'The Hot Zone' episodes 3 and 4 show Nancy Jaax is the knight in shining armor tackling the male ego's savior complex
This article contains spoilers for 'The Hot Zone' episodes 3 and 4.
'The Hot Zone' maintained its track record of balancing out the heated drama with quick pace in episode 3, but episode 4 fell short of the mark on that aspect. The Nat Geo series that premiered May 27, tracks the journey of the deadly Ebola virus, right from its origins in the African rainforest to its arrival on American soil in 1989.
But apart from the dark and gritty essence of the plot, what it also tackles is the impact panic and fear can have when a nation is fronted with a fatal crisis it is unprepared for. And even though the fourth episode slows down the pace significantly when compared to the first three episodes, it does a brilliant job at tackling the stereotypical savior complex of the male ego, regardless of what touching sentiments it births from.
Both the episodes rely on classic tropes once again, following the first two episodes' suit. The third episode kicks off with yet another flashback to the late 70s, which is earlier than the show's current timeline and digs deeper into Agent Wade Carter's (Liam Cunningham) first ever encounter with Ebola, all the way in Zaire.
We see him as an ambitious agent working for the nation's International Disease Control department who likes taking risks, even if it means not following established protocol. His partner, Trevor Rhodes (James D'Arcy) however is a man by the book and doesn't seem all that keen about delving deeper than they have been instructed to, thus causing a breach in their relationship, which only seems to heat up in the current timeline of the show.
The flashback is accompanied by two more of the same within the duration of the episode, as all of them try to establish the significance of Carter and Rhodes' expertise in dealing with the deadly virus during the current timeline of the show, when Ebola has just broken out on American soil. And even though the flashback shows Rhodes was alongside Carter when the two of them came across the bloodbath caused by the virus in Africa back in the 80s, in the current time, he prefers to be in denial that something as catastrophic has finally attacked the nation.
The underlying theme of the third episode is once again panic and fear - something that helps National Geographic take a thriller approach based on Richard Preston's book of the same name. They do it via Dr. Nancy Jaax (Julianna Margulies) trying to assert throughout the episode just how unprepared they are for a virus that potent, and this also helps to lay the groundwork for the expected chaos to kick in once the information reaches the press.
Carter, for example, remarks, "There's only one reason people do anything in this world - fear," and that is exactly what the show, in general, is trying to do; warn us of the relevance of a deadly virus from the past even when we believe medical science has advanced exponentially.
The show once again draws a beautiful contrast between the two contradicting reactions humankind expresses when fronted with panic. On one hand we have Jaax and Carter trying to show higher authorities the light in terms of how dangerous a beast they are dealing with, but on the other hand we have Jaax's co-worker Dr. Peter Jahrling (Topher Grace) and the entire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) choosing to live in denial and keeping the matter hushed up.
Episode 3 also hinted at a straining marriage between Jaax and her husband Jerry Jaax (Noah Emmerich) who works with her at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Their relationship is wonderful, there's no question about that. But at the end of the day, while Nancy wants to protect the nation, her husband is more keen on protecting their family - something that the two can't really see eye-to-eye on.
This is only aggravated in the fourth episode, where Jerry feels compelled to take over Nancy's assignment of going in and euthanizing the monkeys who exhibited the first traces of the virus' symptoms in America, and that spurs the latent tension their relationship has been laden with ever since they discovered the virus.
Even though mostly a filler episode saturated with more medical jargon and army protocol, the biggest highlight of it proves to be Nancy Jaax's reaction when she finds out she can't continue with something she has trained her entire career for, just because her man feels protective of her and believes replacing her is the ideal way to go. Jerry Jaax suffering from a mindset of helplessness over not being able to save his brother from succumbing to his ailments leads him to think that protecting his wife and kids is a priority.
And that blinds him from seeing how his wife is actually more capable than him in tackling the assignment. Like Nancy says, "I'd rather your respect than your protection" - something that a lot of stereotypical male leads tends to overlook and masquerade under in the name of saving the one they love. Episode 4 establishes that Nancy Jaax should be the one taking the front seat, and doesn't need a knight in shining armor; she is the knight and they should just let her save the day.
'The Hot Zone' airs two episodes daily, at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., only on National Geographic.
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