Foreign TV Alert: Cordon

There’s never been a better era to access, by hook or by crook, quality foreign television shows, but even in this landscape, you don’t often find something from Belgium getting any attention. Cordon breaks that barrier, airing on BBC last summer, and if it isn’t quite as artful as some other shows that have grabbed the attentions of the English-speaking audiences, it’s a fun, post apocalyptic cliff hanger that makes the most of its scenario and offers some good characters to keep you interested.

Antwerp becomes the scene of a mysterious flu-like illness that turns deadly, causing the government to cordon off the section of the city infected while the National Institute for Contagious Diseases works within the cordon to find a vaccine.

Cordon wraps a number of players around the situation in good disaster movie form, most notably our hero Lex the cop (Tom Dewispelaere), his girlfriend Jana (Liesa Van der Aa), Gryspeerts (Koen De Sutter), a bumbling Kolchak-like reporter ready to blow the lid on any possible conspiracies about the outbreak, Jokke (Wouter Hendrickx), our hero’s man on the inside, and multiple other characters that are parts of these stories, most of which are about survival at all costs. One of best of the scenarios involves group of people holed up in an office, going through a Big Brother-style experience of bickering and betrayal in the face of danger and death.

At a time when zombie apocalypse fare has taken over our popular vision of the end of society, Cordon stands out for its immediate presentation and stance on how the whole world doesn’t have to end for one part of it to become a decaying nightmare. Much like conflict zones around our real world, this section of Antwerp begins to look like a real breakdown, and the dangers don’t come from mindless monsters, but humans trying to fend for themselves.

It made me think of Escape From New York, and by proxy Lord of the Flies, but with the slightly same over the top sensibility of the original Danish/Swedish version of The Bridge that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There seems to be an American remake called Containment, but those always suck.

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