Television

BrainDead: Season 1, Episode 11 - "Six Points ..."

Colin McGuire

With only one week left, BrainDead picks up the pace, and boy, does it work.


BrainDead

Airtime: Sundays, 10pm
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Tony Shalhoub, Aaron Tveit
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 11 - "Six Points on the New Congressional Budget: The False Dichotomy of Austerity vs. Expansionary Policies"
Network: CBS
Air date: 2016-09-04
Amazon

"Why don't you take your Tupperware of monkey brains and think about whether you want to make documentaries and yes, that's the first time I've used that sentence."

See, that's funny.

It also kind of sums up where we are now with BrainDead. Even Red (Tony Shalhoub), who's supposed to be the series' de facto villain, knows how to be endearing, funny, and self-aware. Despite its ups and downs, it's clear that as we approach the final week of episodes, BrainDead has finally found its stride. Because yes, when it wants to be, this is a series that can be endearing, it can be funny, and it can be self-aware -- just check Laurel's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) off-handed comment that was a strong second-place finisher in this week’s quote battle: "Can you stop talking? It’s kind of making my head explode."

Get it? See. That’s funny, too.

But is it too little too late? As of this writing, I can't find a definitive answer on if this thing will be back for a second season, and if it's not, that would be a shame. Because if there’s one thing to take away from this debut run's 11th episode, "Six Points on the New Congressional Budget: The False Dichotomy of Austerity vs. Expansionary Policies", it's that we now have a series that knows what it's doing. The tension. The terror. The quirks. The humor. It's all here. It all works.

We open this week with Gareth (Aaron Tveit) toying with the notion of leaving his boss Red's side. The sequence ultimately leads to Gareth peeking in on the Queen Ant zipping out of Red's head and onto a coveted cherry blossom to lay her eggs. Gareth sees this and inevitably thinks, "Oh shit. Maybe Laurel wasn't lying about all that bug stuff." He calls her. They talk. And the wheels shift into a higher gear.

That's because Gareth is then invited into a meeting of Team Anti-Ant, which, as we know, features Laurel, Gustav (Johnny Ray Gill … finally!), Rochelle (Nikki M. James), and this CDC guy, who (I guess?) is now a permanent part of all this. They correctly deduce that if they get to Red, they can take out the aliens' fearless leader by doing what? Well, by doing the only logical thing you can do to something that looks like an oversized fly: roll up magazines to try and squash the boss into smithereens.

Which always works, right? Especially if you don't have a flyswatter.

It all leads up to an admittedly impressive dramatic showdown between Gustav, Laurel, Rochelle, and Red. When Queen Ant flies out of Red's head to do her business on a cherry blossom, the trio attacks our beloved Southern Senator to try and put paper to said Queen Ant. Red's new intern (which, to be honest, is a gag that I'm finding increasingly humorous each week) hears the commotion, barges in, holds down the trio, and the bug returns to its home, Red's brain.

Ant crises averted.

Or, well, for now, at least.

How so? Well, it’s clear now that the cast is becoming more defined each week. The people who were once skeptical about Team Alien Ant are all but in the know, while the ones who are overtaken by ants are … well, still overtaken by ants.

But, wait. Back to the people in the know. Luke (Danny Pino) is approached this week by people who want to vet him for the CIA. That’s right: Philandering Luke is now being tapped to head up one of the most secretive, honorable organizations in the world. Even better? It apparently doesn't matter that he has 390 girlfriends and a sexual history that might even make John Mayer blush.

Anyway, Luke is called in to meet with The Director of the Director (no joke) to talk about this potential job. It doesn't take long before the guy starts relaying classified information to Luke and, weirdly, the only piece of classified information this meeting pertains is stuff about the meteor from episode one, the ants, the fact that the world is fucked, and, of course, the directive for Luke to keep his sister and merry band of Ant Fighters at a distance because they are messing up the CIA's approach to battling this battle.

