BrainDead Season Finale

BrainDead Finale Recap: Did Laurel and Friends Manage to Save the World?

File the following items under “Things I Can Never Look At the Same Way, Thanks to BrainDead“:

Cherry blossoms. Tupperware. Ants — or bugs of any kind, really. Joggers wearing headphones. And, of course, salami.

CBS’ political comic-thriller has offered up 12 weeks of weird, wacky and wonderfully satirical summer television — but as the fate of the series hangs in the renewal/cancellation balance, did Sunday’s season finale provide closure?

The short answer: Yes. Over the course of two hours, Laurel found a way to draw out Red’s Queen Bug, Luke got the political upper hand over the Republicans and it seemed our long national nightmare was, at last, over.

Then again, if BrainDead should score a second go-round, the last few seconds of Sunday’s finale did leave the door cracked for another insect revolution. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Here’s a closer look at the questions that were answered in the two-hour season ender:

SO… WHAT’S UP WITH RED? | After his dear queen got whacked and injured by Laurel, Red is in no state to govern. He’s barely speaking coherent English during Senate meetings, he can’t get through a sentence without crying and he’s snorting dried seaweed in an effort to get his brain-bug healthy again.

Ella, disgusted by Red’s behavior, threatens to take over their political schemes now that he can’t pull himself together. But when Ella comes to Red’s office and brandishes a gun in his face, ensuring the senator that it’s easier just to end his life than fight him in the Senate, she and Red tussle — and Red ultimately grabs the weapon from Ella, shooting her right on his office floor. Once she’s dead, Red’s queen crawls out of his ear and kills Ella’s queen… and just like that, Red is feeling much better.

BrainDead Season FinaleWHAT’S IN THE FARM BILL? | Luke, leaning heavily on some fantastic improv skills, manages to delay the Senate’s vote on the budget by staging a sit-in with his fellow Democrats. (The more you imitate real-life politics, BrainDead, the more I love you.)

With the help of Cole, budget translator extraordinaire, Luke discovers that the Republicans’ pesky farm bill contains a provision for $108 million worth of glass. And why? Well, those internment camps that are being constructed across the country — they’re not internment camps. They’re hothouses being built to grow more cherry blossoms, which is how the alien bugs spread.

Despite Luke’s best attempts, his motion to carve out the farm bill from the budget and vote on it separately gets denied again and again. So, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Rather than get the farm bill shot down on its own, Luke ends up writing a separate bill, regarding motorcycle helmets, that will ultimately override Wheatus’ farm bill. In other words, those hothouses? Not gonna happen. Check and mate.

(As for the cherry blossoms still sitting pretty across D.C.? Rochelle researches a fertilizer, made with ammonium nitrate, that should cause the trees to shed their flowers — and spraying it across Capitol Hill’s trees goes off without a hitch. The blossoms fall to the ground, Rochelle and Gustav celebrate and — oh, yeah. Turns out Gustav works for the NSA. This explains so much.)

HOW DO YOU STOP THE BUGS? | That only leaves one last task: luring out Red’s queen and killing her, which should cause the other bugs across D.C. to fall. But how?

In an emotional conversation with her infected father, Laurel reprimands her dad for being so hard on Luke when he lost his first election years ago — and the moment Dean starts to feel guilty for how he acted toward his son, the bugs in his head begin to crawl out. It seems the way to aggravate the bugs is to make their victims feel shame (shame, shame, ding-ding-ding!). After all, shame is the most deep-seeded human emotion — and if getting drunk, eating chocolate and having sex can get the bugs out, surely something as human as shame can really do some damage.

Surprisingly, the thing Red is most ashamed about is a former love. After doing some research with Gareth — and more on their relationship in a minute — Laurel discovers that Red was in love with a woman who worked in his college dorm and was an illegal immigrant. Torn between his love for Lana and his Republican views on immigration, Red turned her in to the authorities and had her sent to Guatemala. What’s more? She’s dead now. (And that’s why Red has taken to calling Laurel “Lana” all this time.)

As Laurel taunts Red with this story of his lost love — hoping to get him feeling ashamed enough to lure out the queen — the senator gets fed up and points a gun in her face. But Gareth, interrupting at just the right time, tackles his boss to the ground, and Red gets shot in his rear end during the tussle that follows. The queen flies out of his cranium, and just as she’s about to escape through Red’s office door, Gary the intern walks into the room and innocently crushes the bug under his heel. (You’re worth so much more than coffee runs, Gary!)

