Having started out with a rooftop zombie-shoot lifted straight from the Dawn Of The Dead remake (though without the hilarious ‘celebrity-spotting’ aspect of Zak Snyder’s film), writer Charlie Brooker appropriately throws in a bit of Apocalypse Now, as Riq and reluctant companion Alex abandon their snug country hideaway to make a perilous river trip to the Big Brother studios.
The dynamic between these two changed pretty quickly in ‘peacetime’, and her regret that Riq didn’t want to stay and set up home exposed an unexpected soft-centre in Alex. You get the feeling that she’s been disappointed by men on a regular basis, and might reasonably have expected to capture a half-decent one in such an intimate and desperate scenario.
But Riq’s heart belongs to stranded Kelly, so off they punt through the eerily quiet fog of the post-apocalypse English countryside…
Up on the Big Brother roof, the Dawn Of The Dead-isms continue as new buddies Kelly and Space ponder [SATIRE ALERT] why the undead hordes are so interested in the Big Brother fortress. “This place used to be a church to them”…
Over in Patrick and Pippa’s siege scenario, the high priestess of that church is still waiting for the trapped pair to emerge and be eaten. It’s time for action, and even terrified dish-rag Pippa agrees that getting out of their increasingly latrine-like environment is worth the risk of becoming Zombie Davina’s lunch.
Marvelling that thicko Pippa calls the lamp-stand that he is weaponising a ‘light machine’, Patrick successfully takes undead Davina out with two pokes. It’s not quite what he had in mind back in episode one, but it’s certainly definitive.
“You killed Davina!” cries Pippa, appalled.”I hired her – I can do what I like.” responds Patrick.
The loathsome reptile would probably cop an opportunistic peek if he weren’t in peril of his life, but there’s no time for that. After a bit of zombie-dodging, Pippa is gasping with pleasure at seeing the Big Brother control centre, where Patrick disappoints the delighted house-mates by announcing that not only is he not there to rescue them, but he needs rescuing himself…
Over at the river lock, Alex gets surprised by a particularly nimble zombie and ends up bitten, and there’s some great pathos as Riq realises he must kill her. Alex slumps down, defeated, hoping her life might have had one last shot. “I liked our farmhouse.” she muses, before Riq reluctantly wields the axe on her…
Kelly and Space bring Patrick and Pippa back to the stronghold in one piece, but before you know it, Patrick is pissing everyone off with his sharp tongue and cutting up the departed house-mates’ corpses as stage one of an escape plan that only Joplin – ever impressed by authority – has immediate faith in.
Just as Kelly is beginning to think that distracting the waiting hordes with ‘zombie chum’ and heading for the coast in the van might indeed be a good idea, Riq hoves into view – directly into the viewfinder of Marky’s nicked assault rifle. Bam!
Has thick Marky excelled himself in the stupidity department, even by his own standards? Has Charlie Brooker plundered the ending to Night Of The Living Dead by accidentally killing off a noble ethnic character who has been through hell to survive…?
Will anyone risk eating anything again during the concluding episode of Dead Set, having almost barfed at the ghastly verisimilitude of Patrick’s dissection techniques?
It was a shame to see Zombie Davina get skewered, as I was hoping she would get off sentry-duty and somehow involved in the big finale that is clearly brewing. Nonetheless she now enters the zombie hall of fame, not too far behind Bub from Day Of The Dead, for a great performance and unbeatable novelty-value. What a pity her final undeath-throes were rendered in Dead Set‘s jerk-o-vision.
Tonight’s pontifications on the meaning of the apocalypse (wherein Marky observed that if God is behind the current devastation, he wouldn’t be “such a cunt about it”) are the last reflections we’re likely to hear before what is promising to be quite a bloodbath in the final episode.
The scene where the house-mates discuss all the things that don’t exist any more (Doctor Who, EastEnders – but far more importantly, Facebook and YouTube!) is a bit of an easy shot for the likes of Brooker; Dead Set wears its satire on its blood-stained sleeve, and spelling it out is strictly for the benefit of Pippa-level intellects, who wouldn’t care about subtext anyway.
Nonetheless, episode 4 delivered some nice character moments, and Kathleen McDermott turns in a hysterical performance to rank with any in TV or film history, from King Kong to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s also good to see Andy Nyman’s fire-breathing pragmatist let loose on worthier opponents than Pippa.
The ratio of first-class scares seems to be one per episode, and it was the turn of 2007 BB winner Brian Belo to provide tonight’s by bursting out from behind his own cardboard cut-out to menace our heroes – great stuff!
In terms of gore, Patrick’s cutting up of Grayson and Angel really had my dinner looking in the wing-mirror, and many an 18-rated zombie-flick would have balked at that level of visceral detail. The most shocking thing about it is that Patrick is clearly not insane – just more demonically practical than most of us could ever be.
Onward, then, to see if Riq really has met his end, in the conclusion to Dead Set. See you at midnight tomorrow…