BrainDead Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The Insanity Principle: How Extremism in Politics is Threatening Democracy in the 21st Century

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"In the year 2016, there was a growing sense that people were losing their minds...and no one knew why...until now."

They're not using the term "losing their minds" lightly on BrainDead Season 1 Episode 1. After watching some real footage of a meteor traversing the sky above Russia, one is soon in the USA, left abandoned in the Smithsonian after a government shutdown.

Because there is no time like an election year for those of us living in this fair country to remember that Republicans and Democrats have a very difficult time getting along, the fun begins when alien ants (of sorts) appear to want to change the minds of Republicans. 

Natural Enemies - BrainDead Season 1 Episode 1

Honestly, I do not have a clear picture of what's going on as of yet. While I have access to the following two episodes (as do other critics), I chose not to watch them because I wanted to be a part of this particular opening with you guys.

I don't think it's a surprise that this kind of show is right up my alley. It's fun and breezy, the perfect summer fare. Coming from Robert and Michelle King, it has a familiar feel (after dealing with politics on The Good Wife), the dialog is sharp and the situations quirky. 

Having spoken with them, I know there will be a message in here somewhere. They did, after all, decide to create the series after a real government shutdown when realizing how crazy it is nobody can get along well enough to communicate their way out of what seems a lot less complicated to the rest of us.

After watching just one hour, it seems like the idea is that if these two warring sides cannot get stuff done one their own, let's just introduce a fun little jolt to the system to see what might be done with some alien help.

It's utterly ridiculous and probably more plausible than expecting the ethics committee to repeal any of its newer rules, thereby allowing comfortable intermingling of the political species with cocktails and cheese plates on America's dime.

That's too bad, because my personal opinion would be our representatives let off a little steam and get the sticks out of their collective behinds with a few drinks than the constant warring we've been subjected to in recent years. Seems like a better use of tax dollars than some other budget line items. Maybe it's just me. 


The pilot hour of BrainDead is more than enough to get me tuning back in for another hour. I cannot stop singing "You Might Think" from The Cars (a song I hadn't thought of in many, many years), and it's a summer song. Kudos to the musical team for bringing that one out of the basement. 

It's bound to have some meaning, and I can't wait to find out what it is. If it's easily determined on the 'net, shout it out in the comments. Theorize!

The characters are instantly likable on BrainDead. Mary Elizabeth Winstead's portrayal of Laurel is perfect. Even when she's talking passionate about her boring (sorry) documentary film on whatever type of choir music that was she noted, Winstead still made it interesting and Laurel compelling.

Heck, even Aaron Tveit's Republican Gareth couldn't help but be sort of smitten with her, and even when he tried to tease her about her documentaries, you could tell he wanted to hear more if only because she was so ardent about her work.

The two actors, and therefore their characters, have an easy rapport, which in turn intensifies their scenes together.

Gareth, the seasoned political strategist and Laurel, the fresh take from the outside appear to have what it takes to come together to solve the shutdown, so you know they're going to save the masses from an infiltration of ants.

Laurel's view as an outsider gives her an eagle eye when it comes to the oddities inside the political realm. She expects people to act like normal people, so she'll point out all behavior as somewhere off.

So, we're famous. It's like Hollywood, but with uglier people. Get used to it.


Not everybody around her will be taking that same stance, but Gareth already recognizes a kindred spirit (albeit an awkwardly left-leaning one), and he's listening intently to what Laurel has to say.

They're an unlikely team, but that's the best kind. Their jabs at one another have remained good natured from the very start, for a friendly and fresh take on what could have been a strained, acrimonious relationship given their respective positions. Instead, they're the Diane and Kurt of BrainDead. Very nice!

Danny Pino plays the flashy and powerful senator really well. He pulls up just show of being smarmy, even when Luke falls into the cliche of having an affair with his secretary.

When Laurel started smacking Luke after discovering the affair, not once, but twice and then a quick line of flap-flap-flap type moves brothers and sisters to do each other, it really defined their brother/sister relationship, and reminded us that all powerful senators are somebody's brother or sister. 

Tony Shaloub had a very fun, although short, run as Raymond "Red" Wheatus, the comical drunkard who kind of missed the old days.

He went from willing to work with the Democrats to losing a part of his brain and wanting to crush the Dems and show them what's what. I have no doubt we've only seen the beginning of what Shaloub will bring to BrainDead.

In this current political climate, we'll be seeing a lot of the most up-to-date political ads and speeches on the show as possible. That's going to be crazy enough. But we have aliens eating brains, as well. Or...doing something with brains.

It's hard to determine exactly what the alien ants are trying to accomplish. They're turning everyone into Stepford people.

Randall: Did you see what the Republicans said?
Brianna: No.
Randall: They're insane. What is this world coming to? We've got do so something.

Randall had already turned, so there is no telling what his political affiliation was prior to losing his mind. Red was a Republican senator, and needed to change, according to Randall. The ants crawled in and pushed out his brain (or something), and he was Stepforded.

But in becoming a Stepford, he also crushed the Dems and the Republicans became the majority. Maybe there is not precise political plan, but more just for the aliens to have a really good time turning America into an even crazier place than it already is. 

Honestly, that would work for my summer viewing. It already is.

What did you think of "The Insanity Principle: How Extremism in Politics is Threatening Democracy in the 21st Century"? Is it time to give the insanity of the two-party system a rest? Maybe not to the part of becoming one giant party, but at least to the Laurel and Gareth degree...communication!!

Will this be a fun way to generate conversation during an election year? Does it take your mind off politics? Is BrainDead fun, summer fare? Comment, you guys!!

The Insanity Principle: How Extremism in Politics is Threatening Democracy in the 21st Century Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (23 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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BrainDead Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Laurel: It says here you have Social Security problems, Claire?
Claire: I don't have Social Security problems, YOU have Social Security problems.
Laurel: Well, how can I help you with MY Social Security problems?

No running in the Capitol, mam. No fast walking, either.