Free Minds & Free Markets

Containment Offers No Cure to a Plague of Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Fantasies

New CW show boldly goes where many have gone before.

"Containment""Containment," CW

Containment. The CW. Tuesday, April 19, 9 p.m.

Guess what? You've probably already seen CW's plague-thriller Containment, possibly in 2011 when Steven Soderbergh called it Contagion, or maybe in 1995 when Wolfgang Petersen called it Outbreak, or even in 1973 when George Romero called it The Crazies.

Happily for The CW, to its teenybopper audience these artifacts of a pre-Snapchat world are no more accessible than cuneiform or Sanskrit, and Containment is likely to be a hit, not to mention a shoo-in winner of the Emmy for Most Prodigious Use of Viscous Bodily Fluids.

And, what the hell, you might as well go ahead and join the Pepsi generation yourself. However derivative Containment may be, it attains a certain creepy power as it rolls along its yuckily apocalyptic way, and it's a useful reminder that the fear of biochemical warfare is more than just a political cudgel for Washington politicians competing to see who can come up with the most egregious policy on Syria.

Adapted from the Belgian TV series Cordon by CW vets Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries) and David Nutter (Arrow), Containment is set in Atlanta, where a mysterious epidemic of a hemorrhagic variant of avian flu has just erupted.

Clueless as to its cause (favorite theory: a Syrian biowar attack) or cure, terrified by its 100 percent mortality rate, the Center for Disease Control seals off a big chunk of the city, creating family schisms –most notably the one between Lex Carnahan (British TV actor David Gyasi), the major coordinating the police response, who is outside the wall, and his techie girlfriend Jana (Christina Marie Moses, How We Met), who is inside.

Much of what follows is predictable, if not uninteresting. The interior of the containment area quickly devolves into a hellish landscape of anarchic street gangs and plundering Randians chanting "Supply and demand!" as they charge $5 for a box of macaroni and cheese. Federal health bureaucrats, in the eternal way of suddenly-empowered nerds, go so full-frontal fascist that even the cops are appalled. ("The fact that I'm here should have you worried," replies one CDC bureaucrat to a skeptical cop. "I don't get called unless things get bad.")

But there are also a couple of clever new wrinkles, particularly the inevitable role of social media. The containment is only a couple of hours old when trapped journalists launch, replete with video of police atrocities, scabrous (well, maybe) conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, and even escape routes. And in an interview with Carnahan, they expose the grim utilitarian calculation of the cordon sanitaire: "What happens when someone tries to leave the cordon, major? Do you shoot him?" The answer will soon be all too apparent.

Social breakdown in the face of microbiologic banditry is not exactly new television territory these days, what with Walking Dead spinoffs multiplying like Tribbles. Yet for all the intensity of the Walking Dead shows, Containment has its own uniquely disquieting edge: Brain-eating zombies remain a hobgloblin of Hollywood, but government-brewed anthrax and brucellosis are excruciatingly real. And in terms of the all-important gross-out quotient, zombies got nothin' on Containment. Autopsy-room scenes, especially, are not for the gag-reflex-impaired.

Containment's cast, which also includes Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries) as an overwhelmed street cop and Claudia Black (Farscape) as an icy federal health commissar, is generally workmanlike. Gyasi, who plays the police commander, offers a good deal more than that with his complex portrayal of a man who paradoxically projects increasing strength to the public even as his doubts about what he's doing grow. "We have to trust the doctors," he remonstrates with other cops, much as Frankenstein's monster must have said to his bride.

Photo Credit: "Containment," CW

Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin is the author of Everybody Had His Own Gringo: The CIA and the Contras and (with Ana Rodriguez) Diary of a Survivor: Nineteen Years in a Cuban Women's Prison. He writes about television for the Miami Herald.

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Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Glenn Garvin- Male Prostitute.

    I can assure you professional hygiene, discretion and animal gratification.

  • ||

    You're dealing here with a fully qualified male strumpet. I service the entire quad cities area - Moline, Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf.

  • Just a thought not a sermon||

    It happens out in Vegas happens in Moline
    On the blue blood streets of Boston
    Up in Berkeley and out in Queens
    And it went on yesterday and it's going on tonight
    Somewhere there's somebody ain't treatin' somebody right

  • Private Chipperbot||

    I came here to post that, you bastard.

  • Charles Easterly||

    He's fast, that OMWC. Shops at Target from what I read, but not for what's on the shelves.....

    This is all I could find with a brief search of the old SNL bit:Fred Garvin

  • UnCivilServant||

    Your plot synopsis does not sound like the outbreak I saw. Did you really watch all those movies you compared this one to?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Googling the writer, he looks like Gene Roddenberry with a beard. So, probably?

  • Charles Easterly||

    I very much enjoyed Glenn's article, UnCivil (with the exception of "doing grow", which I don't understand).

    Fun mockery throughout.

    With regards to the comparisons to Outbreak and other movies, I took him to mean that there was a common theme with regards to pants-staining fear of uncontrollable diseases.

  • UnCivilServant||

    You don't sound like a reason commenter. Have you been bought off?

  • Charles Easterly||

    Nor have I been doing grow.

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    In case some are wondering, "doing grow" refers to the new drug fad where teens engage in off-label, recreational use of Human Growth Hormone.

  • Charles Easterly||

    Hello, HM.


    This was the type of things I found with my brief search.

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    thing, not things.


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    Check snopes....

  • Rich||

    it attains a certain creepy power as it rolls along its yuckily apocalyptic way

    But, enough about the 2016 presidential campaigning.

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  • LynchPin1477||

    Farscape was a good show.

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    I call for a mandatory drug screen here!!!

  • ||

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  • Charles Easterly||

    I almost walked out on "Poseidon", but as I had rented it and was watching it at home that seemed a rather silly idea.

    The remake reminded me of most remakes which I've seen (whether only partially or when I sat through the entire movie):

    1) Take an old movie, rearrange the character's personalities and some details to make them understandable to contemptible contemporary audiences.
    2) Insert personal and/or social agenda(s) either subtly or blatantly.
    3) Include whatever stars are currently popular whom you can afford (if need be rewrite their character's dialog and/or scenes to get them to sign even if this doesn't flow with the rest of the movie - in fact, sacrifice plot and anything else to get big names on the project).
    4) Advertise advertise advertise with trailers showing all of the best scenes and get late night hosts to have the stars on to promote the movie ("There's something in it for everyone.")

    I suppose I'm a curmudgeon when it comes to remakes.

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    If they had a good idea, they wouldn't need to do a remake. So of course they're going to be substandard mimickry of the originals.

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    1) Take an old movie, rearrange the character's personalities and some details to make them understandable to contemptible contemporary audiences.

    So every modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare ever.

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  • Notorious UGCC||

    They're going to promote *Containment* with viral marketing.

    Claudia Black's smile is infectious.

    OK, gotta renew my pun license now...

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    So Miami presstitutes have actually seen plundering Randians?

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