Never has there been anything even close to like it on the SyFy channel, until now. They curse like 50’s sailors, screw like the world is ending, fight like Mad Max (the Mel Gibson ones, damn you all!) now rules the world, and there’s even an evil corporation to fight at the literal Heart of it all! The Death Race to end all death races, the ultimate struggle of man and woman and machine, the open road and all the post-apocalyptic mutations you can dream of, are here for the taking! We even have a Master of Ceremonies, who not only shepherds the Blood Drive with his grand pronouncements and plans within plans, but effectively narrates the show for us the audience too, with all the vim and vigor of a barker from the darkest carnival ever!
What happens to the normal people, the common folk, when the world ends and starts mutating into all sorts of undreamt-of things? People shrink down to their baser natures of fighting and f*cking and utterly failing to give-a-shit, topped with costumes and feathers and sudden violent screaming death. Life is completely unpredictable in post-Scar America, so the Heart Corporation decided to give the masses what Caesar used to – bread, circus, and most of all, blood. The Blood Drive is a chance for the common bastard to be an icon to the people, to be admired and adored and of course feared, after of course winning the car race across scary America and killing as many people as possible along the way!
Meet Arthur Bailey (Alan Ritchson). Dear little pretty Barbie Arthur, a cop trying to keep what’s left of the world in the good column, or at the very least not the evil one. His partner Christopher is a bit more jaded about how the real world is supposed to work, but basically the two buddy cops are in for a very rude awakening, when Arthur gets his ass stuck in the Blood Drive with a very reluctant partner named Grace, while poor Christopher gets himself pinched by the evil Heart Enterprises corporation.
They tell the story much better on the show, but basically awhile ago Heart Inc. decided to instigate an apocalyptic event, by fracking where they shouldn’t have in America. This giant monstrous tear opened up, known simply as the Scar, and it had ripple-nasty effects all across the states, getting progressively more wild and weird the closer you get to the Scar itself. Society has seriously de-evolved and quite a few states are left completely to their own Furiosa-like existence, with all sorts of scams and enterprises being run behind the scenes by, you guessed it, Heart Corporation. They of course produce the Blood Drive too, and our God of the Stick Julian Slink ostensibly works for them. In theory.
Since both Heart and their audience decided they liked the combined racing team of Arthur and Grace (Christina Ochoa), and they kind of have to keep racing due to the implanted bombs in their skulls, there is nothing for it but for our most mismatched couple to keep going all the way to the finish line of the Blood Drive. Arthur’s taken it into his head to take down the entire Heart Corporation, whereas Grace just drives her murder-mobile prototype ‘cuz she’s looking for her missing sister Karma (Alex McGregor).
See, Grace carries a tremendous amount of guilt for abandoning her sister in her quest for a better life, and manages to intertwine driving in the Blood Drive with following the pathetic trail of where the hell her sister got taken. Meanwhile, poor do-gooding Arthur soldiers on, often literally trailing the shreds of his cop life as he tries to continue being good while on the Blood Drive, which leads him across the most fucked up America you can think of. A real-life Amazonia (“death by Snu-Snu!” indeed); an actual STD that transmits zombie-ism and glows in the dark (and can only be cured the Game of Thrones way); the cannibal chefs of the first pit stop town called, I kid you not, Pixie Swallow; the toxic green vampiric Glimmers and savage corporation gods of Steel City; Halloween candy that really packs a hellion of a Smax; the mutated town of (LMAO) Cronenburgh, where you will enjoy the happy gas and voluntarily – joyfully, even – be sacrificed to the Scar; and like any good Roman circus, a gladiatorial free-for-all in true Blood Drive fashion. All these things and so much more awaits Arthur and Grace along the route of the Blood Drive, and we the audience are along for a ride like no fucking other!
Meanwhile over here in the Heart Tower, where executives and flunkies are debating the ratings and near-constant changes to the televised Blood Drive, often to Slink’s sheer murdering chagrin of course, Christopher (remember Arthur’s partner?) is being tortured by an Aki, sex-bot of Heart Enterprises construction, with the murky idea of converting him to work for them. Christopher’s (Thomas Dominique) eye that was damaged in his initial kidnapping struggle is replaced with some manner of Heart Enterprises technological badassery, and in a very strange Stockholm syndrome kind of way, he actually falls in love with his torturing Aki-bot (Marama Corlett). And somehow he manages to turn the tables on her, by, yes I’m not kidding either, giving the sex-bot her first orgasm and thereby unlocking her humanity. Oh Blood Drive, I super Heart your eternal snark forever.
There are plenty of secondary characters that make the Blood Drive even more insane than it already is, the middle class married couple Domi (Jenny Stead) and Cliff (Craig Jackson) come to mind in particular, how they manage to make their mutual love of just straight up slaughtering people save their dwindling marriage is just freaking adorable. The various leaders of the survivor gangs that Arthur and Grace encounter each have their own fun little neuroses, but more often than not, for the generation of ‘Robot Chicken’-style attention spans, the character is introduced, we get clue-by-four’d their backstory and maybe one or two instances of cheerfully irreverent actions, and then sudden death.
When Grace finally finds her sister Karma and we the audience find out WTF happened to her (and what Karma did to get there), her reactions to her sisters journey are completely understandable. It’s hard for this tiny, far too pretty actress to embody post-apocalyptic still-corporate America, and yet she somehow does it, really well actually.
But it has to be said, the hero, the true artist of the Blood Drive, both the race inside the show and the show itself, will forever be Julian Slink. It amazed me that the actor running around in feathers and steampunk-like gear and guyliner and geisha teeth-blackening paint (I’m not kidding either) is the same man who played Pope in Falling Skies, which I also did watch, Colin Cunningham. From the very first episode, where Slink slunk onto the stage and barked the opening of the Blood Drive, like the darkest poet of my soul welcoming me to the Black Lodge, he was the storyteller of the entire show. His grinning murderous response every time Heart Corporation tries to give him “helpful suggestions” for the Blood Drive never fails to make me laugh in uproarious Nicholas Cage fashion!
The show did an amazing, unapologetic forever-Grindhouse job, on what I understand was a very small budget and a crap-ton of imagination. The score and soundtrack is forever fun, often tongue-in-cheek and yet nuts-smashingly hilarious, just like the show itself. A parody of a parody doesn’t work unless there’s something in there that everyone will laugh at, and ‘Blood Drive’ has that in spades! There’s even hilarious commercials for the show during the show, advertising Heart Industries products and services, and every episode ends with a grindhouse-style preview for the next episode and a gritty, dirty advertisement for the freaking VHS copy of the previous episode; come on folks, it’s disgustingly awesome.
It’s a damned shame that the night the season finale of ‘Blood Drive’ aired was the same night it was announced the show was cancelled. The show left a wide opening for a season two, and I wanted to know what happened to Arthur, damn it! Nevertheless, the entire first and only season of ‘Blood Drive’ is worth owning, go for that gritty grindhouse-love collection we all hope will be put out for this gone-too-soon delightfully insane TV show!