This Blood Drive review contains spoilers.
Blood Drive Episode 2
Blood Drive episode 2, “Welcome to Pixie Swallow,” goes down easy, but might repeat on you. We are into race day 2, which skids into a pit stop in the middle of Arizona. Pixie Swallow is a fun town. It’s a party town with a mean cuisine.
The look is slightly different from last week, which had the gritty veneer of west coast urban blight. Grace D’Argento (Christina Ochoa), and LAPD Officer Arthur Bailey (Alan Ritchson), arrive at a finish line that crosses itself with all the glossy lamination of fine linoleum. The opening long-shot one camera sequence sets the Pixie Swallow motel diner up as a fun place to have hash slung at you. It’s hot, inviting, friendly, your orders are taken by a sexy waitress who is not on the menu, and the burgers are so bloody, Blood Drive racers could use them in to gas up their rides.
Yes, the diner is a cannibal café and the dusty townfolk are accustomed to the cuisine, and, in case anyone didn’t tune in last week: the cars don’t have tiger’s blood in their tanks. They run on human blood. The first music we hear is reminiscent of ZZ Top’s “Legs” and, while the waitress’s go on forever, the ones that really catch your attention are sticking out of a meat grinder. The owner, Carl, is just a small business owner trying to survive in a tough economy, meat’s expensive and chicken’s basically extinct. The diner supplies the fourth best meat in the state, now that cows are scarcer than health inspectors, and that’s before they start to stuff Fat Elvis sausages. This implies how far things have fallen since the nationwide drought.
Tonight’s episode fills in some of the history that got lost in the gap of the scar. We learn that the world was torn asunder by fracking, and only one company had the Heart to go after the wondrous things they found after the quakes. The tech startup found “incredible resources, unstable minerals morally questionable fuel alternatives, unnatural gases, deep wells of unidentifiable goo, glowing properties far beyond the realm of modern sciences.”
All dystopian future stories need some kind of villainous cause. In Planet of the Apes, man blew everything up to make way for the damned, dirty apes. World War 4 precluded A Boy and His Dog. A revolution in the 13th District brought on The Hunger Games. Here the cause is environmental greed. The national disaster was a windfall for Heart Enterprises. Not only in what they could rip from the earth, but also on the ratings they can get from flaunting the power they generate.
We get to see another side of Slink this episode and we saw quite a few last week. We saw the rebel without a cause, leading a revolution on hot wheels. Now we see he’s just an employee, but the best kind a company could hope for, disgruntled. This is the kind of guy you really want in your company. He’s a go-getter. So ambitious he is lethal to the competition as he slides scrumptiously on office lobby blood. Colin Cunningham does a great job repressing Slink’s fear, even if he only barely hides his disgust, paranoia, and rage. That rage is not exactly righteous.
Slink is the perfect anti-hero, even when he’s brown-nosing, maybe especially when he’s brown-nosing. During production notes, the reluctant yes man takes every criticism on the chin. He is diligent, and obviously paid his dues. The hero is just getting started. Officer Arthur Baily knows the importance of being earnest. This is a cop steadfastly on his beat. He even endures indulgent futuristic prank voice messages that go on forever. The hero is also hard at work. Last week we saw how hard he could be, though this week it’s his partner who registers on the rector scale.
Officer Christopher Carpenter is a reluctant hero and Thomas Dominique is playing him with the greatest restraint he could muster in the circumstances, which is plenty, Heart Corporation’s newest recruit is in restraints the whole time. He goes through great pains to show off great pains and even greater pleasures. Aki was built to be an executive model pleasure bot, but because of a design flaw she could do so much more. The builders couldn’t make the same mistake twice, so they pumped out a few. Marama Corlett is mesmerizing as Aki. Her graceful ballet body moves so nimbly you might think the producers are using CGI, which they are, but just a bit. She kicks in most of the movement herself. Perpetually perky, Aki is almost as bubbly as a Powerpuff girl.
All of the acting is stylized and as over-the-top as any cartoon character needs. But Grace D’Argento (Christina Ochoa) has a secret chink in her armor and we see it leaking through like the overflow on the retrofitted gas tank. It’s deeper than Caligula’s soft spot, which is for dogs much more than people. It doesn’t matter, to hillbilly cannibals, everybody tastes the same on the griddle, even if that makes it a little pedestrian.
The least pedestrian pairing of the runner up stars is The Gentleman (Andrew Hall) and The Scholar (Darren Kent). The very opening reveal of their relationship is done with a long camera shot on the learned one taking deep lessons. The Gentleman is the driving force in the partnering, but is obviously above his mentally-proficient mechanic. I love it when he can’t quite stomach the food. The Scholar probably has the greatest arc of the episode. He is the most heartbreaking character on the show so far. He shares the smallest, most intimate scenes of the series so far with Arthur. He probably has the most heart on the show. His stammering delivery has the most pathos.
The plot is immaterial, but the patterns are now set. There is a big blowout penultimate scene where everything blows out on itself and all the loose ends are tied up and left on the road. When it comes to actions scenes, these guys ain’t just whistling Dixie, they’re blasting it on their car horns. The Blood Drive racers will be whittled down like burnt out spark plugs as much as they will be by their top speed. The whole episode picks up steam consistently, with just a few sputters and more than a few tugs on the choke.
“Welcome to Pixie Swallow” serves up a lot of road kill to chew on. And next week, we detour.