SPOILERS AHEAD … SECRETS REVEALED AND SACRIFICES MADE …
Do you believe in happy endings?
You know, the kind — the prince or princess get their opposite half, what looked lost is found and everyone rides off into the sunset to live happily and uncomplicatedly ever after … swoon and sigh in equal measure …
Life, however, is more than a little short on these kinds of wrap-ups, especially in the zombie apocalypse, and most especially when you have reached the halfway point of a limited two-season series and much must be set up for the intrigue and danger to follow.
Still, there is a little happiness to be had.
For instance, Silas (Hal Cumpston) finds out he’s not a murderous monster; we all knew that of course but mired in all kinds of past trauma, Hal found it very hard to believe and went off alone in the big scary undead world rather than risk repeating a terrible night in which he thinks he killed Percy (Ted Sutherland) and his uncle Tony (Scott Adsit).
We know it was CRM spy Huck (Annet Mahendru) who took out Tony and Percy to stop them driving our gang quickly to Ithaca, New York, and not dear, sweet, troubled Silas, but he doesn’t know that until Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Percy, who almost dies but doesn’t thanks to Elton’s determination to be a good guy, find him in a factory that he’s, um, partly set ablaze.
Oh, and Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Felix (Nico Tortorella) manage to get away and stay alive after Hope (Alexa Mansour), who is the asset Huck has been sent to get at any cost – everyone else is expendable which, as you can imagine, goes down well with Iris, Felix et al; no Christmas cards for Huck from them this year, thank you very much – decides to go with Huck rather than risk anyone else dying on her account.
And finally, there is that very selfless act by Hope who, though she appears to be an unemotionless heartless so-and-so through much of the double-episode finale, is actually doing a good and noble thing and saving them all.
In the midst of a lot of darkness and revealing of secrets, there was at least some goodness and happiness of a very limited kind although you suspect they all wish that their mission has been as simple as they first believed, a simple trip from A to B to rescue their dad Leo (Joe Holt) who it turns out is alive and in love with the Mengele of CRM Dr Lyla Belshaw (Natalie Gold) but who is also, uh-oh (!), making the fatal mistake of expressing doubts about what the Civil Republic is doing in the name of humanity’s survival.
At this rate, there’ll be no happy ending for you, Leo. (Remember your friend from Portland? Yeah, he didn’t go to see his sister, just saying.)
Life may have a dearth of happy endings of the everlasting kind but what it does have is secrets revealed and disappointment in spades.
Huck is a spy! Hope tries to kill her! Elton saves Percy only to find out Huck is a spy and killer. Huck is conflicted and has mummy issues but does things anyway. And people are still drinking wine from Napa ten years after the fall of civilisation! (That’s some damn fine cellaring going on there, my friends.)
What makes the “The Deepest Cut” and “In This Life” so compelling to watch is not so much the revelations, though they are compelling, complicating a simple mission with a thousand kinds of terrible choices and unpalatable outcomes, but how the True Believers (TBs) end up pitched against the Doubters and the Rebels to initially predictable results.
It seems on face value that the TBs aka the Civil Republic have won – Lieutenant Kublek (Julia Ormond) of the CRM has scooped up Hope in a helicopter, Jennifer aka Huck has kept her mother happy and it seems certain that Iris, Felix etc, who Kublek knows are alive, will be taken care in a fairly terminal way.
Yes, if life wasn’t bad enough with all the Empties shambling around, the world has now become one big, brutal spy/mobster drama and you know they never end well.
The thing is, the Civil Republic TBs think it will; so convinced are they of their innate goodness and perfect vision of the future that the ends, they think, very much justify and validate the means.
The lack of morality over and over in their actions is horrifying but it makes sense if you understand that they think it’s all very necessary if humanity is to survive its lingering extinction event.
What is most striking about the ending of season 1 is how rotten to the core humanity actually is even when it thinks it’s being gold star good; so intent on rescuing civilisation and its attendant trappings of food, clothing, technology, civility etc are the TBs that they fail to see that they are gutting the soul out of the species to achieve that.
In other words, we might be left with pretty, shiny things, and functioning, civil society but the inner sense that makes us tick, the morality, kindness, compassion and decency that defines us as a people are gone, leaving a pretty facade with a hollow, rotten core.
We’ve pretty much know that all along, and while you can understand why people would want that kind of safety and veneer of the normal, you have to wonder if the cost is worth it.
Is civilisation worth all the lying and deception and killing and kidnapping and god knows what else that defines the final two episodes, in the almost final scene of “In This Life”, when Kublek all but admits that the Campus is no more, even Huck is beginning to wonder what the hell she is fighting for.
Thankfully the double-episode finale ends up with everyone alive – Iris and Felix meet up in the woods with a band of what appear to be Civil Republic rebels which include Felix’s boyfriend Will (Jelani Alladin) and their reunion is as happy as you could ask for so that take TBs!; Elton and Percy trying to find everyone after Silas sacrifices his freedom (but not his life) and Hope and Huck going for a helicopter ride to the happiest dictatorship of them all.
What we have is an intriguing and enthralling set-up for season 2 where it looks like some intense, weighty decisions will have to be made and people will be forced to decide whether they want shiny bells and whistles with nothing left behind the facade or if they want their souls intact and a chance to start again with their basic humanity still a going on.
However it plays, it promises epic action, big, massive struggles with morality and a reaffirmation that Hope and Iris are the centre of this remarkably emotionally resonant series, two sisters who may not just save each other, as they have done all their lives but who might save humanity in the process, too.