The Hot Zone Season Premiere Review: A Virus from Hell

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There are many horrors in real life. Some are so ghastly that it might seem more like fiction than fact.

On The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1 and The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 2, the alarming discovery that the deadly Ebola virus might have made it's way onto U.S. soil is the focus of National Geographic's, six-part limited series airing over three nights.

Suited Up - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1

The series is inspired by the true events outlined in Richard Preston's 1994 best-selling novel of the same name.

If you haven't read the novel, no worries. This series will pull right into the actual terrifying race to prevent a global crisis of epic proportions.

Related: Lenny Platt on Breathing Life into National Geo's The Hot Zone

And if you've seen the 1995 movie Outbreak (which was also based on Preston's book) starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo, you can forget you ever saw it because this series blows it out of the water.

Comrade - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1

The series boasts a stellar cast including Julianna Marguiles (The Good Wife) as Dr. Nancy Jaax, Noah Emmerich (The Americans) as Nancy's husband, Lt. Col. Jerry Jaax, Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) as Wade Carter, Nancy's former mentor, and Topher Grace (BlacKKKlansman) as virologist Dr. Peter Jahrling, among others.

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It doesn't seem possible that something so horrific as the Ebola virus can even exist in this world, but it does.

Since its discovery in 1976, it has killed thousands of people including nearly 12,000 people in West Africa as recently as 2015.

Checking out a Monkey - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 2

What's even scarier is how quickly it spreads once someone is infected. On an airplane where someone sneezes and doesn't cover their mouth?

Well, those tiny droplets travel far, and if they're infected, you might end up getting infected, too.

Going into Level 4 is like being born. You're stripped down to your bare essence and you emerge into a strange and hostile environment.


It's not a pretty disease, either. You basically hemorrhage from the inside out -- an excruciatingly painful way to die.

Bringing in a Sample - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 2

And there is no cure.

It kind of makes you want to become a hermit and avoid all contact with other humans. And stay away from the monkey exhibit at the zoo.

Yet, there are people like Dr. Nancy Jaax (based on a real person) who put their lives at risk to save all of us from enduring this kind of horror.

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Jaax first comes across the virus when she receives an odd sample from a nearby monkey research facility (would you open a piece of tinfoil with bloody monkey parts in it?) that needs to be tested for disease.

Unlike her co-worker Dr. Jahrling, she doesn't look for easy answers and decides to take the sample to a Level 4 research lab for further study.

Running from Danger - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1

What's interesting is how we got to see the detailed precautions necessary even to enter such a hazardous lab. 

And that's what sets this series apart from the film. We aren't just shown images of the virus traveling from person to person or how it kills, we are also shown the scientific and safety side which is quite fascinating.

Ormond: Nothing like jumping in the deep end.
Jaax: I thought they taught you to swim while you were in training? Did I grab the wrong guy?
Ormond: No. I'm ready.
Jaax: You aren't a little scared?
Ormond: Of course not.
Jaax: That's bad. If you're not scared, you shouldn't be in Level 4. Fear keeps you sharp.

I can't even imagine having to go through so many steps to analyze something so deadly you have to go through four chambers before even getting to the main lab.

And wearing the suits? I'd probably freak out just like Capt. Ormond did when he donned the claustrophobic rubber monstrosity for the first time.

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You also have to wonder what would have happened had Dr. Jaax not decided to investigate that odd monkey sample further. 

If she would have tossed it off as something generic like Dr. Jahrling did, would she and Wade have been able to get to the still living infected monkey in time to figure out exactly what was happening at that research facility?

Checking for Leakage - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1

Gold star to Dr. Jaax for her tenacity, but maybe she needs one taken away for her recklessness.

Putting an infected dead monkey carcass in the trunk of the same car you take your kids to baseball practice in probably wasn't a good idea even if there was no other way for her to get the new sample back to the lab.

Ben: Don't you want to wait until Nancy finishes up her tests?
Jahrling: You're talking a million to one odds. Look, man, I wouldn't put too much stock in Nancy's paranoia. Look, she's smart as a whip, but her mentor, he's like a pathogen chasing whack job. This guy went off the deep end. Always looking for the big one. I mean, it's not her fault.

But that entire scene was heartpounding wasn't it? 

From Frank blaring on his horn to let her know the dead monkeys had thawed to having to stop in the middle of traffic to figure out how to sanitize the blood that dripped out of her trunk, it was quite harrowing.

Not Dangerous Yet - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1

Even worse was the two of them trying to get it all done before the cop showed up to investigate what the problem was.

There are many moments like that throughout the first two episodes like her and Wade trying to sedate that still living monkey when it decided to spit at Dr. Jaax just like Wade warned.

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It's scary to think that a virus would have the thought process (even though it's more of a biological process) to make its host react in ways to spread its existence.

There are also many moments that make you ponder what you might do if you found yourself in a similar situation,

Jaax: I don't like the feel of this place. The whole building. It's rotten.
Wade: Because something lives here that isn't monkeys or people.

Dr. Jahrling didn't really believe that the original sample was anything but a simple Simian virus, but when he discovered the truth, he realized he had put himself and Ben in danger of exposure.

But instead of doing the right thing and informing the higher ups, he decided the best way to handle it was keeping it secret while keeping a close eye out for infection symptoms.

Open Mind - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 2

It makes sense that someone wouldn't want to be locked up in quarantine for 21 days, but he didn't think of how many more people he may have put at risk because of his selfish decision.

His wife, Ben's wife and kids, and anyone else any of them would come in contact with -- neighbors, friends, other family members, and even strangers.

That's how quickly something like this could spread and people like Dr. Jahrling need to take a cold, hard look at themselves and examine whether or not they've made the right career choice.

A Thinking Dr. Jaax - The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 1

He is a guy who dissed Jaax's mentor, Wade, as being a crackpot, yet the crackpot is probably the one who's going to help Jaax save the world.

Wade certainly understands how the virus works a lot more than Jahrling ever will since he got exposed to it and its effects years earlier.

Related: Get Cinemax via Prime Video Channels for Hit Movies & Series that Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat!

The flashbacks into Wade and Trevor's past are another highlight in helping viewers understand the history of the virus.

We're being given vital information in a way that is beneficial to the story and character without it being done in a boring, expository way.

Overall, "Arrival" and "Cell H" are a strong start to this limited series, and I, for one, can't wait to see how it all develops for Dr. Jaax, Wade, Dr. Jahrling, Ben, and the rest of the world -- heebie-jeebies and all!

Over to you!

What did you think of the season premiere of The Hot Zone?

Did you get the heebie-jeebies while watching?

Have you seen the movie? Read the book? How does this series compare?

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Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 3 and The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 4 air tomorrow night starting at 9/8c on National Geographic! Be sure to check back here for our full review and to share your thoughts on the series' progression.

If you need to see what all the buzz is about, you can watch The Hot Zone online right here via TV Fanatic!

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The Hot Zone Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

Dr. Jaax: SHF doesn't kill cells like this.
Ben: That's what I'm saying.
Dr. Jaax: There's only a few things in the world that could do this.
Jahrling: User error?

Jason: Have you ever seen AIDS?
Jaime: Mom doesn't see human patients. Besides, Tammy's mom says all the AIDS are in New York --
Dr. Jaax: -- Um, Tami's mom believes that Falcon Crest is a real place. Let's just stick to science. Facts only.