Originally posted by Matthew Stanton
Let’s get this out of the way first, Braindead is weird. One part political thriller, one part science fiction and one part quirky satirical comedy. It’s one of those shows that I discovered entirely by accident yet ended up being one of my favorite shows of 2016. Even more so when you consider everything that’s happened in the last twelve months.
The government is on the verge of a shutdown and the democrats and the republicans can’t agree on anything. A problem only exacerbated when space bugs arrive and start eating people’s brains, causing them to embrace their political ideals even further and eliminating the gray area between the parties. It also makes them listen to nothing but “You Might Think” by The Cars. At the same time, filmmaker Laurel Healy (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead) arrives in Washington D.C, out of money for her documentary and forced to work for her senator brother. She quickly becomes involved in the bug conspiracy and seeks to uncover why everyone in D.C. is starting to act so weird.
The premise is a risky blend of genres and thankfully it works well, most of the time at least. This being a satire, the political side tends to take precedence over the science fiction side, which may turn off a few viewers. I tended to understand most of what was happening with the bare basic knowledge of American politics I’ve picked up over the years so don’t let that dissuade you from watching. Both sides gel well together and a lot of the drama is driven by the characters involved as opposed to the politics.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is as watchable as ever (I only discovered the show whilst browsing her IMDB page), grounding the show in realism as many of the people around her can be quite outlandish and often stereotypical (both due to the aforementioned space bugs and from just generally working in politics). The cast around her is also generally great, with the notable standout being Tony Shaloub’s Republican senator, hamming it up and acting as the primary antagonist.
It’s hard not to talk about the plot and say how great some of the twists are, but to do so would be spoiling it. Watching the space bug’s plans unfold and seeing how it ties into the political side of the show makes for compelling viewing so it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible. You’ll just have to take my word that it is, in fact, very good.
There are a handful of standout moments, my favorite being a scene in which a character needs to use the creative side of their brain as much as they possibly can in a short space of time. It’s a hilariously absurd scene and really fun to watch.
Braindead isn’t perfect, the resolution feels rushed in the last 20 minutes of the finale and some of the heavier political stuff may not be for everyone. However, I implore you to give the first two episodes a shot at least. It might not end up being in your favorites of the year but it’s certainly different to a lot of other television shows.
Oh and every episode starts with a musical recap by Jonathan Coulton. So there’s that.
Braindead is weird. Television needs more weird.
You can find the first season of Braindead on Amazon Prime
N.B. Whilst writing this I was disappointed to discover that Braindead wasn’t picked up for a second season. Perhaps it was just TOO weird for CBS. Thank you for existing and I hope more creators take the risks you did.