she investigates the secret room in the basement; SRB-54. She reveals the room’s existence to Luke and tells him it is Red’s personal “war room.” He investigates and like Laurel has the door slammed in his face.

Gareth learns of the room from Laurel and he goes to the basement office demanding to be let in. He is refused entry, like Luke, and told to speak with Red.  He does and learns nothing. Later, he tells the IT guy to shut down their WiFi.

This gets Gareth access and he finds plans to build interment camps. He also sees a wall timer  that  is counting down a 38 day window.  Gareth takes pictures of the internment blueprints and send them to Laurel.

Luke then take the plans and shows them to Boch. The investigator decides to widen his investigation based on the blueprints. He then goes to  see Red and tells the senator that he will be investigating him as well.

The conversation gets heated as Boch accuses Red of warmongering. “Why don’t you just get a gun and shoot me yourself,” Boch asks.  The senator reaches in his desk drawer, pulls out a gun and does just that.

Red’s new intern rushes in after hearing the gunshot and is told to get a dolly and a drop cloth. The lad wants to call the police but Red tells him no. As the new intern gets the two items,  Wheatus eats some of Boch’s brains. He then scrapes the rest off the wall and saves them in a storage container for later.

Wheatus marks the plastic box as his property before putting it in the fridge.  The intern helps Red clean the mess. Later as the senator walks in front of the building  a refuse  truck grabs a dumpster and empties it.

Two drop cloth covered bodies tumble out of the dumpster and into the back of the truck. Red obviously murdered the new intern as well.

Gareth tries to apologize to Laurel about the Michael Moore sex allegation. She is having none of it and suggests they take a break.  After killing Lawrence Boch Red pushes for a new investigative officer but is thwarted by Luke and the committee chair who puts it to a vote.

Kara Wright is released from jail without giving up her source and we learn that it was the committee chair who leaked the information.

This episode of BrainDead was equally funny and shocking. Red pulling that gun out and shooting Boch was completely unexpected.  Then, however, when he murders his new intern we are not surprised. Senator Wheatus has become very murderous, his body count is now three. His first intern, Boch and now another intern.

Red had better slow down. This is twice now that something critical  has happened to his new interns.  At this rate he may never get another one.

It was disappointing to see Gareth and Laurel break up.  Hopefully she will forgive him his idiocy about the whole Michael Moore thing.

Speaking of Gareth, it seems inevitable that he will be turned into a “bug person” by Red.  While he is still on the Republican side of the story, he  seems to be aware that Wheatus is not the full ticket here.

BrainDead airs Sundays on CBS. Do not miss this one. Funny, a tad scary and pretty topically relevant, BrainDead is a winner.


Guest Starring  Michael Gaston as Lawrence Boch and Linda Emond as Kara Wright

Special Guest Star – Michael Moore

BrainDead: Season 1, Ep 8 Bug Sex (Review)

Poster for BrainDead

BrainDead “The Path to War Part One: The Gathering Political Storm”  takes things away from last week’s torturous episode.  Red pushes congress to declare war on Syria, Laurel’s dad is infected and Rochelle is attacked in her apartment.  There is also some very odd “bug sex” between Senator’s Wheatus and Pollack (Jan Maxwell).

Gustav’s device is circumvented by the bugs who change their communication frequency. This happens just as Triplett discovers that Dean  Healy is infected. Laurel talks to her father and then to his mistress; Terri, the tour guide. It looks like he is indeed infected as he and his lover no longer have sex. Terri tells Laurel that she suggested viagra. 

Rochelle and Gustav are seen on camera by Red.  Shortly after, Rochelle is attacked in front of her fridge. Taking a leaf from a short story by  Roald Dahl (His  protagonist uses a frozen leg of lamb to kill her husband.) Rochelle uses an enormous frozen turkey leg to defend herself from a utility-knife wielding infected assassin. 

While Laurel questions her dad about his Parkinson’s she learns that he is infected. Her father tells her Laurel that he would rather be infected.  He then tries to hug her.

Gustav and Rochelle force their captured assassin to drink copious amounts of alcohol as they question him. They want to know what the space bugs want and they do learn quite a lot. The push for war and all the aggression is to keep people from fighting them.

Red continues to provide fake witnesses who testify that the Syrian’s are causing the head explosions.  Wheatus homes in on Pollack’s love for fluffy animals and gets the opposition riled up at his false evidence.

Gareth has leaked information to Laurel twice about Red’s nefarious undertakings. He is clearly all about “Camp Laurel.”  They meet and after a hamburger have sex again, this time without the alcohol and desperation.

Luke Healy starts breaking down Red’s faux witness and the proceedings are interrupted by a CIA briefing. The agent reveals to the Chair, Red, Pollack and Luke that the Syrian bioterrorism threat is not real.

As the bug assassin becomes increasingly intoxicated he reveals more but ultimately they have to let the infected man go.

Pollack enters Red’s office and  his queen bug comes out. Ella releases a male bug from her ear and the two alien creatures have  bug sex. As they copulate Red and Ella engage in aggressive sex talk. It appears that the aliens are hostile no matter what they do.

Regardless of what Rochelle, Gustav and Laurel learned from their bug guy, the aggression exhibited by  these space creatures  appears to be the norm.  Initially it seemed that the human hosts became more assertive because of the loss of  brain tissue.

The infected man tries to convince them that the human host is still “there.”  Red and Ella use double-talk to make the briefing by the CIA much more than it was. Luke is furious.  Gustav has to set their captive free and Rochelle follows him.

Inside the capital building she watches him enter a room marked “SRB-54.”  Luke talks to Laurel about Red and Ella’s actions. He wants to leak what the CIA really said in the briefing to stop a war with Syria. His father Dean disagrees.

The episode ends with Laurel and her father facing off over a table.

In many ways this series manages to interject some realistic elements of horror.  At the very least is utilizes conspiracy theories about recent terrorist events to build on the bug’s determination to declare war on Syria.  It all sounds terribly familiar.

The frozen turkey leg was a clear nod to the “Lamb to the Slaughter” short story that featured in Tales of the Unexpected. (The anthology TV show featured the brilliant Susan George as the wielder of the frozen joint of meat.) 

As this episode is a “part one” it will apparently conclude next week. The battle lines have been drawn and it now appears that the next installment will be Laurel versus her dad and Luke taking on Red and Ella.

BrainDead  airs  Sundays on CBS. The series has dropped again in popularity, presumably because no one can find the show to watch it.



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