As expected, the alien bugs kickin’ it in politicians’ brains begin to emerge, skittering through the halls of the Capitol building and flocking to their fallen mama to die. “That’s kinda gross,” Laurel correctly observes, and as Red comes out of his insect-induced stupor, it seems D.C. can finally resume its normal state of chaos.

BrainDead Season FinaleWHAT ABOUT LAUREL AND GARETH? | That faint clicking sound you hear? That’s the sound of every TV journalist updating their list of Most Adorable TV Couples. (And the most infuriating, too.) Throughout these final hours, Laurel and Gareth oscillate between breaking up and planning a life together. First, Laurel announces she’s headed out of town next week to resume work on her recently funded documentary. But wait! Gareth drunkenly proposes. But wait! He was just joking. But wait! Laurel is staying in town until the bug apocalypse is stopped, and she wants to be with him. Ugh, you kids.

In the end, the ol’ “opposites attract” adage proves true, and Laurel and Gareth admit they love one another before starting a real relationship together. (It turns out they’re on different pages about politics and having kids, but I choose to believe they’ll work through their differences. #Laureth4Eva)

As for the rest of those unresolved plot lines? Well, I’ll let resident musical recapper Jonathan Coulton handle that, with the lyrics to his season-ending epilogue:

Some things got much better while some other things got worse
Let’s tie up some loose ends while the space bugs all disperse
All the head explosions notwithstanding, mostly everything turned out all right

Laurel’s leaving politics, she’s tired of D.C.
Someday, she might finish her dream documentary
She and Gareth got a place together, they kiss and canoodle every night

Red made some mistakes but never really paid the price
Stayed on as a senator, got reelected twice
Easily distracted, not intelligent
As such, turns out having half a brain just doesn’t matter all that much

Same for all the senators
Who needs a perfect brain?
Powerful and stupid, but at least they’re not insane
Somehow everything still holds together
Even when it’s running off the rails

Dean lost something precious, and it really took a toll
He’d gladly trade his Parkinson’s for partial mind control
So, the ending isn’t perfect
But at least there’s love and kindness when it fails

You can vote your conscience, you can vote to make a point
But cut-and-dry, your principles have smoked ‘em like a joint
Though we rarely rise to be the best that we can be
Just stand up and be a citizen, it’s called democracy

Luke was forced to leave but got a better offer right away
Wall Street firm with slightly fewer principles and higher pay
Laurel came to help him right before another market crash
When everyone was long on risk and dumbly, sadly short on cash

But that’s another story that they’ll write someday, I’ll bet
And as for all the space bugs, well, so far, nobody’s seen them yet.

And just as Coulton walks past a cherry blossom tree, a new queen bug takes flight and whizzes straight toward the camera. So… maybe it’s not quite over.

That’s a wrap, BrainDead fans. What are your thoughts on the finale? The season? Your hopes for renewal? Cast your vote in our poll below, then hit the comments with all of your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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36 Comments
  1. jen says:

    I have really enjoyed this one. It’s a quirky show with great actors and good twists, and didn’t take itself too seriously. Here’s hoping for another summer for it, but this finale was good!

  2. dan says:

    Fun show, lots of quirky characters and situations that somehow made sense in the end. The show was well cast and the writing was clever and unique. Not exactly your typical CBS show. Unfortunately, I doubt it’ll be back due to weak ratings, but if CBS renews it for round two I’ll be watching. And it definitely had the best “previously on” ever!

  3. Tom Danahy says:

    My girlfriend and I loved the smart political commentary on the current disfunction in Washington, the tounge-in-cheek humor, classic horror splatter, Something About Mary-ish singing commentary/Greek chorus, the sci-fi bug invasion motif, and general sexiness of Brain Dead. It’s a fun-filled roller-coaster of action that titillates the senses, keeps you on the edge of your seat, and, once your hooked, has you tuned in every week wanting more. I hope CBS will give this another chance by either just renewing it now for a second season, re-running the complete season in the spot usually reserved for a mid-season replacement to see how it does in a better viewing environment than a once-shifted Summer run, or do both. This is the most-creative new show to come around in years, and although We’re glad to have stumbled across it, and to have been lucky enough to see it at all, we would be over the moon if we got to have more adventures of Laurel Healy and the whole quirky gang!

  4. Data1001 says:

    Extremely enjoyable dark comedy. I would definitely watch a 2nd season, but thanks to the way this one wrapped up, I’m okay if it doesn’t get picked up, as things were wrapped up very handily.

  5. ninergrl6 says:

    I started watching this show because I adore Aaron Tveit, and I ended up enjoying every quirky bit of it. Great mix of political satire, family drama, social commentary, quirky romance, cringe-worthy gore, and just plain silliness. I’d love another season (#Laureth4Eva) but I’m not holding my breath. I wish more viewers picked up on this gem.

