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The End of the World: An Advance Review of BBC America's "Survivors"

"There are so few of us left, every new person feels like a gift." - Abby Grant

BBC America's gripping and provocative drama series Survivors recounts the aftermath of a viral outbreak that wipes out 99 percent of the world's population. It's a nightmarish scenario that places these characters under the most gruesome of circumstances as they struggle to not only contain their grief and anger but also look for some way to survive.

Based on Terry Nation's novel and adapted by Adrian Hodges (Primeval), Survivors is gritty sci-fi at its most painful and realistic. The opening installment's first 45 minutes might be some of the most brutal and emotionally raw sequences ever to air on television as the virus spreads at an alarming rate and kills just about everyone. There's a palpable sense of loss and fragility as England comes tumbling down, but there's also a sense of hope emerging from the ashes as well.

For a group of strangers who band together into a makeshift community, it's as though they've taken Jack Shephard's message to heart: "We either live together or we die alone." What survives the global viral outbreak isn't so much old ways of thinking but rather the human spirit itself: unbreakable, adaptive, and wholly resilient.

Offering a cross-section of modern British society, the band of strangers is comprised of young and old, men and women, doctors and criminals, a wide swath of races and creeds represented. As this group struggles to stay together and create something new out of the destruction of everything they've known, there is a feeling that's rather similar to the early days of Lost: a group of ordinary people linked together by an extraordinary event that will forever define their lives.

For Abby Grant (Julie Graham), she's lost her husband but is clinging to the hope that her son Peter may have survived the outbreak and is out there somewhere. Greg Preston (Paterson Joseph) is in search of solitude but finds himself caught up in Abby's quest for unity. Tom Price (Max Beesley) is a brutal and charismatic killer who escapes prison and conceals his identity. Al Sadiq (Phillip Rhys) is a playboy millionaire who has never had to fend for himself but his wealth matters little in the world post-virus. Anya Raczynski (Zoe Tapper) is a young doctor who finds herself unable to stop the death around her and is haunted by her failure. Young Muslim Najid (Chahak Patel) continues to see the potential for good around him, despite having lost his entire family. Together, they carve out a new place for themselves in an increasingly uncertain world, one that is beset by lawlessness and anarchy. Their separate stories become inexorbly intertwined.

But Survivors isn't just about their daily struggles to forage for food and water, nor about their attempts to recreate the world. There's an intriguing serialized element, an overarching mythology, that becomes apparent by the end of the first installment. I won't say too much about it, lest I spoil the surprise but I will say that there are far more questions raised at the end of the first episode than were immediately apparent and a nice twist frames the series in a very different way.

The cast is top-notch and the action starts off slow and soon builds to a fever pitch by the time the first season (six episodes) ends, becoming over the course of just a few episodes must-see television that is compelling and addictive.

Ultimately, Survivors offers a fresh take on the post-apocalyptic sci-fi subgenre, offering a vision of a future that is all too real and possible. But it also finds hope among the hopelessness, reminding each of us to count our blessings each and every day.

Survivors launches Saturday evening at 8 pm ET/PT on BBC America.


AskRachel said…
This looks really....depressing. But really good too. I'm definitely going to check it out but will plan on following it with something less bleak. Like old episodes of 30 Rock. (Disease, death, and then the hi-jinks of TGS!)
Anonymous said…
I love Survivors. This first series is a great remake of the 1975 original series. After the first series the main charakter (Abby Grant) left. But in the remake she's still there in series 2 and gets a intense storyline in the first two episodes.
Anonymous said…
Is that Freema Agymen in the picture? Is she on the show? I adore her.

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