I became curious, so I got a hold of the first episode of the original Cordon to compare it to Containment.
I was surprised to see the similarities and the divergences.
Both have a couple with a woman recalcitrant to move in with her policeman partner:
And she also works at a data-recovery company:
There’s also a school trip to a medical facility:
And even that guy delivering lab rats:
And yes, the pregnant girl from a grocery who wants to run away (although her boyfriend is not seen in this episode but it seems they’ll run away to his family in Spain(!)):
The main difference is huge. And it matters in terms of the story.
The stowaway is from Afghanistan and arrives in a shipping container:
Like the American adaptation, he goes to a hospital. But not because he’s ill. He went to get vaccinations against the domestic diseases he has no immunity to.
It’s only when two of the medical staff become suddenly ill do alarm bells start to go off:
Two threads have been dropped from the American adaptation.
The first is about a kid who’s bullied and winds up in detention …
… and his school seems to be empty when the cordon has been placed in effect:
The second is a journalist who was tipped about the unusual recall of the schoolkids back into the hospital …
… but his younger editor apparently has no respect for him, won’t let him follow the lead, and wants him to finish an obituary:
This entire thing is so superior to the American adaptation that it’s embarrassing.
In the American adaptation, BAM! The disease is a weapon of bioterror.
In the original, they know how to keep it mysterious. We really don’t know what’s going on, but we suspect something:
The government — no government — would move this quickly without having the damn Ace up their sleeve.
And there’s this tantalizing object:
It was carried by the container stowaway. Is it significant? We don’t find out in this episode.
The Antwerp police are apparently better educated than our American police in Containment. No one asks what a “cordon sanitaire” means.
What the cordon looks like in the original:
The ridiculous overkill of the American cordon with an electrified fence:
And one more bit of embarrassing American overkill. In the original, the stowaway and his family are taken to the hospital peacefully, like adults (despite the fractious matriarch who is also present in the adaptation):
In the American adaptation we get what’s possibly a blatant bio-attack from the stowaway …
… resulting in guns drawn:
And, of course, the biggest mistake of the American adaptation, opening days later …
… and previewing the chaos to come. Scenes of which I still refuse to show here.
The philosophical differences in these two episodes are striking.
In the original, everyone acts and is treated like a civilized adult. Although I suspect the federal health authorities are being coy — yet are just as ham-fisted as the American version — you come away with the idea that these are capable people who earned their positions and need to be listened to. The mystery comes in two forms: What is the disease? Can the population behave itself for just two days even if the real disease becomes known or a carrier outside the cordon has been overlooked?
In the adaptation, everyone seems like a goddammed overgrown teenager and looks like a model. I can’t take any of these people seriously. And the population — our fellow citizens — are shown to be unthinking cattle who deserve brutality “for their own good.”
In the original, there’s a mystery at the heart of it. What’s the disease? Is the government holding back? How will it all play out?
In the adaptation, there’s zero suspense. We open with a days-forward flash of chaos and are told this is a weapon of bioterror. What the hell else is there to even know?
Just as with the American adaptation of Forbrydelsen into The Killing, Americans have screwed up a good TV series again.
PS: I’m compelled to add this because I know TV people will be reading this. I do understand network interference. I do understand that some moron Suit wants to “jazz it up” — in effect, ruin it. But the comparison stands because the business politics don’t matter. All that matters is what viewers see. And Containment isn’t as good as Cordon. And from an industry that gave us movies such as Outbreak and Contagion, this adaptation actually had the potential to be better than the original series.