Tonight’s (shorter) episode returns to the plight of Jaime’s ‘real’ boyfriend Riq, last seen stranded at a strangely quiet railway station in the middle of nowhere. A pleasant stroll in the countryside finds our hero being pursued by zombies so fast that they have a real chance in the Undead Olympics (no pain threshold to worry about).
Rescued from a siege situation at an unmanned garage (which act involves an engagingly grisly head-shot), Riq joins up with newly-minted survivalist Alex (Liz May Brice), who mocks the hopeless urbanite for his increasing uselessness in an apocalypse scenario. For someone who took up survivalism about 12 hours ago, Alex is a hell of a markswoman, and keeps the dumb zombie hordes at bay with head-shots while Riq tries to repair her jeep.
Riq’s inability to solve any problem harder than a complicated Starbucks order means that he can’t do anything for the jeep, and a frantic chase ensues as the pair make it to a gated country house by the skin of their teeth. Riq clearly digs Alex’s alpha-female act; he seems to know what feckless girlfriend Kelly has been up to, but he’s probably only going to get to a revenge-shag with Alex if he’s the last man in the world. Luckily for him, that’s a distinct possibility…
Back in undead Davina McCall’s two-contestant scenario, brutish Patrick (Andy Nyman ) is having a hard time getting on with weepy Pippa (Kathleen McDermott), particularly when he finds it necessary to relieve his bladder into a waste-paper bin, to Pippa’s horror. What is she, then, a camel…? Things are going to get worse before they get anything else, and Zombie Davina’s not going anywhere…
Over in the Big Brother household, a zombie-bite that Angel sustained during the first break-through has sent her into shock – and into the greenhouse, where the contestants vote to exile her before she ‘zombies out’. Tender Grayson shows his true mettle as a trained charge-nurse trying to keep angel alive. Trouble is, he needs drugs to do it, and the nearest chemist is separated from the contestants by a mile of zombie-strewn road.
When Space remembers his fondness for the marshalling techniques in One Man And His Dog, a plan for a supplies expedition forms, and – apart from dumb old Marky initially forgetting to shut the gate on the way out – it seems to be off to a good start…
The classic zombie movie referenced for tonight’s episode is Dawn Of The Dead (either version), with a vision of our hapless contestants looking down onto the London apocalypse from the roof of the Big Brother house. The trope of survivalism inevitably rears its head as the non-infected contestants realise what a danger Angel will become to them if she dies, and here Brooker is no doubt preparing us for harder choices later on in the week.
The under-saturated colours of Dead Set are beginning to get on my nerves; it’s all very chic and post-industrial, but the show frequently looks as if it was shot in black and white. Martin Scorsese only got Taxi Driver‘s bloody denouement past the censors by desaturating it, and one wonders if the presence of vivid red blood in the show would have been considered ‘too much’. As it is, most of the blood renders as black, and it certainly does provide a dour and subdued palette to the production design.
Any scene involving zombies in Dead Set uses the closed-down shutter technique that lent a ‘jerky’ and retro effect to the battle scenes in Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, amongst many others. It’s becoming a hoary technique now in zombie films, having been pretty much played out in Zak Snyder’s remake of Dawn Of The Dead, and it is so overdone here as to lend the zombie action a staccato ‘Ray Harryhausen’ effect. I suspect that frames have even been snipped out here and there to heighten the jerkiness of the motion.
Tonight’s episode was largely one of consolidation – Brooker isn’t ready for the big massacre yet, and episode 2 was a meet-and-greet affair, fleshing out a few of the characters – particularly Grayson – whilst we get to know Riq and his new tough gal-pal.
The run for the country house was nail-biting, particularly as it’s such a cliché, but the cutting back to Patrick and Pippa chafing each other is surely just pot-boiling for some real fireworks later. Outside the door, Davina too is biding her time, and her dogged pursuit of Patrick seems to reflect how much she hated him back when she was alive.
Hopefully the action will ramp up a bit tomorrow….