As most of you know by now, or for those who don’t, BrainDead was cancelled. I kind of had an idea this was going to happen when close to the end of the season news hit that star Mary Elizabeth Winstead was joining the new season of Fargo. Obviously she wouldn’t have done that if ratings were high and the probability of a second season was in the cards. But it was finally and officially announced in October the show had been cancelled due to low ratings. Apparently the ratings were in the crapper the moment it debuted. Given the premise of the show this is, and isn’t, a shock to me, if that’s even possible. On the one hand a show like this coming to fruition within the “perfect political time period” as we’re in now should have given enough support to garner further seasons, yet on the other hand I can also understand given how broken government is revealing itself to be, and possibly even detrimental to the actual well-being of all of us Americans, if not the rest of the world, why no one would want to give this show the time of day when they can see it playing out in real life all around them. Its very premise revolves around the science fictional reasons why our American government is visibly coming apart at the seams.
Not that I believe actual alien parasites are infesting our politicians’ brains and creating this havoc, but the almost irrational dysfunction portrayed in the show I have to admit feels like it touched on some “universal truth,” what that is, I don’t know, and maybe deep down I don’t want to know, maybe others felt that way too and the show turned them off. Or, maybe, it was just like I previously said, why watch it when I can see this shit in real life, and when I get out of real life at night this is the last thing I want to relax in front of and watch. Yeah, maybe, it’s all as simple as that.
Whatever the case the show did not catch on, and when I initially heard about the concept it didn’t interest me either, though Ridley Scott’s name in connection did pique my interest for a brief moment. That must have stayed with me because when I saw the re-reruns On Demand (everything I watch I wait until it hits On Demand. I rarely watch shows at the actual time they come on) I started watching. I’ll be honest it took three episodes for me to get glued to it, before then it was indeed the very premise, of setting this within the walls of government, that wasn’t doing shit for me. Not until the alien ants started to really come into the picture did I begin to want to follow it. It did help, though, that I liked most if not all of the main characters. I also wanted to know how this would all wrap up in the end. Do the humans triumph or do the aliens?
The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers vibe is the strongest, but that wasn’t the first movie I harked back to when I started watching. I thought mostly of John Carpenter’s They Live (1988), which mines some of the same territory but in a different way. His movie was more a war of the classes and to explain why the growing poverty rate was out of the control we learn aliens have secretly invaded and are mining us like we’re some third world planet, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Of course there is that one shot in the movie that blatantly indicates the aliens have infiltrated every level of power including the presidency. In my opinion They Live is more relevant now than ever and the only plausible alien invasion movie ever made. We were invaded and taken over and never realized it, which is how I believe any real alien invasion would happen. BrainDead is kind of like that, had the aliens succeeded the Earth would have been taken over and “plundered” without us ever understanding how it all went wrong. Had there been more seasons that mandate would been also played itself out in other factions of society.
In the extras it’s stated the show had a fleshed out four year window. The second season would have centered on the aliens fucking with Wall Street, season three would then moved them into Silicon Valley and the final season would have seen them infesting Hollywood, which would explain so, so, much. It’s odd, even though I’m disappointed the show stopped here, I’m also glad it did too, because now BrainDead is a perfect 13-part miniseries with a final episode that surprisingly wraps things up, just take out that final shot of the queen bug flying towards the camera and you’ve got a perfect beginning, middle and end.
BrainDead’s central character is Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), she’s a documentarian and part of a political (Democratic) family. Her brother, Luke (Danny Pino), is the current Senate Majority Whip, and her father, Dean (Zach Grenier), is a former Senator. Laurel hates Washington (don’t we all) and the last thing she wants to be doing is working there, but she shows up because she’s lost funding for her new doc. She bumps into her father at this party and he wants her to work in her brother’s office (a position just opened up), and if she does he’ll pay off her student loans, she counters with she’ll do it for six months if he’ll finance her doc instead. And that’s how Laurel ends up being a constituency caseworker for her brother.