But … twist! Turns out the dude was working on behalf of Red. Boom goes the dynamite. Does this mean the CIA is working for the ants? Or does this mean there is no real Director of the Director, and this was all orchestrated by Red to try and get Luke to get Laurel to stop all her nonsense? Seems like something Luke could find out pretty easily, especially if he, you know, works for the government. I mean, at this point, you gotta think he wants to know if he's actually being vetted for an actual job, right?

Actually, what I'm more curious about is this notion that The Director of the Director (or, perhaps, The Fake Director of the Director) laid everything out for Luke and that everything was the everything we already thought we knew. All the presumptions and paranoid and ambiguity … well, that's gone now. We know for fact what the deal is because this guy just said all of it. It's now confirmed what happens when the bugs get into the brain. It's now confirmed where the meteor came from. The list goes on and on.

My point is this: Did The Director of the Director already know what Laurel believes, so he wanted to play off that, and make a story up that would appease her, should the information ever get back to her? Or, was he simply just outlining the actual lay of the land as it is in reality? And is that really how the ants operate? And is he, in fact, infected? And is he kind of like the Master Ant? And … and … and.

There's a lot to be resolved going into Sunday’s two-episode goodbye. While it may have taken until the season finale to get to this maximum point of maximum intrigue … hey, sometimes, "better late than never" isn't all that bad. So, I will now take my Tupperware of monkey brains, thank you very much, Red.

And I'll bring them with me as I sit right in front of a television Sunday night, eagerly anticipating how this whole thing ends.

You Might Think

You ready for this, per the website TV Series Finale? BrainDead's seventh episode’s rating drew a .3 in the 18-49 demographic. A total of 1.75 million people watched the show. Holy shit, man. Like, really. Holy shit.

I'm completely back in on Gareth and Laurel. When she came over to help calm his nerves that night about the bugs, my heart melted into tiny chocolate ant eggs. I can understand, in hindsight, the crux of the will they/won’t they work story -- because, OK, let’s not allow anything to come easy for the characters in BrainDead land -- but now that they appear to have weathered their storms and just have this natural care for each other … I dig it. I dig it a lot, actually.

I can't be the only one who thought/thinks that Gustav is the best part of this series, right? I just can’t be. So, can someone please explain to me why the writers have marginalized that character so much in recent weeks? He came into this story by way of a hurricane of awesomeness. Brilliant mind. Abrasive. Quirky. Funny. The list goes on and on, and make no mistake that the heart of this series, for at least a handful of episodes, has been him. So, what gives on the Kings demoting that character more and more as the weeks pass? I'm not sure what’s worse: not using him at all, or allowing him to pop up for four minutes and add almost nothing to the story.

I've been back and forth on those musical recaps, but I adored the idea of Jonathan Coulton recapping an episode of Gunsmoke instead of an episode of BrainDead this week. It’s the ultimate, "Ha, let’s actually see if anyone is actually watching this actual show anymore" move, and my hats off to anyone who was involved with executing that idea.

"As an artist, I use metaphors a lot. Probably too much. I love metaphors." Oh, come on, how juicy is that?! It’s the precise kind of "wait, are the Kings being meta again" moment that made The Good Wife so delicious so often. Plus, I was happy they gave that line to Laurel. She needed a boost in memorable quotes.

If I’m Laurel, I take that $2 million and I run. And I run fast.

Wait, so that's what SRB-54 is about?

Who else kind of/sort of/maybe liked that random guy Luke hired to translate the budget? He had the potential to either "be super obnoxious and not funny at all" or "be a tiny bit entertaining". Thankfully, he was the latter.

Things I’m interested in: The Director of the Director. The Queen Ant's future. Red’s intern. Gareth's ex-girlfriend. If Luke is actually being vetted for an actual job. Gareth's reasoning for resigning. If Gareth will resign. Are we sure that Ella (Jan Maxwell) has the king ant, then? The way Luke celebrates. Monkey brains.

Things I’m not interested in: The Farm Bill. The CDC doctor (is his name Dexter?). Internment camps (I still don't even really understand that part of this story). Air conditioning. Cherry blossoms. The CIA. Anthony Onofrio (Charlie Semine). Luke's affairs. Google searches for "flesh-eating bugs". People who constantly stare.

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