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SYFY WIRE Day of the Dead

Recap: The zombie apocalypse hits a divided small town in Day of the Dead’s series premiere

By Seth Garben

The small town of Mawinhaken is going through a lot lately. Climate change. Cutthroat elections. Creepy funeral directors. A zombie apocalypse.

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By almost every measure, the troubled suburb at the center of Day of the Dead appears to be a microcosm of the United States of America. Granted, we haven't yet had to contend with widespread cannibalism, but is it really that far-fetched?

How Mawinhaken and its residents respond to the town's problems — especially the zombie one — could very well inform how we deal with ours — if and when the dead turn undead.

There's not a minute to lose.

**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Day of the Dead Season 1, Episode 1, "The Thing in the Hole."**

Big things are happening in little Mawinhaken, not least of which is: the fracking.

Yes, like so many other towns across these United States, Mawinhaken has opened its doors to Big Oil at its own peril. Cleargenix Energy has set up a drilling site in the outskirts of town to scrape up black gold, and the move has divided the town between those who want clean drinking water and a livable environment — and those who don't.

When the drill gets caught on something down below and malfunctions, the hot-headed foreman Rhodes (Kevin O'Grady) sends freshman worker Blackwood (Morgan Holmstrom) down to investigate. On her descent she finds more than just rock: There's a dead body there, masked, and chained down. How it got there is anybody's guess, and Blackwood doesn't waste time hypothesizing — she phones it into the cops.

Rhodes is none too happy that Blackwood's called in the heat. They'll likely stop work, and he's under a ton of pressure from corporate to keep on schedule and drill like there's no tomorrow. Because, hey, there might not be one.

Meanwhile, at the local funeral home, assistant undertaker Lauren (Natalie Malaika) is preparing an elderly man's body for a funeral that day when her boss Lazlow surprises her: He's going to let her handle the service solo. She's overjoyed until she realizes that this is part of Lazlow's ploy to get her to agree to go on a date with him that night. When she declines his offer, he pulls out the "I'll have a talk with your parole officer about your behavior" card, and she ultimately acquiesces.

But luckily for Lauren — not to mention us viewers — Lazlow won't be creeping on her anymore. For when she goes to the bathroom to change for the service, the corpse she'd been preparing for its big day springs back to zombified life, and turns Lazlow's innards into a Jackson Pollock painting.

As attendants start showing up to pay their respects, Lauren quickly realizes that there's no boss in the office, and no corpse in the casket. When confronted by the irate funeral-goers, Lauren searches around for both, and finds Lazlow's ravaged body.

The heat has shown up at the Cleargenix worksite in the form of Detective McDermott (Keenan Tracey), who inquires about the body. Rhodes tries to keep the detective at arm's length, but it's McDermott's higher-ups who unexpectedly put the kibosh on the investigation. The police chief has been directed by Mawinhaken's conservative Mayor Paula Bowman (Miranda Frigon) to stand down, and allow Cleargenix to continue with business as usual. The mayor's up for reelection that day, and she needs to hold on to every vote she can get.

Big corporations telling politicians and law enforcement what to do? Go figure!

But McDermott, for his part, is undeterred. On his way off the site he runs into Blackwood, and enlists her help to get him down into that hole. She sabotages the drill to stop work, so that McDermott can poke around the depths. While down there, he finds that not only is the dead body not dead, it's got enough spunk left in it to bite him.

When Rhodes figures out what Blackwood and her new cop buddy have been up to, he takes no chances, and knocks Blackwood out cold. And with his accomplice out of the picture, a bit McDermott is stranded in the worst possible place to be on a drill site: underground.

Back at the funeral parlor, as Lauren is trying to placate an impatient crowd of mourners, Grandaddy finally makes an appearance — and lunges at Lauren, trying to eat her. She responds quickly and effectively, crushing Grandpa's skull and brain to bits.

But Grandpa's the least of their worries. The whole cemetery has come back to life, and is coming straight for the funeral parlor.


Day of the Dead