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.
The California Territories – 1999 – In the wake of frakking quakes that broke the world, America backslides into becoming a lawless wasteland where oil costs $2,000 per barrel. Devious drivers resort to using vehicles whose engines are fueled by human blood. Larry and his buddy chase racer Grace d’Argento along a desert highway. Grace leads them off the road and pulls over. When Larry tries to rape her, Grace turns the tables and feeds Larry into her engine. Grace tears the arm off Larry’s friend and uses his blood to top off her tank. Grace drives to a warehouse hiding an underground racing community named Mayhem.
With law enforcement having been privatized since a company called Contracrime purchased police contracts, Contracrime cops Arthur Bailey and Christopher Carter arrest a junkie attempting to steal water from an automated ration machine. Arthur asks about odd track marks on the junkie’s arm, but the junkie refuses to discuss how he got them. In exchange for being released, the junkie ultimately tells the cops about a secret warehouse where they can find out more about the people paying to harvest blood from the poor. Despite it not being official police business, Arthur and Chris later infiltrate the warehouse and discover Mayhem, where master of ceremonies Julian Slink hosts Blood Drive, a deadly race with a $10 million prize.
Slink introduces the racers: Rib Bone, Domi and Cliff, The Gentleman and The Scholar, Clown Dick, and Fat Elvis. Arthur is found spying on the event and is pushed from his perch onto Grace’s car. In the ensuing commotion, Arthur and Grace are both grabbed and injected in their necks with the same radio-controlled pulse charge micro-bombs that all other racers have. Arthur and Grace are thus forced to become a Blood Drive racing team. Chris attempts to intervene, but is knocked out. After the race begins, Arthur dives out of Grace’s car. Slink begins using the bomb controls to increase the pain in Arthur’s neck until Grace comes back to collect Arthur. Grace explains that she is racing to win the money so she can get her sister Karma out of the asylum at Kane Hill Hospital. Arthur is shocked to discover that the racecars run on human blood and vows that no one is going to be put into the engine as long as he is around.
After reading Chris’ statement on what he uncovered at the warehouse, Sgt. Gower insists that he alter his report, as she is unwilling to submit a statement about vampire cars. Chris balks. Gower tells him that Contracrime Internal Affairs will investigate. Officer Aki overhears and offers to partner with Chris on investigating further. Meanwhile, Blood Drive racers continue on the Suicide Trail along the way to Mayhemville in Arizona. Arthur forces Grace to stop when they see Rib Bone sawing up captured cheerleaders along the side of the road. Arthur fights Rib Bone as Grace approaches with a knife.
Grace uses a spike strip to disable The Gentleman and The Scholar’s approaching vehicle. Arthur unties the cheerleaders while Grace makes The Scholar, a brilliant mechanic, repair her car. However, the Scholar secretly sabotages Grace’s engine. Before returning to the road and leaving the other men behind, Arthur forces The Gentleman to promise he will not kill the cheerleaders. After Arthur and Grace leave, The Gentleman infers he will only maim the girls for their blood. Chris and Aki find the junkie from earlier and he leads them to a parking garage. Chris and Aki infiltrate the building and uncover a lab dedicated to harvesting human blood. Chris sees that one of the frakking bays has his name on it before Aki attacks. Chris kills Aki, but she reanimates, revealing she is an android. Another Aki clad in a dominatrix outfit captures Chris.
Grace’s car stalls near the finish line while the other racers pass them. Fulfilling his threat that the last to arrive would be killed, Slink starts activating Grace and Arthur’s neck bombs. Acting on a theory, Grace and Arthur have spontaneous sex so that the adrenaline shorts out their bombs.
All of the racers celebrate at the finish line. Slink warns Arthur that his bomb has been modified and the adrenaline trick will not work again. At the conclusion of their confrontation, Slink hands over a business card identifying himself as an employee of Heart Enterprises. Arthur is shocked as he recalls that Heart Enterprises controls most commercial products and corporate entities in America, including Contracrime.
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 roadside town secretly populated by cannibals.
