From Moscow, With Love
Episode 1 of To The Lake wastes absolutely no time introducing us to this inhospitable world and filling it with a heavy dose of paranoia and urgency. There’s definitely shades of Walking Dead Season 1 here along with echoes of 28 Days Later. While there isn’t much in the way of zombie action (at least not yet anyway), there’s a steady dose of tension rising.
All of this begins with a brief shot of a delirious, blood-stained man stumbling through the woods. We soon cut to our main protagonist Sergey who awakens to spend time with his son Anton at the playground.
When his ex Ira arrives their introductions are frosty to say the least. Sergey promises to visit Anton next week and an argument breaks out over his new lover Anna. However, they’re both interrupted by a commotion nearby as a man doubles over coughing up blood and sporting glassy eyes.
At the Detox Clinic we meet tearaway alcoholic Polina who does everything she can to be kicked out of the clinic. After igniting her cell and flooding the toilet, her Father Lyonya arrives to take her back home. On the way though, they almost hit a woman who appears to be suffering from the same delirious state that the coughing man earlier suffered from.
On the road, Lyonya bumps into Sergey and encourages him to visit for dinner. Sergey’s son Misha spies Polina in the car and immediately becomes infatuated with her; love at first sight. Anyway, the group arrive for dinner and it’s clear there’s no love lost between Anna and Marina.
Still, she keeps smiling through the dinner as Lyonya’s boisterous demeanor dominates the conversation. Polina cheekily starts touching Misha under the table and he quickly gets up and bolts. Polina excuses herself not long after and starts seducing Misha, courtesy of stripping for his drone.
The evening draws to a close and Sergey sits with Anna, watchin the news as a virologist called Professor Pakhomov starts discussing a new viral outbreak infecting people. It begins with 3 to 4 days of coughing which is then eventually followed by death, which certainly puts everyone on high alert.
The army are called in and slowly but surely victims start falling. The army take drastic measures and quarantine an entire school. The one child infected, with red eyes and cowering in the corner, is shot with a blast of strange white liquid that causes her to start sobbing and crying as she’s carried out on a stretcher.
This school quarantine eventually expands to Moscow as a whole, with the place completely off-limits to civilians. Civilians including Sergey who ends up stuck at a road blockade and unable to get back to Anton and Ira. With helicopters flying overhead, Loynya’s flight is cancelled and everyone is stuck where they are.
In the wake of all this uneasy tension, Sergey’s Father Boris arrives at their house. He warns that in a week’s time there will be no army. No Moscow and this epidemic is about to cause serious devastation. “They” (the city dwellers) will break through and he implores Sergey’s family to leave in the morning to avoid getting caught in all that.
Unable to sleep, Sergey decides to try and get back into Moscow. He stows away in a truck in a bid to try and save Ira and Anton. As we soon see, they have problems of their own as Ira’s infected mother tries to break into their house.
There’s plenty of this going around though as a man breaks into Lyonya’s house. After knocking Lyonya out, this soldier tries to rape a pregnant Marina. Thankfully Polina is there and she manages to stop it from happening, stabbing the culprit in the neck with a pair of scissors.
Misha, Anna and Boris all head over to Lyonya’s house and form an alliance. At the same time, Sergey makes it to Moscow and to Ira’s house. Snatching the pair up, they make it to the truck just in time. The driver is not so lucky though, lying in a pool of blood in the back. Gangs rule the streets and chase after the truck as the family drive up to the border.
Ignoring the soldiers, Sergey bursts through the perimeter and grits his teeth as bullets rain down on the back of the truck. As he leaves, no-nonsense soldier Yuri heads off in hot pursuit to try and find them.
They’re not aware of this though, and Sergey makes it back to the house just in time. There’s no love lost between Anna and Ira though, which promises to spill over in the near future.
Only, they have bigger fish to fry when the soldiers – led by Yuri – arrive at the house. Anna and Sergey run as bullets echo across the inhospitable, snowy landscape.
The Episode Review
With a slow burn opener, To The Lake takes its time to build up the infected threat. The idea of including segments with people wearing masks and media downplaying the threat is a really smart move. It’s also eerily similar to what we’re currently going through now – minus the blood-thirsty infected.
The camera work here is absolutely fantastic too, utilizing a frenetic energy for the close-ups, sharp edits and the smooth rotating shots used. There’s a real grittiness to this one and the pulsating rock soundtrack leans into 28 Days Later territory beautifully.
This one could just be the surprise horror entry this weekend, usurping the disappointing Bly Manor. Roll on the next episode!
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