EPISODE REVIEW: Survivors: “Episode 3” (Episode 3)

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Much better. Vast improvement. Still kind of off-balance, but much, much better than the two previous episodes. If I were going to try to get my friends interested in this show - and I’m certainly not going to do that, because I’m not at all confident about this series’ potential - I’d probably start with this one.

PLAY BY PLAY

Suburban Mom decides to go out by herself for unclear reasons. sees a wind farm, and goes to investigate. She’s shot at and captured in short order, and wakes up in what appears to be a children’s museum, or maybe a really nice lobby to a presidential library or whatever. When she awakes, she discovers that she’s in a little colony/enclave being run by the press secretary lady from the pilot, who was broadcasting the news about the plague.

She explains that the place was an Ecological…uhm…thing. (Research center? Environmentalist resort? Children’s museum?) and that it has power from the wind, lots of food, water, and by the time the food runs out, they should be growing their own stuff. It’s her hope to use this as the center of a new civilization. She’s all optimistic, humanistic, somewhat unrealistic, you know, the normal liberal “I wanna’ live in Walden” mindset, but she’s done a good job so far. Suburban mom thinks that’s great, and wants to sign on, but then some ‘raiders’ bust in and there’s a minor battle in the service corridors, where two of ‘em are caught. Press Secretary puts them on trial, they’re found guilty, and she shoots one in the head. Suburban mom freaks out and throws herself in front of the other raider.

“This will not fail” Press Secretary says of her little fiefdom.

“It just did!” says Suburban Mom. Press Secretary - who’s obviously pretty horrified by what she just did - gives clemency to the other raider.

Suburban Mom leaves, and the Press Secretary tells her there’s an estate to the east where she’s told there are children.

Psycho Killer and Greg The Compelling Black Guy go out to find gasoline (Or, if you use the metric system, “Petrol“). Since the gas stations are under the control of the crazy guys from last week, they decide to hit farms and bus depots. They find a farm with a dad and two kids. He’s utterly paranoid about keeping them safe from the disease, and he’s had no outside contact in…what? Months? I really don’t know how far along we are from the pilot. Two days? A week? A year? Probably not a year, but any time under that is arguable. Anyway, the dad tries to kill them with a Molotov cocktail (Or, if you use the metric system, “Petrol Bombs.”) They hole up in the barn. Presently the farmer’s daughter - ten or twelve - comes out to talk to them, and gives them chocolate. She explains that they all got food poisoning from some improperly cooked sausages, and once they were over that, everyone else in the world was dead.

Realizing they’ve been isolated all this time, they tell her they might be carriers. They inform her dad of this, and he locks the girl out and won’t say anything. She freaks out, so Psycho Killer freaks out her dad with tales of being locked up and starvation for his remaining kid, and eventually he unlocks the door and comes out.

Greg, Psycho Killer, and Suburban Mom head back to their manor home, and celebrate the birthday of the Suburban Mom’s son, Peter The Plot Device.

Meanwhile, in the secret lab, they test their new vaccine, which kills someone.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

The ambitious-yet-dim girl who trades sex for food from the previous episode is still here, living with our heroes. She’s still making goo-goo eyes at Greg, though, so it’s possible she actually likes him. The Rich Idiot and the Muslim Boy and the Pretty Doctor Lady are barely in this episode.

It’s a nice touch having the Press Secretary turn up again. As she puts it, “I am the government, or what’s left of it.” Her little enclave was nicely done, but you can’t help thinking that they got lucky as hell, and much of their success comes from having a cache of roast beef and turkey frozen below decks. The power struggle between her enlightened liberal despotism (I’m not being reactionary here, that’s an entirely apt description) and the militant behavior of some of the more conservative folks in her retinue is interesting, if a bit overstated, and though she preaches peace and love and hope a lot, she’s the first one to murder someone. I believe this is a deliberate social commentary on the part of the producers, since the whole show is clearly pretty skeptical of government and power.

- The Greg/Psychokiller plot is the more interesting of the two, full of the sinking feeling you get when things go horribly, horribly wrong. The paranoid dad’s absolute OCD behavior about infection control is kind of heartbreaking - as it’s supposed to be - and when he locks his daughter out, it moves on up to horrifying. (On a conceptual level. It’s not at all scary in execution.) The little girl - Sacha Parkinson - is unexpectedly great. She’s entirely believable as a mildly rebellious ‘tween who’s chafing at her dad’s authority, yet utterly completely inconsolable when she loses his support. It’s moving and well done, and her freakout is, well, it captures a kids “What have I just done?” terror very well.

- Direction is not exceptional, but the best we’ve seen on this show so far, with a lot of nice intercutting between the two groups of protagonists, particularly in the service tunnel battle in the second half. This works well, as the two storylines don’t really intersect except at the beginning and the end, and then only irrelevantly, so it provides a sense of cohesion.

- If there’s a theme here, it’s that authority breeds thugism. Last week, we saw basically a gang running things, and this week we’ve got a mannered thug who doesn’t think she’s one.

- Aside from boring me, I’m not sure what the Doctors In Hiding subplot is supposed to accomplish. I’m sure it’ll tie in more at the end of the season, but it’s basically the world’s most boring Helo plot at the moment (And remember, the Helo Plot in BSG was itself pretty boring until season 2)

- There really wasn’t any reason for the helicopter to come over, except to say “Look, we’ve got a helicopter!” and as an attempt to built a thin connection between the Farmer’s Daughter plot and the Doctors-in-Hiding plot. It wasn’t very interesting, and we never even find out why the thing was flying around.

- Greg and Psycho Killer bond over their reminiscences of GI Joe (Or, if you’re on the metric system, “Action Man.”) It’s kind of funny. Greg is somewhat less compelling this time out, and Psycho Killer is somewhat more so. He instantly sympathizes with the girl being locked up, presumably because he himself was in prison for years until the plague freed him. Though he was clearly a lamb in the fold for the first two eps, here he seems to be legitimately trying to re-invent himself as the defender of this little throng. I’m sure it won’t work, of course, there’ll be repercussions in the future, but it’s an interesting character arc.

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