Race Day 2 – Arizona – In the desert town of Pixie Swallow, cook Karl Kox runs a roadside diner with his sultry daughter Mimi and her dimwit lover Chad where they secretly serve human meat.
Julian Slink is summoned to Heart Enterprises headquarters for a meeting. In the lobby, Slink meets excitedly nervous Mr. Scuttle, who says he is there for an interview because Heart is planning to replace an employee. Slink worries Scuttle may unknowingly be referring to him. The Blood Drive racers stop in Pixie Swallow. Arthur uses the diner’s payphone to leave a voicemail warning Chris about Heart Enterprises controlling everything. Karl Kox overhears Arthur and the two men have a brief confrontation. Aki forces Chris to watch a Heart Enterprises recruitment video. Aki tells Chris he is free to explore the facility where he is being held and can leave at any time, but Heart wishes to employ him. At the diner, Grace beats Fat Elvis and steals his room key for the adjacent motel when Fat Elvis swipes Arthur’s burger. Chad then captures Fat Elvis and Karl guts him for meat.
After they have sex, The Gentleman breaks The Scholar’s heart by telling him he plans to go off alone once they win the race. While Grace showers, Arthur returns to the diner to wait for Chris’ call. Arthur ends up consoling the dejected Scholar. Arthur finds a fingernail in his food. Arthur eavesdrops on Karl as he talks to Mimi about killing all of the racers before their operation is exposed. Arthur sees Fat Elvis’ corpse and realizes everyone has been eating people.
Arthur and Grace puke in the toilet following the revelation. A pack of cannibals descends on the motel and diner to kill all of the racers under Karl’s direction. Arthur and Grace try to escape, but need The Scholar to repair their car once again. Chris finds his cellphone while exploring the Heart facility and listens to Arthur’s voicemail. Arthur and Grace compel The Gentleman to help them rescue The Scholar when they discover he was captured and is being held in the kitchen.
Scuttle returns to the Heart lobby and tells Slink that he got the job. Slink brutally beats Scuttle to death in a sudden burst of rage. Aki comes to the lobby and informs Slink that Scuttle was actually hired to be the new head of maintenance. While The Gentleman acts as a lookout, Arthur and Grace fight their way through the cannibals to get to the diner. Rib Bone rescues a small dog, Caligula, from a hot truck during the fray and the dog becomes his new racing partner. Karl, Chad, and Mimi prepare to escape. Chris calls Arthur on the payphone and Arthur has Chris locate Heart’s file on Grace’s sister Karma. Aki tells Slink about Heart’s intention to broadcast the underground Blood Drive worldwide. Aki reveals that Heart did not think Slink was up to the task of going global, and actually did plan to kill him, but his display in the lobby earned him a second chance. Slink promises to make the race even bloodier. Aki tells him she has notes for the show. Arthur and Grace fight with Karl’s trio in the diner kitchen and rescue The Scholar. Arthur locks Mimi in a freezer. Chad slips in a blood puddle and falls into the meat grinder. Karl captures Grace and escapes with her held prisoner in a refrigerated van.
Because of the increasing distance between he and Grace, the pain from Arthur’s neck bomb intensifies. The Scholar works fast to repair Grace’s car. Arthur quickly gets on the road and goes after Karl’s van. The Gentleman chastises his partner for helping another team. The Scholar grabs The Gentleman’s face and forces him into a kiss. Arthur cuts off Karl’s van and rescues Grace. Arthur places Karl under arrest, but Grace approaches and puts a pair of meat hooks into Karl’s head.
Chris tells Aki that he chooses to stay at Heart Enterprises. Sensing his desire to play double agent, Aki restrains Chris and prepares him for behavior modification. Grace fuels her car’s engine with Karl’s body. Arthur tells Grace that Heart controls the Blood Drive as well as Kane Hill Mental Hospital, meaning Heart has been manipulating Grace all along. Grace tells Arthur that on the next leg of the race, they are going to take a detour to the asylum.
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. Karl Kox, 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, Karl 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.
Episode 3 - Steel City Nightfall
Airdate: June 28, 2017