BLOOD DRIVE - SEASON 1 - Episode Guide, Recaps, and Reviews
Episode 1 - The F-cking Cop
Director: David Straiton
Writer: James Roland
Summary: An idealistic cop is forced to team with a cutthroat woman for Blood Drive, an underground race across a wasteland in cars fueled by human blood.
In this current Golden Age of “must see” TV, every show, whether it is broadcast online, on cable, or on a traditional network, seems to have staunch supporters offering assurances that you’re missing out if you’re not keeping up. And who has time to watch all of these small screen serials, what with outlets like Netflix regularly delivering content in fat 13-episode chunks?
That’s why you have to appreciate any new series that respects your time enough to reveal everything there is to know before the premiere episode hits its opening credits.
SyFy series “Blood Drive” certainly sets itself up to cleave viewers into two camps. Nose-pinchers may see the gratuitous gore, excessive obscenities, and sleazy sex, and dismiss the show outright as derivatively campy carnage catering to lowest common denominator lasciviousness. Meanwhile, anyone game for the grindhouse gruesomeness and sadistic silliness of the show’s irreverent attitude will find it funny as well as wickedly fun. Luckily, it won’t take more than ten minutes to determine on which side of the line you’ll fall.
It’s the year 1999 and frakking quakes have ripped the world into a lawless wasteland where oil is $2000 a barrel. To compensate, outlaws drive cars whose engines run on human blood. While privatized police forces chase down derelicts stealing water rations from automated machines, devious drivers race in the Blood Drive, a deadly dash into the desert where $10,000,000 awaits the winner, and losers become fodder for fuel.
Smack dab in the center is Arthur, an idealistic cop whose inadvertent exposure of this underground operation finds him captured and compelled to become an unwilling participant. Arthur is forcibly partnered with Grace, who races in hopes of rescuing her sister from a sanitarium. Like everyone else in the race, Arthur and Grace are injected with pulse charges set to explode if they get too far apart, or if oddball master of ceremonies Julian Slink feels like a little spontaneous torture.
In the midst of all this madness, Arthur’s partner Chris is neck deep in a conspiratorial mystery concerning who really controls the Blood Drive. Arthur doesn’t have attention to spare for this bigger picture at the moment, however. His conscientious objection has him insisting that under no circumstances will Grace put anyone in their engine on his watch. That’s going to prove to be a tall order though, since their opponents have no such qualms about who gets brutally butchered or how.
It’s easy to roll eyes at clichéd characterizations like the femme fatale sucking a lollipop with her seductive smile or the Thurston Howell aristocrat paired with a diminutive grease monkey as a partner and part-time lover. That’s the point. “Blood Drive” purposefully pilfers everything salient and stereotypical from 40+ years of good and bad cult cinema, and explodes all of it in a batsh*t crazy blender of exploitation action and over-the-top outrageousness.
“Blood Drive’s” mix of influences ranges everywhere from “Death Race 2000,” “Mad Max,” and “Deadlock” to “Blade Runner,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and Hanna-Barbera’s “Wacky Racers.” The amalgamated atmosphere of cartoonish insanity and semi-serious sci-fi inspires infinite possibilities for “it’s like” comparisons and alliterative accolades. For instance, “Blood Drive” is like Roger Corman meets Robert Rodriguez in a blood-soaked orgy of speed, sex, slaughter, and plenty of splatter.
Imaginative production design, art direction, and costumes create audacious atmosphere. It can be undercut by occasional cheapness in how chases are shot or other corners are cut, though that too becomes part of the show’s cheesy charm.
Alienation is understandable for those not tuned into the tone. “Blood Drive” knows the audience it is catering to, and if you’re not part of that demo, the show happily opens exit doors at each commercial break. Options are to either get on board with the gritty goofiness or get left behind. Everyone in that first group itching to snicker and smirk at the show’s humorous horrors can buckle up for a wildly weird ride.
Episode 2 - Welcome to Pixie Swallow
Director: David Straiton
Writer: Marc Halsey
Summary: The Blood Drive brings racers to a pit stop in Pixie Swallow, a dusty town secretly populated by cannibals.
One of creator James Roland’s stated goals with “Blood Drive” is to set each episode inside a different horror film subgenre. “Welcome to Pixie Swallow” is the show’s stab at the hillbilly cannibal carnage of Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes” and its ilk, with a side order of devilish roadside diner, another fright flick staple, piled up on the plate.
The episode opens with the camera coming in close on a waitress in short shorts, following the alternating arcs of her hind quarters as she strides toward her tables with a sultry strut. “Blood Drive” knows exactly what it is doing with its intentionally sexist slant. It knows you know, too. It’s only hour two, meaning the series has no intention of pulling promised punches of being salacious, sexy, and sensationalistic.
Pixie Swallow’s diner is hiding a secret any horror hound can sniff out before swinging into the kitchen to see a grinder choking on chunky flesh that definitely doesn’t belong to an animal. Carl Cox, the diner’s cook and proprietor, isn’t starving for customers. But he is going to need a fresh supply of meat when the hungry Blood Drive racers make a pit stop out of this desolate desert town and descend on the diner for grub.
While trying to reconnect with his police partner Chris to relay the latest revelation about Heart Enterprises, and making an unexpected connection by playing Dr. Phil for The Scholar’s broken heart too, Arthur inadvertently uncovers the diner’s dastardly special ingredient. Naturally, Carl isn’t going down easy. When his outlaw operation of finger foods and human headcheese is threatened with exposure, the cook calls in a cavalry of local cannibals to way waste to assembled racers in a bloody battle of “Lord of the Rings” savagery.
Meanwhile, Colin Cunningham chews up every scene in sight to keep Julian Slink at the top of the list of “Blood Drive’s” potential breakouts for fan favoritism. Even when all he has to do is react with composed creepiness while an animated motormouth babbles around him, Cunningham oozes coldly comic oddness.
Part of “Blood Drive’s” wacky weirdness comes from not requiring every actor to operate on the same wavelength, even in the same scene. Play it straight, play it cartoony, play it somewhere in between. ‘Anything goes’ attitudes abound everywhere, and performances have free reign to explore the space as they please. One can’t be sure if Cunningham is relishing his role, cursing his agent between his teeth, or both. But the panache put into his personality plays every card from that mixed bag of emotions in a manner suiting Slink to a T.
Undeniably, “Blood Drive” is silly. Just look at the joyously demented, albeit entirely predictable, moment when Slink lets his imaginative paranoia turn into murderous office space rage. Yet even for all its admittedly lowbrow entertainment, isn’t it something that the show doesn’t take the obvious bait of killing Clown Dick for food and doing a “does this taste funny?” joke?
Numerous bubble shows are easy to drop after only two episodes. “Blood Drive” makes the ‘stay or nay’ decision more difficult. Because if you made it past the first hour, odds are that episode two’s affirmation of an unapologetically aggressive attitude in turn affirms the show’s standing as a guilty pleasure of grindhouse gore, girls, and grotesque gusto.
Nothing is set in stone this early in any TV season. “Blood Drive” could turn out to be a laundry folding show, good only for having on in the background while preoccupied with some banal household chore. Of course, if that is the case and your face isn’t turned toward the screen, then you’d miss the whole reason for engaging with all of the bloody eye candy insanity in the first place.