  6. ninergrl6 says:

    Question: did anyone in the Senate react to (or even know about) Ella’s death/disappearance? Seems like that got swept under the rug quickly, as did Gareth’s parents’ visit. Wish they had more time to follow through with some of those subplots.

  7. Eric T says:

    Loved the show though it’s pretty obvious by the second half of the finale that the creators were given the cancellation news. At least they were able to Shoot a wrap-up. Only problem was it threw a lot of stories out the window with a sort of sew-up in the final song. It was very rushed so obviously they didn’t have a lot of time. I would bet there is another ending out there in case it got renewed. Maybe on a dvd or digital extra some day.
    Although I appreciate the “wrap-up” it would have been nice to fill us in on it so we weren’t sitting here hopeful and then have the end thrown at us.
    Fun, original programming rarely has a chance. All we get is another Kevin James show. Ugh.

  8. Mr. Smith says:

    I’m sorry. Was this show still on?

  9. opus says:

    Absolutely the most enjoyable (and wonderfully quirky) show of the summer. I’d love CBS to give this another chance but more people have to watch and discover what they just missed.

  10. Best summer show!! NEVER missed it. Clever, funny, and lots more. Season Two, please!!!

  11. Rob Horine says:

    So the premis was Democrats good, Republicans evil. Got it. Glad I missed it.

    • ndixit says:

      Ignorance must be bliss.

    • jc says:

      I actually thought that the series did a very good job of not vilifying one party, but making it so that the bugs brought out the extremism in both parties, equally. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so won’t give examples, but I’d just say both sides were subjected to equal ribbing. So if that concern held you back from watching it, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised if you decide to watch on demand or elsewhere.

      • Kelly says:

        I agree. I know democrats and republicans who enjoyed the show. Both parties had crazy, bug controlled people, and both sides had good characters.

    • Tom says:

      It’s premise Rob and the show was funny and many of the democrats were bad too. It’s just a spoof Rob get over yourself you probably married a democrat.

  12. drhenning says:

    I can’t wait for the bugs to invade NYC.. will it be Wall Street people or better yet.. network execs in NYC!!

  13. Mary says:

    My favorite show of the summer! Thank you CBS. I’m now a huge Mary Elizabeth Winstead fan.

    • Dudley says:

      If you like Mary Elizabeth Winstead then you can see her in PBS’s “Mercy Street” which was where I discovered her and she was the reason that I tuned in to watch “Brain Dead”. Season 2 will be released on January 22, 2017. It can’t come soon enough for me.

  14. Chuck says:

    A terrific show that was probably too smart for viewers. It also didn’t help with the uneven balance of drama, comedy and pure satire in the first episode that drove most of the viewers away. Had they been patient enough to stick with it, they would have been rewarded with pure brilliance.

  15. Terry says:

    This was a very fun show to watch with some great characters. Probably just as well that it wrapped up, it would be hard to top this season.

  16. Margie says:

    Please renew this uniquely, funny series. Acting was top notch.

  17. David says:

    WOW! Great, great, great, fun, clever show and all the actors did a fantastic job! But did you check out all these reviews and comments! They’re all great, smart, intelligent, witty, thoughtful comments and views. When did you last see that? Bottom line: bring on Season II, III & IV! Why? Because this show was so much fun, the actors were so enjoyable to watch, the story was so clever and creative that I couldn’t wait till it returned each week and after every commercial break, so I found myself actually sticking around and watching the commercials! I even went out and bought some of the damn products. I haven’t done that in years! Hey Sponsors, you hear that! Here’s a show that deserves a renewal. They earned it. Great job cast and entire team! Bravo! It was just darn, simple fun!

  18. Adan says:

    I loved this show! I really hope it comes back. It is so different from what we usually get from networks – smart and sarcastic and slightly cynical. And so funny! I had no idea what to expect from the few promos I saw and I don’t think CBS knew what it had. Weird as it sounds to me, it may have found a larger audience as a streaming series.

    I pimp this show to everyone I know. I don’t care if they think I’m crazy. You can tell if someone’s seen it if you casually wonder if Hillary Clinton and Trump have been checked for bugs.

  19. Joe LoPresti says:

    Fantastic Show !!!
    The actors are excellent and totally believable.
    Let’s go another season and see the cast battle the real aliens !!!

  20. Tom says:

    I really enjoyed the whole season Red was great as the wacky villain and Laurel was irresistible. Just so you get your facts straight I believe Red’s Queen ate Ella’s Drone they had mated earlier in the series leaving the two Senators quite drained.