Episode 7: The Experiment
Technical aspects: C
Scott Michael Foster
[Spoilers pretty much the whole damn time, this time.]
Zombies. We went with zombies? Really?
Picking up directly after the end of episode 6, the crew has arrived at the outpost where they hope to find Emmet (Bruce Greenwood). But it appears to be entirely deserted, and oddly like the abandonment happened very suddenly. Wandering around, they discover that this was a research facility, and Lincoln (Joe Anderson) speculates that they were trying to find a cure for cancer. Much of their experimentation appears to have been unethical, killing and studying the Zulo tribe members, who supposedly have nearly impossible good health. The crew then comes across a freezer filled with decaying human bodies, though Emmet is not among them.
Kurt (Thomas Kretschmann) goes off alone, followed by A.J. (Shaun Parkes). He finds a photo of himself and a woman revealed to have been his fiancée. He also finds Rabbit (Katie Featherston), the camerawoman who abandoned Emmet in the jungle.
She reveals that Emmet was in the facility, and though he was still very sick he’d been recovering. But then the crew is attacked by some of the inhabitants of the facility, who have somehow been thrown into a cannibalistic fury. Yep. We’ve got zombies. The zombie-fication is courtesy of Kurt’s fiancée, Mina (Lili Bordán), who was also on a security mission. She interrupted the scientists dissecting one of the Zulo tribesmen, telling them that their research would never leave. Shooting them, she apparently released some type of… virus? energy? or something that has turned them into zombies. She, too, has been infected.
Tess (Leslie Hope) nearly gives up hope of finding Emmet, though there’ve been clues that he survived. Then they spot a dragonfly, and recognize it as a symbol that’s always led them closer to finding him. Ultimately, they discover him in some type of cocoon, barely alive. Frantically trying to escape from the cannibalistic doctors and soldiers of the base, they make it back to the Magus.
But some of the zombies have followed them, and attack. Rabbit is killed, Kurt has to shoot Mina, and Tess is nearly killed. But at the last moment, she is saved by Emmet, who is out of his coma.
Well, again, at least this episode has plot. But seriously, I just can’t get past the fact that we brought zombies into it. I love zombies, don’t get me wrong. But they’re an obvious trend as far as horror and general pop culture goes, and this just feels… weird and out of place. The horror prior to this may not have been super successful in any consistent way, but focusing on supposed regional legends and creepy things at least gave the show some distinction. Or having the ghost ship, which at least made sense as a plot having to do with being trapped on the river. But zombies have nothing to do with anything except as a “hey, this is a trendy thing right now.” I suppose it could be making a point about the excesses of science trying to understand or replicate or thwart nature, and how it will end in disaster… but isn’t that more or less all the other zombie movies out there?
Leaving that aside, I guess it was an okay episode. The found footage style is starting to feel extra contrived, though, in some regards. Not that it was seamless and totally believable before. But just happening to find the computer in the facility, that just happens to contain the footage of Mina shooting the scientists… way too convenient. Similarly, deliberately not showing the scary things gets frustrating, too. Like supposedly the cameraman is disgusted so we don’t get to see more than a tiny glimpse of the bodies in the freezer. It’s not necessarily unrealistic, but it still feels fake. The “less is more” theory of horror doesn’t always work in my opinion. Sometimes it’s a good way to build tension, but sometimes when it comes to filming it just seems like a way to mask laziness and bad effects.
I’m liking the development we got for Kurt, even though it doesn’t explain all of his creepy behavior throughout the series, or why he (and Mina?) were on the mission that he reveals to A.J. [Extra heavy spoilers]: He reveals he intends to kill Emmet, probably to “protect the Source” as we’ve gotten cryptic hints about. And since he seemed to know that Mina would be in the outpost, they may have both been on complementary missions to do so. [End of spoilers.] I like Kurt’s willingness to discuss his secret plans and mission in German, since no one around understands him.
The cocoon thing with Emmet was… weird. It was intercut with a clip from his nature show about how some butterflies and dragonflies will essentially retreat into a pupa-like state in order to wait out hardship, sometimes for months or years. (While I know of fish and frog species that do something similar by retreating to a near-coma until conditions improve, I didn’t actually know of any insects that do something like this. I don’t know if it’s actually a thing, or if the show is just making shit up. It’s disappointing if they’re just bullshitting, but I don’t have any knowledge either way.) This “older footage” comes with commentary from Emmet telling the audience to keep this in mind if they think they could improve upon nature… that nature always provides a way for creatures to survive. This seems like the contrast against the scientific disaster zombies, but… HUMANS DO NOT PUPATE and I just can’t quite get over that. I know it’s supposed to be a mystery and unexplained and such, but… nature doesn’t work that way.
We’ve got one episode left. I have no idea how this is all going to be resolved in any way that actually wraps it all up. And maybe it won’t be; the implication of the “this is the footage they left behind” taglines in the commercials is that none of the crew ever returns from the mission. There also seem to be plans for this to continue for more than just this mini-season, though whether it’ll be the same characters and goals, I don’t know. We shall see.