Monday, May 27, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Hot Zone' - Dr. Nancy Jaax Grows Increasingly Concerned About a New Deadly Outbreak in 'Arrival'

National Geographic's The Hot Zone - Episode 1.01 "Arrival"

Dr. Nancy Jaax has one of the most dangerous jobs in the world handling deadly viruses. After a lab accident, she is faced with a possible Ebola outbreak on U.S. soil.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of National Geographic's The Hot Zone.

"Arrival" was written by James V. Hart, Jeff Vintar, Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson and directed by Michael Uppendahl

This premiere articulates all of the precautions taken by the U.S. army in order to contain the most lethal viruses on the planet. Dr. Nancy Jaax guides a new soldier through the proceedings. It's a very informative sequence that shows all of the ways in which these contagions are protected in order to prevent an outbreak. To underscore the seriousness of it all, Nancy confirms that the entire human population would die if the contents of one freezer were to be released. That's how important this work is. Of course, she also tells her family that it's not as dangerous as they fear it is. She trusts in the protocols of the system. She may be incredibly reckless by going into the hot zone while having a cut on the palm of her hand. But she needs to run tests to see if the latest sample that's been sent to the facility is actually one of the most lethal diseases on the planet. This story presents as one woman's fight to be taken seriously because she's the only person who understands the severity of the situation. Her male colleagues want to write off her concerns as being too improbable. She warns them that this sample from a monkey whose cells exploded could actually be caused by the Ebola virus. Now, that disease is much more well known in 2019 than it was thirty years ago when this story takes place. But that only further highlights how long the medical community has been battling these diseases and trying to create the proper treatments to ensure that exposure isn't a death sentence. This isn't just some threat from a country far away either. That's the concern at the start of the hour. The action opens with a man in Africa desperately needing a hospital but possibly infecting a ton of people on an airplane. That's a brutal and graphic scene to start the series. It shows just what kind of action to expect as a part of this drama. It's high stakes and close-ups of that man throwing up on his doctor. That physician's blood is then used as the signifier for this deadly disease in the hot zone in the states. It's the marker for how deadly this potential new outbreak can be. But it's not even foreshadowing the serious stakes at play here. Instead, Nancy tests the sample against the disease and nothing occurs. That means that this may be even worse than what that opening scene depicted. That's scary while still leaving the audience in suspense over just how serious and deadly all of this could be. This is an outbreak that happens just outside of Washington, D.C. It also comes at a time when the public is already living in fear over the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Even then, the government's response is to minimize the concern because it's not as lethal as the diseases that Nancy works with every day. Now, that's certainly an odd tone to take here while highlighting just how important this job is. It doesn't take into account the people currently dying from that other disease and the lack of urgency around it. Instead, Nancy sees herself as the one person who can prevent an outbreak of Ebola. It just means all of the rules are broken. She goes down to the monkey facility and ends up transporting several of the deceased specimens back to the lab in plastic bags. It could all end in disaster with those bodies quickly breaking down because they aren't in a cooler. It's scary and intense. The show strikes those emotions mostly because of the ominous score and the way that Nancy reacts to all of this. It's effective as such. However, it's also clear that the show is pointing out just how absurd everything is in comparison to what's actually going on. That's a unique balance that may not always work.