This is Rooster Teeth’s first ever drama series. The Austin-based company known for web-series comedies has spent 13 years making people laugh, chuckle, and bust guts, but here, the studio stretches it’s cinematic muscles with an original science fiction concept. Some may find the world’s post-pandemic setup akin to The Walking Dead and other human survival stories. Others may be surprised to find that an epidemic is more terrifying in the mysterious form of this plague in Day 5 in that it is so simple: falling asleep will kill you. It puts characters in a place to act for their own needs, for a greater good, and constantly fighting themselves instead of zombies or anything of the like, and because of this, the fear is much more relatable.
The introduction to this world is through a drug addict, Jake (played by Jesse C. Boyde), who makes friends with one of the only survivors in the surrounding area, 13 year-old Sam (Walker Satterwhite) a resourceful kid who is too smart for his own good. The unlikely pair attempts to make their way in the brave new world with every way they can in the desperate attempt to stay awake. The world surrounding them has been ransacked of its caffeine, adderall and nicotine and these abandoned locations throughout Texas show some quality world building and is easily the most compelling part of Day 5’s first episode as it can makes viewers wonder just how these characters keep themselves from drifting off into their certain doom. This shines through in the writing, especially in Sam as a living Reddit page on trivial topics and in the duo’s new companions towards the episode’s end, Ellis (Davi Jay) and Ally (Stephanie Drapeau). It is when these two characters are introduced that the plot’s direction for the season is laid out, and how the scientific consequences of Jake and Sam’s actions could affect themselves and those around them.
The script comes across as something similar to a Michael Crichton novel, but with characters ripped right from a teen drama on the CW network, and it shows instantly as the contagion scenarios and pragmatic ways to keep awake are dispersed among a handful of masturbation and sex gags. To be fair, these jokes are par for the course with Rooster Teeth, and clearly are intended to depict Jake’s questionable influence on the young Sam, but more so they come across as a bit jarring when not in a fully comedic context and surrounded by intense moments and depressive characters. A TV pilot is a tough place to establish both a vast, post-apocalyptic world, as well as a cast of characters, but it at least gets the first of the two established within the 43 minute episode. The acting stumbles a bit in the Day 5’s premiere episode as well but, as many know, pilot episodes’ productions function much differently and I can find these character’s chemistry with one another only getting stronger as the series goes on and the actors spend more time on screen together.
Day 5’s production value shows that it is clearly a web series, as the crew and editing staff is making due with their resources with some compelling cinematic framing, but the filmic qualities like depth of field and lens flares clearly being made in post production. This is only a very minor issue. Those that watch a lot of television and film on a weekly basis would be able to spot this, but to the average viewer it is barely noticeable, and will be very easily forgiven by the RoosterTeeth community that gives every production from the team a fair shot.
Day 5 premieres on Sunday, June 19th at 4:00 PM CST on RoosterTeeth.com