Blair runs an insurance office and, at least in her mind, suffers the fools who work there as well as she can. One such employee, Gina, tolerates her boss as much as she can. However when the local radio station starts broadcasting news of violence and carnage on the streets of Atlanta, Blair decides to leave as soon as possible… while reminding Gina to stay until closing to lock everything up.
But this is just the start of a very bad, apocalyptic day. One that will end with both of them dying.
And that’s just the start of their very bad day.
When a franchise has lasted over a decade, there’s probably an argument to try something new and extreme – if only as a one-off. One way or another, it’s almost guaranteed to be welcomed by some and hated by others. With that in mind, there’s every chance that the second instalment in the anthology series Tales of the Walking Dead will be such a marmite entry…
The main TWD show has been built on a certain set of dour, sometimes nihilistic rules and conditions. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world full of the flesh-eating undead with a high turn over in cast members, thus opening itself up for a range of potential genre tributes and sly nods especially to moments in classic screen horror… but you aren’t suddenly going to get paradigm-shifting aliens, spaceships, ghosts, superheroes or overt time-travel paradoxes appearing in the main narrative. At the risk of inserting a sound-effect of screeching brakes, we can now scratch the last of those categories off the list of verboten references. Yes, in Blair/Gina, we suddenly have a franchise-adjacent nod to Groundhog Day, with most of the set rules going out of the metaphorical window as obnoxious, overbearing insurance agency boss Blair (Parker Posey) and frustrated, sullen receptionist Gina (Jillian Bell) clash repeatedly as the day goes from bad to worse… and then back again. It appears the two enemies are stuck in some sort of co-dependent time-loop, the only two members of the ‘Circle of Trust’ agency who are aware that they are living (and dying) the same afternoon over and over again as the apocalypse begins.
Equally riffing on both the fremeny/buddy movie aspects of the 1980s as well as having some lesson in there about being better people, it’s all quite absurd and silly, the two main stars managing to eat the scenery rather than going for the jugular. Though feeling like an askew episode of The Office, there’s possibly a missed opportunity to be just a little more subtle in the dysfunctional dynamics of a workplace, the comedy playing out here in much broader and predictable strokes. Yet as a singular break and a one-off entry, the episode is perfectly fine when judged on its own in-the-moment merits. Posey goes full ‘The Devil Wears Prada‘ in her performance of a boss dressed in a supposedly designer dress (but one that looks like badly maintained turf) and so obsessed with herself that she’s unaware how despised she is, even by the fawning acolytes in her office. Equally Jillian Bell’s receptionist is the kind of character who does little to stop being under-appreciated until she finally blows. In this case, the initial trigger is Gina being caught out sneaking away from the office that Blair herself has already abandoned. Add to that fateful confrontation a shotgun, an oil-tanker, a Homeland Security agent and the first local casualty of the apocalypse getting the munchies and things escalate pretty quickly until everybody dies… and the time loops back to earlier in the day.
And…. that’s about it. A multitude of variations play out with one or both of the women dying – as seen in the trailer Blair even lets herself get bitten because she’s getting bored of the reruns. Eventually they figure a way to make their situation work better, but it takes just a little too long to get there. In that sense, it’s a concept that would make a better ‘short’ than a full episode with a few too many trips through the rinse-wash-repeat machine. For those that need it, there’s also an off-hand in-universe attempt to explain the cyclical events as we end the episode, but it’s half-hearted, not really convincing and not really needed if we’re never going to see these characters again. Unlike the Joe/Evie combo from last week (who, theoretically could turn up again if TPTB decided), there’s no real way to fit Blair and Gina into the everyday world of TWD and the truth is, would we even want them to?
So we can put this down as a bizarre but funny diversion from the main route of the show akin to network shows doing the kind of special musical-episode interludes that occasionally get shoved into a sweeps period.
On that note, can a ‘Once Gnaw with Feeling‘ riff be far behind..? Hopefully so. Run, don’t walk.
- Production Design / VFX8