Seemingly against all odds, The CW has built up a solid roster of dramas — most of which have a diverse cast and feminist bent — and has become one of the most consistently interesting networks out there. From the heartwarming and telenovela-inspired Jane the Virgin to the strange and funny musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The CW has some of the most compelling narratives around (not to mention a great lineup of superhero and supernatural series). So it’s only natural that the network would try to keep up this momentum with a big “event series.” It’s just too bad the results aren’t stronger.
Containment, from The Vampire Diaries’ Julie Plec, is based on the Belgian TV series Cordon and is being billed as a 13-episode event series, which is a term that doesn’t mean much when The CW has already announced that it’s open for continuing the series depending on its success. Containment has a vaguely interesting premise: The series opens 13 days after a viral outbreak has plagued Atlanta, resulting in bloody deaths and thousands of citizens quarantined inside an electric fence. We see how quickly civilization has gone to hell: people screaming, crying, bleeding, looting, shooting and being shot. From there, the pilot rewinds to the beginning of the outbreak, introducing viewers to a handful of mostly unconnected people who will become the main characters.
What should be a fascinating series by combining a creepy and engaging mysterious outbreak with an exploration of people’s varying reactions to tragedy instead becomes a run-of-the-mill drama. The characters include single mother Katie (Kristen Gutoskie), a schoolteacher who is stuck in hospital lockdown with her elementary-school class (including her son) along with Jake (Chris Wood), a handsome cop who will almost definitely fall in love with Katie by the series’ end. Jake’s partner Lex (David Gyasi) is on the outside of the electric fence and becomes the face of the whole operation, adding a personal aspect to the job when he realizes that his girlfriend Jana (Christina Moses) is stuck on the inside. There is another couple in a similar situation: 17-year-old pregnant teenager Teresa (she is about to pop, of course, because you can’t have a deadly quarantine without an upcoming childbirth scene!) is inside the cordon while her boyfriend Xander (Demetrius Bridges) is intent on getting inside to be with her.
Immediately, the series hits all the necessary notes: the pregnant teen, the Romeo and Juliet situation (Teresa was running away with Xander, because her mother wanted Teresa to give the baby up for adoption), the will-they/won’t-they romance within a dystopian-like setting, and the personal-relationship-problems-interrupting-a-plague. (Jana is unsure of whether she wants to live with Lex; Lex is so sure that Jana jokingly questions if he created this viral plague just to get her into his apartment.) Throw in some social commentary — a white cop throws Xander, a black youth, to the ground when he tries to get back into the fence, prompting Lex (also black) to break up the squabble while a cameraman captures the whole thing — and America’s terrorism fears — patient zero is a Syrian man who snuck into America and naturally, people think this might be a bioterrorism attack — and well, that’s basically all Containment has. A bunch of familiar characters, overdone situations, and small-to-nonexistent twists on an established formula.
Containment contains elements of everything from Under the Dome to Lost to Zoo to movies like Outbreak but lacks the fun hate-watch quality, compulsive mystery, or monkeys that make those so watchable. Instead, Containment plods along hitting every expected beat, marching along on a straight line while it desperately needs to take a sudden turn. It’s a series that might get better, and it might be worth saving it to binge on during the summer when nothing else is on. But there’s no real reason to tune in now.