If CBS’ BrainDead premiered right at the brink of 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, something tells me we’d have more seasons. It was ahead of its time in more ways than one, and the promotional department didn’t really do a solid job of selling the show’s strength. If you weren’t watching for a specific cast member, then you likely had no idea of its existence.
And BrainDead is the kind of show that deserves your full attention from the moment it starts to the second it ends. It’s utterly chaotic in a uniquely driven way, surprisingly funny, and its entire premise is fascinating. It’s a show worth watching, and here are five relatively spoiler-free reasons why it should be next on your list.
People are often turned off the moment they hear what the premise for BrainDead is, but hear us out. Space bugs invade politicians and basically eat their brains, which means our heroes must figure out a way to stop them. Yes, bugs are gross, and this whole premise is essentially a bit gross. But it comes down to the fact that no one believes it’s happening, and it’s hard to find tangible proof at first. We are dealing with the 2016 elections, and the political strives surrounding what viewers choose to believe and what they don’t is so close to our reality that it might be the most jarring component.
But as are the details that these bugs cannot be stopped without a group effort, and people simply aren’t willing to believe it. It’s too close to the reality we lived through with people thinking Covid is a hoax, thus allowing the virus to spread further and wider.
For our readers who are here for the excellent stuff, BrainDead isn’t lacking in the romance department. In fact, it does a pretty compelling job of establishing a forbidden romance of sorts between a Republican and a Liberal. The scandal! No, but seriously, Gareth and Laurel are precious beyond words together. The chemistry between Aaron Tveit and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is remarkable, and as scene partners, you’ll consistently be in awe when they share scenes.
Nothing about this relationship should work, yet the longing is so compelling that it’ll take you by surprise every time. There’s a specific scene at a planetarium…and well, you’re just going to have to watch to see what comes of it. The series’ cancellation doesn’t necessarily allow us to know what’ll happen between the two in the future, but despite their differences, something tells us they’ll make it. This was always the endgame ship.
BrainDead shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but it absolutely is. In its attempts to lighten how dire the situation is, every episode begins with a song by Jonathan Coulton, and it’s more glorious than you can imagine. The scene in this still especially is something to behold, as is everything following it. Good luck getting them out of your head.
The show works well because of this intrinsic balance between something entirely farcical and somehow serious. The humor even acts as a meta-analysis of the horror genre and, simultaneously, the real world.
It takes a skilled set of actors to take this premise and give us extraordinary performances in the midst of the more ridiculous scenes. Starring Aaron Tveit, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tony Shalhoub, Danny Pino, Nikki M. James, Johnny Ray Gill, and more, they’re each outstanding in whatever scene they’re in.
BrainDead takes each of these performers out of their elements, to challenge them in ways that are incredibly riveting to see because while you’ve likely seen them elsewhere, you haven’t seen them like this before.
The characters on this show aren’t easily likable, but that’s entirely why they’re so fascinating to dig deep into. They each fall into the morally grey area in a way that feels incredibly grounded to reality. They’re stuck in their ways, they have their beliefs, and where the premise takes them allows the audience to see much of the corruption we can easily imagine surrounding politicians. We all likely know someone like these characters, despite their careers, and how they come together makes the series exceptional.
BrainDead is a complex show to talk about without spoilers because, in order to get to the meat of the issue, we have to break down specifics. But since everyone deserves to watch it spoiler-free, less is more today. The show deserves to be on your watchlist because it does something different without ever subverting expectations for the sake of conversation, but instead because the character arcs are driving the story. The characters and relationships (both platonic and romantic) look into human vulnerabilities with the kind of lens that’s both irritating and utterly riveting. Despite its darker elements, it’s a feel-good, hilarious show, and how the show finds its balance is worth commending.
BrainDead is now streaming on Paramount Plus.