[[Minor spoilers for Day 5 episodes 1 and 2]]
If I should die before I wake…
SO… WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Sobering up after a well-timed drug bender, addict Jake (Jesse C. Boyd) is fortunate enough – depending on what you count as ‘fortunate’ – to discover he’s one of the few members of the population still alive after an epidemic set in rendering sleep fatal. With most of the world already dead in their beds, and with fatigue and delirium beginning to set in, Jake teams up with a quick-thinking 13-year-old (Walker Satterwhite), an overnight doctor (Stephanie Drapeau) and a red-eye pilot (Davi Jay) to search for answers… but is sleeping again a possibility, or is it just a dream?
Day 5 is an apocalypse like no other.
BUT… WHO IS ROOSTER TEETH?
Alright, if you were referred here by me, you probably aren’t asking this question, but this is the part of the review where I throw in some production details, so bear with me.
Rooster Teeth is the company behind many internet sensations, including (but not limited to) the incredibly successful, longest-running-web-series-ever Red Vs Blue and their newer, also incredibly successful anime-style cartoon RWBY. Day 5 is their first dramatic series, and it seems set to be a hit. It doesn’t have the humour of the two aforementioned shows (though I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve cried my eyes out at both of them), but it’s clearly been injected with the same pure, undiluted brilliance.
AND… IS IT ACTUALLY ANY GOOD?
Since the next stop for a TV show after the mind is the page, I’m going to jump into reviewing the script. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of Day 5 considering that I’ve never been a fan of apocalypse-style programmes, so shout out to writers Josh Flanagan and Chris Demarais for hooking me. There are no wasted words in Day 5: there is a clear understanding of the power of silence, especially with a concept such as this. Characters don’t always need to be discussing what’s going on – seeing Jake frantically running around his empty town is suspenseful enough to give us that squelching horror in the pits of our stomachs as we watch his futile efforts. There’s a good balance between desperation and denial and the sickening calm of acceptance:
“This is a nightmare. I just smoked some bad shit, and I’m gonna wake up soon. Wake up, Jake. Wake up. Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
“You are awake. Sorry, but you’re awake. Trust me. Otherwise, you’d be like them.”
–Day 5, Episode 1: Waking Nightmare.
There’s humour, too, but it’s not light-hearted at all. It’s clear that these characters are scared and when all hope is lost it’s better to theorise becoming a shark than to actually face the fact that you’re probably about to die. It’s raw, but it makes a nice change from panicked screaming and in-fighting or sleepless delusions.
I’m a big fan of the voices of each character, too. Jake is floundering, always seeming on the verge of tipping over but never quite ready to accept a fate. He’s a desperate drug-addict, but he’s also clearly carrying a lot of pain and baggage and ready to accept some sort of flimsy sense of responsibility. Sam is a brilliant 13-year-old, but smart as he is, he’s still 13. He’s scrappy, but he’s as scared as any kid would be. Ally and Ellis are both smart in their own rights but provide obvious contrasts to each other: Ellis is your typical lone-wolf character who has accidentally picked up a scrappy gang of misfits, but he’s still ready to set off solo at any point, whereas Ally is insistent upon sticking together – there’s safety in pairs.
The different settings all provide unique explorations of survival: a house of regulated pill-popping, a systematic hospital, a literal dance-till-you-drop rave. These are complimented beautifully by the actual shot-choices, but I never studied film and am less-able to properly discuss that. Shit looks good, my dude. It’s obvious when we move from reality to hallucination but it isn’t jarring enough to pull you out of the world you’re engrossed in. 45ish minutes isn’t enough.
I can’t fault the acting. Boyd has done a brilliant job of getting viewers invested in Jake – we want him to succeed and we feel his pain despite his obvious (huge) personality flaws. He’s not a bad person because he’s an addict, evidenced by his close friendship with 13-year-old Sam – possibly influenced by Jake’s loss of his younger sister to the sleep epidemic. Jake also isn’t just magically better because the situation calls for him to take control – he’s struggling, and clearly finding a way to sleep won’t be the end of his list of problems to fix. Satterwhite likewise does a brilliant job of portraying a teenager who is in many ways the opposite of Jake: Sam has his own issues and his own secrets, but he uses initiative and is perhaps (…well, definitely) more useful to the group than Jake is. But, as previously stated, he’s still 13, and he’s still scared.
REALLY? NOTHING TO FAULT?
My dude, we are two episodes in. I honestly don’t really have anything to fault at this point. My only hope at this point is that more episodes of this quality are in store for us, and that any more questions we have are answered in due time. I’m going to stick around to see, and I hope others give it a chance.
Day 5 airs Sundays at 4:00pm CT for Rooster Teeth sponsors.
You can become a Rooster Teeth sponsor here.
You can find all available episodes of Day 5 here.
Episodes are also uploaded to the Rooster Teeth YouTube channel one week after they premiere on the site.