EPISODE REVIEW: Survivors: “Episode 1” (Season 2, Episode 1)

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First off, I’d like to apologize for the extreme tardiness of this review. BBC-A has counter programmed this show so it’s up against Lost - a move that pretty much guarantees their rating ground into dust - and faced with a choice between the best, most interesting show on TV, or a hokey little low-budget ’walking around in the suburbs and pretending it’s the end of the world’ show that was apparently funded by Pizza coupons, which one am I gonna’ choose? I do hope to get these reviews up within a day or two of their broadcast in the future, but they’re always gonna’ be a bit delayed. Again, I do apologize for the five day delay this time out, however. I know I’ve really inconvenienced all of you who are actually following the show. All eight of you.

PLAY BY PLAY

We pick up just minutes after we left off last week/season: Greg the Compelling Black Man is dying, and Suburban Mom has been kidnapped by the Evil Doctors of the Apocalypse. They hole up somewhere, and Pretty Bisexual Doctor Lady, Rich Idiot, and Psychokiller go to a hospital to get surgical supplies. The hospital is on fire, and collapses around their ears in a genuinely exciting scene. Rich Idiot and Bisexual Doctor get trapped in the rubble. Psychokiller runs to get help, bringing Ambitious Skank and Muslim Boy along to move rubble.

They aren’t making much headway, when some random survivors come by, and say they’re burning buildings as a form of disease control (What?) but they’re sorry Bisexual Doctor and Rich Idiot got trapped, and assist in the digging out process. It’s just as ineffectual as before, but more labor intensive. One of these new survivors tells them there’s a local tough guy who’s got access to a lot of heavy machinery that could help ’em out. Ambitious Skank goes to talk to the guy about a loan.

He refuses to loan her anything since she has nothing he wants, excepting sex. He then slaps her around rapes her, more or less, then gives her a jack to help with the digging. It does help, and they dig out Rich Idiot and Bisexual Doctor, then go back to help Greg, the only person in the series who actually is worthy of a name. Miraculously, all the medical equipment and meds they swiped survived intact, and they’re able to function just fine despite the trauma they went through.

Greg recovers unrealistically fast, and forces Psychokiller to leave, since he shot one of the Health Minister Lady’s goons in cold blood, which ultimately got Greg shot. Psychokiller leaves in a bit of a huff. Rich Idiot consoles Ambitious Skank, who’s a wreck from her ordeal, and they decide to continue trying to find Suburban Mom.

Suburban Mom, meanwhile, is in the Evil Doctor’s Lair, where they plan to study her - dead - to find a cure for the virus. They reveal that they knew it was coming long before it hit, and that they’re working for a mysterious group even now. The Indian Doctor attempts to rescue her, warning her that they intend to kill her, but they’re captured.

OBSERVATIONS

Pacing, direction, and acting were all much better this time out than they were in really any episode of the previous season, excepting the finale.

I don’t like “Trapped in the rubble” stories. Granted, they’re cheap, but they’re really not very interesting, and by their very nature you’re restricted as to how you can film them. In essence, they just sit there in a great big televisual holding pattern while more interesting stuff goes on elsewhere in the show. (Witness that Torchwood episode a couple years back) I felt like it was a cheat that both Bisexual Doctor and Rich Idiot survived. Given that a six storey building fell on them, it seems at least one of them should have died. I was actually kind of sure Rich Idiot was toast at one point.

Rich Idiot has a really good scene, by the way, when Muslim Boy is freaking out about Greg’s injuries, and he holds the kid tightly to calm him down. It’s a quick scene, nothing cloying about it, but it’s moving just the same. Rich Idiot has developed a lot of paternal feelings towards Muslim Boy.

We get a number of Lostbacks of Greg before the world ended, all fairly by the book: Happy family, cheating wife, wife leaving and taking the kids. There’s a quick shot of him pounding some guy - presumably his wife’s boyfriend - which works really well as a storytelling move, and is a little bit shocking. Evidently, the reason Greg’s so stiff is that he’s got an anger management problem.

Suburban Mom has really little to do this week, aside from show off her good-enough legs. It’s interesting that the world has ended, but women still shave their legs and have perfect makeup. That which survives, I guess. Anyway, not much of a performance there.

Ambitious Skank has a pretty harrowing role, and gives a kind of horrified/sad performance that was unexpectedly frank. One of the things I instantly dislike about her is that she’s not all that bright. She’s kind of dull-witted, and a liar. I’d blamed this Tori Spelling performance on the limitations of the actress, but tonight showed me that she can act, she’s just playing someone who’s rather dim. The scene with the tough guy was harrowing. We’ve seen that she’s willing to have sex in exchange for personal gain. When she heads off to see the guy about some equipment, it’s fairly obvious to everyone that she intends to trade sex for goods. It’s apparent to him, too, and he quickly takes advantage of it. He agrees to give her what she wants - then, suddenly, she seems to have second thoughts - but he points out that Greg will die if she doesn’t. She’s thus sort of compelled under duress to have barely-consensual sex with the guy, and then he starts beating the heck out of her. Was this rape or prostitution or what? I’m sure a soulless lawyer could manage some legal wrangling to convince a judge that it wasn’t, but it’s more than rapey enough for me. I say he raped her. It was a very uncomfortable scene, deliberately so.

With Suburban Mom gone, Greg is the new leader. His first order - getting rid of Psycho killer - is a really bad one. Particularly since Psychokiller was finally beginning to show some group identity. He’s still a barely-contained homicidal nut job, but he seems to have divided the world into “Mine” and “Theirs,” and identified the group as “His,” hence they’re under his protection. Or at least they were.

I wonder what’s up with the postcards? Greg got one in his flashback, and the Evil Head Doctor has one, too. Are they from the Mysterious Men the Evil Doctors are working for? And who are these Mysterious Men anyway? When asked if they’re working for the government, the Evil Head Doctor says “Not directly.” What I found interesting about this is that these folks were wealthy and powerful enough that they’re still wealthy and powerful after the end of the world. In essence, they are, or will become, the government of England. Meanwhile, the Health Minister Lady is playing her little dreamy medieval power games, thinking she’s all that’s left, but she’ll be the first one swept aside if/when the Mysterious Men come out of their hidey-hole. (Which probably really is a hole)

Interesting that the Evil Doctor kept his family alive. More interesting still that he’s obviously keeping this a secret from the other Evil Doctors.

They're obviously in London now, and Bisexual Doctor mentions they hospital they went to was the one she used to work at. But where were they last season, since everyone appeared to be heading north for days on end in that first episode?

On the whole, a good ep, and a promising start to the series. Much more ambitious and focused than we saw before.

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