This Blood Drive review contains spoilers.
Blood Drive Episode 8
The Blood Drive racers speed right into a Spaghetti Western in episode 8, “A Fistful of Blood.” They make this perfectly clear from the opening sequence. It burns like Bonanza and the whistling sound track pays homage to Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, which could describe the trio of newcomers who come riding into town.
Arthur Bailey certainly stands for good. If this were a traditional western, he’d wear a white hat. He would never whip a horse. He would make an honest woman of an already-too-truthful school marm. Yes, the once and future Officer Baily (Alan Ritchson) would marry a woman who speaks truth to power. Grace Argento (Christina Ochoa) certainly doesn’t hold back on any criticism regardless of strengths or authority and, in this town, that makes her bad. But she’s been bad a long time now. She’s very good at it. Grace continues to try and be a bad influence on Arthur this episode, but the staid cop won’t give in to her beauty. This doesn’t make The Scholar (Darren Kent) ugly. He’s just up against some heavy competition. A Ken doll called Barbie and the driver of the reddest, hottest Camaro this side of anywhere.
Too bad the racing trio are on the wrong side of nowhere. Clocked at 94 miles an hour, the speedy racers get pulled over by the sheriff of Red River, who comes across as a bearded In the Heat of the Night-era Rod Steiger. The opening shot of the sheriff captures the collective unconscious of thousands of westerns. The only thing missing are spurs, which would make it difficult to hit the brakes. It doesn’t look like it would be past the sheriff to use spurs to slow a car down. This guy is tough. He takes no guff and would punch Nelson from The Simpsons for hawhawing the word’s usage. Arthur is a pretty boy city cop who punches in and out like a suburban commuter to the sheriff. He mistakes the Scholar for a woman, in spite of his week-long stubble.
The Scholar, who is an ace at the machine shop, finds love with a mechanic. Sure at first it appears he’s only interested in her chassis. The woman in the greasy coveralls uncovers a new fusion for the easily smitten Blood Drive racer. He is on the rebound from a bad breakup. His old lover, and former partner, The Gentleman (Andrew Hall), lost his head last week in a bid to emcee the Blood Drive as it went national. It’s easy to see how he could be taken in by the charms of a beta of a nuclear power sedan. The love of his life may be one in a million, but the carmakers only made 12 of these babies. They get a million miles to a charge. Which means it will only take one to last a lifetime. The nuclear powered vehicle is almost priceless, but you don’t sell a thing like that, you admire it. It is a hot commodity.
Grace burns through this whole episode. She found out that her sister Karma died in a psych hospital revolt and the Blood Drive’s biggest draw in in the sixth stage of grief, revenge. The man who drugged her sister and got her committed did it to bring ratings to the cross-country race that is about to play to the networks. Slink (Colin Cunningham) is very funny, not merely a freak with too much makeup who thinks he’s an artist, but committed. He ignores flames licking at his entire body while fretting over his vintage hat during the first throw-down at the OK corral. The series has been leading up to this battle of wits over a bottle of the good stuff, and while it doesn’t quite resolve itself, it is not disappointing. The lethal drinking game contains a wonderfully subtle sight gag. Arthur comes into the bar in the middle of it and barely notices that Slink is calmly sitting and sipping while his gun hand is nonchalantly impaled into the table with a steak knife.
There are two showdowns in this episode. Arthur is drawn into a dragnet that upends the closest thing to civilization in the remote part of the country so marred by the “scar.” The uptight upright protector of the peace doesn’t see far enough beyond the thin blue line to check if he’s deputized by the right side. He’s much more deliberate in his dealings with the more delicate sex. While it may seem indelicate to question how the uniformed undercover agent can resist his partner’s uncovered overtures, he’s got a good reason. Arthur thinks Grace deals with distress by cleaning her wounds with sexual relief, and the proper policeman won’t take advantage of her grief. He tells Grace she can’t fuck the pain away, but she insists there’s no harm trying. Arthur Bailey doesn’t go for it a second time. He’s been developing feelings for the woman in driver’s seat, and they are very different from what he feels for his usual partner and his partner’s new partner.
Perfect machine Aki (Marama Corlett) is finding emotions and it is giving her feelings. Discovering that she misses her newest recruit on a cellular level, Aki begins snooping around Heart Enterprises headquarters. She spies with her big blue eyes all the things that make up a normal workday at Heart. The scene, which comes early, is loaded with dark visual gags: Human Resources dragging a screaming employee over a hard cold floor, the janitor mopping blood, an accountant banging his head bloody into a wall. The perspective changes with the channel, as Blood Drive follows Christopher (Thomas Dominique) outside. This is his first trip outside Heart headquarters since Aki made his mind into mush. He’s still holding it together, and we wonder why?
It gets a little creepy as the door Christopher steps out of disappears from sight by the brick exterior. He emerges in a very changed world. Los Angeles has been deserted. It is unprotected and forgotten by the authorities. Gangs control the city under mob rule. The women save the day in the nick of time on Blood Drive, just as it appears all is lost. At least the street cop-turned-security officer pays the deed back. Christopher screws the bot out of Aki. Her eyes lose that robotic green sheen. You can only imagine what happens to the rest of her wiring. The two are now a pair on the run, vaguely reminiscent of Logan’s Run.
The absolute best effect of the season, maybe the series, maybe all series this season, is Christopher’s new eye gizmo, the retinal security protocol. The effect is over in a millisecond and this reviewer actually jumped and involuntarily yelled before it even has time to register. It’s not pun to say no one sees it coming. It is a shocker, a popup and a punch line all in one. The western’s won on “A Fistful of Blood.” The episode captures the genre without losing its identity.
“A Fistful of Blood” was written by John Hlavin, and directed by Lin Oeding.
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