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The 'Braindead' Finale Maintained the Irreverent, Off-Kilter Spirit of Its Winning Season

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 12, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 12, 2016 |

A new television season is ramping up, heavy dramas are returning, and football is back, so I found myself wanting to gently nudge CBS’s two-hour BrainDead series finale out the door last night so I could move on to other things. By the end of what will surely be the series finale, however, I began to feel wistful for the kind of clever light drama that we probably won’t see again until next summer, and the kind of political satire that BrainDead represents that we may never see again after an election year that has outflanked all comers.

In fact, when we are felled by the impending Idiocracy and the people who inhabit this planet 50,000 years from now look back at 2016, they may find video footage of both our election’s current campaign and BrainDead and wonder which is reality: The one where an arrogant orange man topples our democracy, or the one where space bugs invade the brains of our politicians and intensify their partisanship until another civil war erupts.

Thankfully, we were spared the latter outcome in BrainDead after Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Laurel Healy helped engineer a plan to kill the queen bug; her Senator brother Luke staged a campy sit-in to protest a farm bill designed to build hothouses for the bugs’ continued survival; and Gareth survived a well-choreographed murder attempt by a ballet dancer. Laurel also discovered the one weapon more powerful than whiskey, sex, and chocolate in ridding the brain of those bugs: Shame. It’s an emotion the bugs cannot survive, as Laurel learned when she shamed her own father back into his Parkinson’s disease.

Ultimately, it all ended happily ever after, give or take a few exploding heads, a bullet wound in Red’s ass, and a Congress made up of a number of members who only possess 60 percent of their brain, not that anyone would notice. To that end, as great as Winstead has been this season, Tony Shalhoub needs to be singled out for his many excellent comedic contributions, culminating in the finale with a Veep-worthy performance of comedic violence and word salad.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t once again highlight the contributions of singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who provided the previously-on songs that caught us up before every episode and sang us out in the finale with the musical epilogue. He’s what we’ll miss the most about BrainDead, and it’s a damn shame the gimmick will be lost to a single-season series, because that guy should be doing previously-on segments for every show.

Meanwhile, Michelle and Robert King have moved on to their The Good Wife spin-off; Mary Elizabeth Winstead will be more than fine; Aaron Tvelt will surely land on his feet; and Danny Pino has a long career ahead of him as a generic good-looking guy in network dramas. I worry, however, about Nikki M. James and, especially, Johnny Ray Gill, who played Gustav, a conspiracy theorist who ended up being an NSA agent on sabbatical. I’ve only seen him in this and Rectify, and I’d hate to lose the weekly dose of conspiracy-minded quirk he provides, which is reason enough to bring back X-Files again, if only to make Gill a series regular as a consultant to Scully and Mulder.

So long, Braindead: You got us through a rough summer by reminding us that fictional politics can be almost as insane as real-world politics.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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