After a week of far-too-real-life politics in the news, it was a bit of a relief to tune into BrainDead where ridiculous political shenanigans are (mostly) the fault of alien brain-eating bugs. We pick up right where Episode 4 ended with Laurel and the adorable F.B.I. agent Anthony sharing some pillow talk (shotÂ Ã la The Good Wife, with the sideways single close-up literally on the pillow). Unfortunately, Anthony is exhibiting some distinctly “bug”gy behaviour, including hearing loss.
Laurel meets with Gustav and Rochelle at her office to discuss her concerns about Anthony. Gustav (who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite things on television) is lightning quick to equip her with sedatives and brass knuckles. Rochelle, taking the more measured approach, advises that Laurel needs to get her brother to lean on the CDC if they are going to go any further with their research.
Senator Luke is on a mission this episode. One of his constituents is a war vet dying of liver cancer who needs government approved clinical trials to live long enough to see his daughter’s first birthday. With his eye on an easy win, he initially discounts Laurel’s CDC concerns. Unfortunately, bug-controlled Senator Wheatus bogs down the Veteran Affairs Committee’s discussion on the naming of a Capitol Building snack kiosk (seriously!) and Luke storms out in frustration just in time to see an FDA official storm out of an adjacent room where he is meeting with the CDC.
For the record, Margo Martindale (Justified, The Americans) makes EVERYTHING better. Episode 5 brings her into the BrainDead family as entomologist, Dr. Alaimo. Deciding that there might be something to this bug idea, Luke sends Rochelle and Gustav to Dr. Alaimo for scientific confirmation of their suspicions. Alaimo is brilliant, dishevelled, and quickly recognizes that there is a bug mystery afoot. She advises they look for where the bugs are nesting and accompanies Gustav on a middle-of-the-night inspection of the park where his friend got infected. Unfortunately, she picks up a few creepy-crawlies in the dark and, by the next morning, is neat, tidy, and bug-controlled.
The bugs really seem to get the upper-hand this episode. Our intrepid heroes are stymied at every turn. Dr. Alaimo has been turned. Luke’s foray into the investigation turns into an embarrassment for him when his tryst with the CDC’s lawyer, Polly Savident (Kelli Barrett, As The World Turns), is ended abruptly by a call from his wife and she leaks his bug story to his colleagues. With Dr. Alaimo no longer supporting their theory, Luke warns Laurel to never bring the bugs up again with him.
At the climax of the episode, Anthony makes a violent attempt to infect Laurel but she fights him off with the brass knuckles Gustav gave her. Anthony is driven off but the bugs are already in her apartment, carried in on the cherry blossoms he brought her, and viewers are left on a cliff-hanger as to whether or not Laurel’s head will explode or not.
This is nearly the midpoint of the season and a cliff-hanger of this magnitude is justified but oh-so painful. There being no exploding head this episode, it felt a little incomplete but the earlier scene where Gustav and Laurel run out of Anthony’s apartment leaving his head wrapped in bacon kind of made up for it. BrainDead continues to surprise me with its ability to incorporate humour into its representation of a relentlessly depressing IRL political landscape.
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