Nat Geo's 'The Hot Zone' episode 1 & 2 demonstrates how terribly wrong things can go while researching deadly viruses
This article contains spoilers for 'The Hot Zone' episode 1.
National Geographic's 'The Hot zone' premiered Monday, May 27, and just one episode in, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say it has everything a modern-day miniseries needs going for it. But what's even better is that the network leaps into the horror genre quite well with this show despite its plot based on the true story behind the Ebola virus' arrival on American soil in 1989.
Yet that's not all 'The Hot Zone' has going for itself, because simply put, it wastes no time in establishing just how terrifying the virus' relevance still is in modern times. The first episode kicks off the drama the right away. Within the first few minutes, we see a man sweating profusely, vomiting heavily, and with boils all over his body at a time when Ebola's arrival to America wasn't even considered a serious prospect.
All the way in Kenya, at a time relatively earlier to the show's actual timeline, this man dies from what can be assumed is Ebola. And from there we fast forward to the current timeline of the show with Julianna Margulies' character - the protagonist Dr. Nancy Jaax - making her entrance as "The Good Wife." The character is one of the real-life heroes who ventured into the titular hot zone and put her life on the line, to stop the virus' spread throughout the country. Talk about a throwback well done!
Seconds after the ten minute-mark of the pilot, Jaax also manages to establish the show's general mantra when she tells her son: "Let's just stick to science, okay? Facts only." What did we say about the show not wasting time? And while we are on that note, let's also talk about the classic tropes the pilot uses to mark its prominence both in the miniseries aspect, and the thriller genre.
We have the classic suave, witty Ned in the form of Topher Grace's Dr. Peter Jahrling. The banter between him and Jaax proving to be a brilliant highlight of the episode. Jahrling is Jaax's coworker at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and his significance lies in bringing the comic element to the otherwise no-nonsense atmosphere where Jaax throws around medical jargon like a pro.
The first episode also lays the groundwork for Liam Cunningham's character Wade Carter, who is Jaax's mentor of sorts. He is a typical "wackjob," as described by Jahrling, and in that, he is a paranoid visionary who believes viral diseases are far more potent than the West is giving them credit for.
But he is also the classic weary veteran of the field who wants nothing to do with the medical research institute, despite Jaax coming across the Ebola virus and informing him about it. So if you're looking for a grumpy old scientist who eventually decides to lend his expertise to unraveling the mystery that is the Ebola virus, then this is where your search ends.
The next best thing about the show's pilot is how fast paced it is when it comes to introducing viewers to what exactly the story based on Richard Preston's novel of the same name, is all about. In that, we see Jaax taking a new recruit in the form of Captain Kyle Orman (Lenny Platt) through the process of entering the hot zone - aka where all the "Aha!" moments related to potential epidemics and viruses happen.
And as Jaax takes Orman through the process, sterilizing and putting on hazmat suits, it is almost as if she is guiding the viewers through what the protocol for entering such risky spaces is. She tells him things like "fear keeps you sharp," and "welcome to the hot zone" - both of which sound more like warnings than anything else, just amping up the terrifying journey that is about to unfold onscreen. We weren't lying about the horror bit.
Things only keep getting better from that point, as Jaax's hazmat suit gets punctured - thus putting her at the risk of contaminations amid some of the most potent viruses known to mankind. So the very first episode of 'The Hot Zone,' not only informs us the step-by-step protocol for someone venturing into what's a rave party of viruses but also demonstrates what must be done in case of a major crisis like the one Jaax faces.
There's also a montage of flashbacks Jaax experiences as she is going through the process of decontaminating herself after the exposure which is usually introduced when a favorite character is about to die. But like we mentioned, 'The Hot Zone' doesn't believe in wasting time to establish the dangerous nature of its story, and that is exactly what makes the pilot such a joyride.
'The Hot Zone' will air two episodes daily from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. only on National Geographic.
If you have an entertainment scoop or a story for us, please reach out to us on (323) 421-7515.