Brain Dead is surprisingly astute for a show that’s about alien ants taking over our political leaders. However, its first episode still creeps by at a zombie’s pace. And it’s not for the squeamish. I, personally, had to cover my eyes whilst saying “ewwughh” to myself at a couple of parts. While this episode was mostly setting up the rest of the season, it did a decent job of introducing the major characters and plot points.
The lead, Laurel Healy, starts off as a basic trope character. She’s a documentary filmmaker chasing after stories no one wants to hear about. She’s pressured into working for her brother, the stereotypical sleazy Senator, by their father in order to get money for her films. Her first day on Capitol Hill, she is visited by a constituent who claims that her husband has become strange after retrieving a meteor that recently crashed into the ocean. Laurel starts following clues, distracted only by the small matter of a government shutdown.
The show attempts to juggle the introduction of the alien ants and their powers with the current political state of Washington DC. And the show goes to great pains to show that it is the current political state by intercutting clips of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump speeches (to a ridiculous extent). All of this serves to slow down the plot’s progression. At first, this added suspense, but when you realized the mysterious aliens were just a bunch of space bugs, there wasn’t much more mystery involved.
The redeeming quality of the first episode is in how the actors played their characters. Mary Elizabeth Winstead might play a trope character, but she adds a humorous level to Laurel that makes her relatable and enjoyable to watch. Aaron Tveit is excellent as Gareth Ritter, the Republican Aid who doesn’t seem all that Republican. I would watch the show just for his smile. Tony Shalhoub, who plays the drunk Senator Wheatus, is at first intolerable. However, I have a feeling he might be a very interesting space-ant-possessed zombie.
You think you’re supposed to like Danny Pino’s character, Senator Healy, Laurel’s brother. However, as he continues to make decisions that look out for himself, you lose faith in the character. The only genuine relationship he seems to have is with Laurel. Perhaps that will be enough to give him a redemption arc later in the season.
Overall the first episode was interesting enough and had some good dialogue. Now that we know everyone’s names and the show has established that it’s going to be liberal (haha get it?) with fake blood, hopefully, we can get to a fast-paced, interesting plot for the rest of the season.