Once I started to get into the show I ended up liking most of the characters, even Tony Shalhoub’s Raymond “Red” Wheatus, a Republican Senator and one of the “main heavies,” the second being Democratic Senator, Ella Pollack (Jan Maxwell), who both end up housing opposing alien royalty in their skulls. The parasites get into your brain and eat part of it, replacing that side with their own will, this ends up making each infested person a victim of their own ideology (like we aren’t already), but with half your brain gone and the other missing half under alien control your ideology is ramped up on steroids, thus explaining all the almost illogical bickering, positioning, and attempted governmental takeovers and monkey wrenches each side tries to engage in and throw around.
There’s a side effect, though, only occurring in certain individuals. I forget how they explain it, I think, it’s from certain gasses the alien parasites give off, but basically a takeover gone wrong results in a head explosion! A bloody one too. For a major network I was surprised to see this level of gore. You don’t get a lot of brain blows in the show, but the ones shown are pretty effectively done, CGI of course. This is a black comedy, so some brain blows fall into that category, especially when Wheatus orchestrates one of them during a gym workout to push his political (alien) agenda.
Speaking of the aliens remember that meteor that came screaming in over Russia early one morning, blowing out windows in buildings and crashing into a lake? That footage is used to explain how the parasites come to Earth, and they look a lot like alien ants. Clever to make them sort of resemble something we already have on Earth, giving them a nice “cloaking device” if seen by the naked eye. The King and Queens, however, look bigger and bit more “unusual.”
Other characters I came to like was Laurel’s love interest, Gareth Ritter (Aaron Tveit), a staffer that works closely with Wheatus. Yes, he’s a Republican and in the beginning there’s a love/hate thing going on, but you come to like the guy, one of a handful of characters that manage to stay parasite free.
Slowly learning of the alien infestation and working with Laurel to save the human race is Gustav Triplett (Johnny Ray Gill) and a Dr. Rochelle Daudier (Nikki M. James), the former a conspiracy theorist and NSA agent, and the latter a medical doctor.
There are other minor characters that come in and out of the show, but those are you’re main ones. The thing that had me most on the edge as the plot played out, and as I ended up liking the un-infected, was fearing they would eventually get infected, and it’s not like you can’t get un-infected, you can, but there’s a certain level of dependency you acquire when half your brain is alien, and when that’s gone you end up pretty much an idiot, because half your fuckin’ brain is gone. If you ask me, death is better than terminal idiocy.
There’s a couple of shocking moments which I won’t give, one involves Wheatus that I just did not see coming, an Oh-shit-did-that-just-happen moment. The show also gives you a backstage look at how politicians use their laws to screw the other side and how that whole reprehensible and broken life of governing works. I also learned things about the FBI, specifically in regards to how easy it is for them to snatch someone they think is a threat to national security and torture them, even if that person is clearly the wrong person. I really hope all that stuff in that episode was fiction, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was all real.
Rooting it more in believability are the various TVs seen throughout in the background. If you get a good look are actually showing real news (some of it breaking as its happening according to the extras) of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton battling it out.
There’s an interesting scene that encapsulates what we all think is wrong with our politicians. After Wheatus gets taken over, half his brain seeps out of his ear and plops down on the pillow, and it to me it looked like his ear was taking a shit, because that part of his brain coming out looked like a hunk of shit.
Paramount put out BrainDead this past December 6th in a 4-disc DVD set only that you can buy right here on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen—2.0 English Dolby Digital, 5.1 English Dolby Digital Stereo—English SDH subs only.
Extras included . . .
- Trickle-Down Invasion: The Story Of BrainDead (9:52)
- Strange Bedfellows: The Characters Of BrainDead (12:22)
- The Third Party: The Politics Of BrainDead (9:39)
- Gag Reel (1:39)
One last thing I need to mention is the originality of the recaps. I don’t know about you but when I’m into a show I hate those recaps they do in the beginning before an episode starts. I understand why they do them, to catch up any newbies who are coming into the show in the middle, but they still irritate the hell out of me. Yeah, yeah, get on with it already. I know all this shit. A necessary evil they are, I guess, but the way they’re presented in this series is perfect and perfectly hilarious! It’s easier if you just watch the video below of all thirteen. But don’t watch unless you want plot points spoiled. If you’ve seen the show already, just enjoy, but the way they handled them was a big highlight of BrainDead, especially the one for the second-to-last episode. It starts at 9:11 mark!