Title (S01.E02): Playing Politics: Living Life in the Shadow of the Budget Showdown – A Critique
Director: Jim McKay
Written by: (created by) Michelle King, Robert King (written by) Lawrence Kaplow
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Tveit, Nikki M James, Johnny Ray Gill, Danny Pino, Tony Shalhoub, Charlie Shamin, Jan Maxwell, Zach Grenier
Executive Producers: Ridley Scott, Michelle King, Robert King, David W Zucker, Liz Glotzer
Episode length: 42 min
Politics and life goes on as heads continue to explode, and the bugs claim more victims in the nation’s capital.
To remind us what’s going on, episode 2 begins with a shot of Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), at home, as she is about to leave for the day. She is shown looking under the sink for some bug spray to deal with what she thinks are a bunch of ants invading her kitchen.
The bug spray proves ineffective, and she resorts to stomping on the little critters, before beating a hasty retreat and leaving in temporary surrender to the fact there’s nothing she can do at the moment. The bugs show no interest in anything but her, which she doesn’t seem to notice.
Next, we join her back at her brother’s offices, where his assistant, Scarlett (Paige Patterson) is displaying the effects the alien insects are having on her, and spouting a more extreme version of her political views in a more aggressive manner.
There is still no clear agenda revealed about what these tiny invaders want. It’s not clear whether they are targeting political figures and the people they know alone because some of their victims seem to be randomly chosen.
Their effects on people seem to bring out an amplified version of their former selves, making them behave like single-minded automatons, especially regarding politics. These altered versions have an increased appetite for fresh juice, no more interest in booze, and a fondness for that song by the Cars.
When Laurel attends and amusingly titled event called the Tax Prom with her counterpart Republican operative, Gareth Ritter (Aaron Tveit). it seems like an innocent enough invitation from him, but it soon becomes apparent this guy is always up to something in service to his job. He succeeds in baiting Laurel a second time, and she falls for it again, in regard to recruiting more allies in the budget stalemate currently going on in Congress.
At the party, Laurel meets a couple of old friends, Stacie Zara (Nikiya Mathis), and Abby Summers (Brooke Bloom). Of the two, it’s immediately apparent that Abby has fallen victim to the bugs, and is spouting right-wing rhetoric, in an 180-degree swing from her former political views, in a manner that seems obsessive. This is a new twist, it seems the bugs this time have not only increased her interest in political matters but affected her political leanings also.
The scene shifts to a park where a young man is engaged in playing chess with several opponents at once. When one of these opponents is unresponsive, and he sees blood coming from inside one of his opponents ears, he sounds the alarm for an ambulance. Later when his friend is getting an MRI he suffers the same fate as the late Dr. Daudier, when his head explodes in the same manner.
Meanwhile back on capital hill, things continue in much the same manner as in episode 1, Red Wheatus continues to act in a very different manner than when he was first introduced, and when he offers the Democratic leadership an offer to end the stalemate if they will cut the budgets for energy, transportation, and education they treat him like he has gone insane.
The show continues in this back and forth between the party’s trying to outmaneuver each other for the benefit of the press, using a young cancer victim as a pawn in their campaigns to win public favor.
Meanwhile, the bugs are busy trying to get new recruits in whatever it is they trying to do. Abby manages to trap Stacie in her bathroom so she will fall victim to the tiny invaders. Scarlett lures Luke into bed in an effort to let the bugs get him, but her lack of passion and robotic behavior in the sack turns him off, and he leaves before the bugs can get him.
Laurel meets Rochelle (Nikki M. James), the daughter of Dr. Daudier, who is also a doctor, and who is very interested in why her father’s head exploded, and what caused it. She makes it obvious she will not let this go until her questions are answered to her satisfaction. We finally have a scientist, with scientific curiosity, involved in this story.
Luke is in danger of losing his job as party whip after being outmaneuvered by Red and Gareth, and the young chess player examines some of the brain matter from his friend’s exploding head and discovers a bug. He posts about it online and the final scene shows Laurel about to contact him about what he found.
Episode 2 held less charm than the pilot episode but was still engaging enough to make me want to watch the whole thing, to find out what happens next. The realization that what this show is depicting as comedy, is in fact, probably pretty close to the reality of what actually occurs in the halls of our government is a little depressing.
The show did still manage to extract some amusement from the events it depicted. but no real LOL moments like in the first installment. After all, people’s heads exploding is pretty grim stuff and loses its comedy appeal pretty quick, and an hour of watching the workings of people only interested in their own self-interests, instead of doing what they were elected to do is not really conducive to laughter.
Braindead managed to hold my interest this time around mostly because of its charming leading lady, and the creepy portrayal of Red Wheatus by Shalhoub. The show still appeals to me because of the science fiction mystery narrative surrounding the alien bugs, and that is the main reason I will continue to watch it.
It becomes a matter of curiosity at this point whether the show can reclaim some of the charm and wit it displayed in its initial episode while keeping me interested in the show’s genre elements,