How do you finish a story when you don’t know if you’re halfway through telling it, a quarter of the way through telling it, or completely, irrevocably done?
The idiosyncrasies of the basic American tv network system with its 13 episode initial order, followed by the “wait and see” if you’re going to get a” back nine” to finish your season, followed by another “wait and see” if you’re getting a second season or more on top of that, or nothing at all, is frustrating enough for the viewer, but in a show like Containment where the ratings are borderline and the overall arc is everything – unlike say a cop procedural where the arc can be prioritised or completely ignored from week-to-week – it must be the Rubik’s Cube of writing for the people actually trying to make it. How do you plan an ending to your story when you don’t know if it’s actually going to be the ending or if it might turn out to be something more akin to a paragraph break?
In this particular instance, rather than go for broke with a big cliffhanger – if it had finished with say Jake suddenly starting to cough up blood, DUN DUN DUN, I might have resorted to violence – or give up and give us a big finish, the writers of Containment have found a middle road, giving us a series of little finishes instead.
Having spent the past thirteen weeks twinkling at each other while waiting to die (since episode 1, every time one of these two ever came on screen, the sense that something terrible was going to happen to them was palpable), Bert and Micheline decide they’ve had enough of waiting around for the inevitable and write themselves out in somewhat maudlin fashion. I never quite understood either character, and juxtaposing Bert’s triumphant, hard-won survival with Katie’s horrible death two eps ago only to have him chuck it all in now seems a bit pointless, but then again I’m spending my Sunday morning writing about the “finale” of a CW show that was cancelled after thirteen eps, so “pointless” is probably the order of the day.
Granddaughter Teresa, Xander and baby Leanne meanwhile, get stuck with Jana and co in the sewer tunnels which Dr Lommers – in one last villainous flourish, before she’s finally brought down, ignominiously and somewhat bizarrely, by Leo working with Lex’s Dad – is having blown up. Team Teresa bails out early, retreating to the now-empty store (since gangster-philosopher Trey and co are currently in residence at the hospital) to reclaim, rebuild and get engaged. Congratulations! Jana and the others press on, however, till they’re stopped, not by the explosions all around them, but by unhappy boyfriend Lex proclaiming, in somewhat ridiculous fashion,”People of the Cordon! Do not come any further!” A brief struggle with his conscience, though, and presto! Lex and Jana are reunited at last, which is nice for them, but they’re also back in the Cordon, which isn’t so great for their long-term prospects of survival. Or indeed Quentin and Suze’s.
Or is it? Cannerts’s “cure’ – essentially bleeding poor Thomas dry – doesn’t save Cinco(?) but, as Jake, proving himself to be a better scientist than the man in the white coat on whom all hope depends, points out, this death is different. Small comfort, one might think, but no: Cinco died from the treatment, not the virus. So a pinch less of this, a touch more of that and we may well have a cure on our hands after all. Even if it means that that supremely creepy preacher guy who was telling people ages ago that he could heal them was apparently, if accidentally, right.
Still, the scene where Jake starts to list the names of the dead and people start to volunteer is poignant and sweet, and Jake’s heartfelt monologue as he scatters Katie’s ashes on the roof and ends the show (forever, as it turns out) inevitably made me cry. I loved Containment; it had its problems but it was also far more thoughtful, serious, harrowing and moving than critics or many viewers gave it credit for. Most of all, though, I loved Jake and Katie, and while killing her off was a brave move by the writers, defying audience expectations, breaking shipper hearts and fully committing to the indiscriminate, devastating nature of the virus they had created, it also left a great gaping Jatie-shaped hole in the show, which poor Jake can’t fill on his own for long, and no one else in the cast comes even close to compensating for. Better then, that it does end now, with hope of a cure, justice for Lommers and one last promise of love and honour from our handsome cop hero to our beautiful fallen heroine. That’ll do me.