It’s Day 3 of the race and we find ourselves in Utah, 30 miles from the nightmare of cannibalism and murder at the Pixie Swallow Diner. We open with Cliff and Domi listening to soft rock and speeding towards the next finish line. She complains that he’s driving their typical soccer mom 4 door sedan too slowly, and Cliff angrily responds that he’s stuck driving a stupidly slow soccer mom car. It’s pretty clear that she’s the boss and he’s a man-shaped jar of repressed rage.
Elsewhere, Grace plots a course via GPS. Arthur is all for a shortcut to the finish line that takes them through Steel City. It will allow the pair to investigate the mental asylum where Grace’s sister Karma is incarcerated, but Grace has heard terrifying rumors about Steel City. She wants nothing to do with it.
After an industrial accident mutated the residents of the city, the government sent troops in to deal with the resulting superhuman savages. And then the deadly mutants called the government and said:
“Send more troops.”
Okay, it didn’t exactly happen that way, but the long and short of it is that the soldiers became the hunted.
Julian Slink participates in a hilarious conference call with Heart Enterprises corporate, during which the clueless desk jockeys call him “Jonathan” and seem to have no real idea of who he is. During the call, Julian mouth obscenities, cuts a paper doll pattern and generally looks furious. Heart wants him to “raise the stakes” to really test the racers.
On the road, Grace’s Camaro gets a flat tire that damages the rim. In a fun comment on gender politics, Arthur picks up a tire iron to change the flat, assuming that he will be doing the heavy lifting until Grace immediately snatches the tool from him.
“Never touch my tools.”
He looks frustrated and flummoxed while she sets about the task. He points out that Steel City was a center of the automotive industry and car parts should be readily available. Grace agrees to take the mutant-filled shortcut. As they finally get back on the road with the spare tire, we see a gas station fuel kiosk ripped to pieces by a clawed something.
Steel City turns out to be an eerie, silent automotive graveyard with no sign of human habitation. While bickering, Grace and Arthur drive over a tripwire that causes a wall of crushed cars to block the street behind them.
Cliff and Domi encounter a newly married couple having sex in the backseat of their open Jeep by the side of the road. Streamers, cans and a sign reading “Just Married” adorn the rear of the vehicle as the couple breathlessly discuss which one of them should climax first. Domi talks to her husband about the old days, when they used to make love and care for each other. We learn that they were a pair of serial killers before joining up with the Blood Drive race. And Domi is bored with the passionless act of shoving victims into the engine to keep going.
It lacks spontaneity and passion and turns the act of murder into a colorless process of serving the vehicle’s needs.
“It’s not special anymore.” Domi laments.
She has a point. When everyone around you is killing innocents left and right, psychotic behavior and blood soaked slaughter become the norm. As a serial killer, you become a lot less unique in your habits when every other contestant is doing the same thing.
At the cybernetic lair of Heart Enterprises, Chris Carpenter wakes up. He’s nude and bound to a wide gurney, being overseen by one of the Aki androids. We learn that she can control mechanical functions of the laboratory simply by blinking.
Back in Steel City, Grace arms herself with her gear shift stabber as the pair hears strange roaring and screeching sounds from the maze like industrial city. They hide just in time to avoid a group of oddly dressed human survivors who speak in corporate lingo, talking about “synergy” and “bottom lines.”
They seem incredibly interested in Grace’s car and take it to see the Supervisor by opening up a secret password protected passage in the cargo containers. We learn that they live in a locked fortress at night, because nothing survives a night outside in Steel City.
Arthur enters the password and they gain access to the secret corridors. Ever chivalrous, he courteously gestures for Grace to go ahead of him. You’d think he’d learn by now.
“Then what are you waiting for?”
In the subterranean world of the survivors, a well lit converted factory, the man who stole Grace’s car knocks on a door ominously labeled Supervisor.
An attractive woman in her late 30’s answers and is worshipped by the gathered masses. She is extremely excited to see the Camaro and the possible escape it represents. From a tall throne of fluorescent light tubes, car parts and computer monitors, she gets her loyal cult excited using the same corporate jargon we heard earlier.
Holding aloft the sort of tacky bobbleheads you might spy on any office desk, the cult whispers “Synergy” over and over and does a strange synchronized dance with their overlord as Grace and Arthur look on from the shadows.
On the road, Clown Dick terrorizes Domi and Cliff. We learn that he slaughtered the newly married bride and groom, and that Domi carries a cooler with her containing the organs of their past victims dating back to 1998. Cliff tosses onto Clown’s windshield the bloody remains of a bellhop they slaughtered on their honeymoon. Domi begins to reawaken and become aroused by Cliff’s actions. Clown Dick is forced to pull off the road.
Julian is now in Hour 3 of the conference call. As he drags a knife across his wrists in hopes of striking a vein, Corporate announces it wants the following:
- More Clown Dick.
- For Grace to show genuine affection for Arthur.
- Better relationship scenes.
- For more of the other racers to be shown.
In Steel City, which is perpetually covered by a rainless lightning storm, the glow-eyed monsters finally come out to play. Beneath the surface, Arthur introduces himself to the cult in a peaceful manner while Grace and her stabber wait in the shadows to see what happens. After the cult fans out to find anyone else who might be hiding in the factory, the Supervisor turns out to be somewhat reasonable. She uses the “team building” jargon to keep everyone on the same page, and fears the night outside.
Arthur forgot to secure the password protected doors behind them, and soon after they meet the Supervisor, the joint is filled with monsters from outside. The creatures are kept somewhat at bay by the pools of light, but the lightning storm occasionally disrupts power. Staring at the army of green luminous peepers watching the humans from the dark, Grace asks a good question:
“What the hell are those things?”
“Those are eyes. And if these lights go out, you’re gonna see some teeth.”
The cult members looking for others in the darkened factory corridors meet bloody ends, such as when one of the creatures rams its fingers through the skull of a female survivor. We learn that the creatures are called Glimmers and were once human until they got exposed to 245 Trioxin, a gasoline additive that leaked into the local water supply. At gas stations, children ripped apart fuel kiosks to drink gasoline containing the addictive mutagen. The survivors drank only bottled water or juice drinks to avoid mutation, and now the creatures want to get their filthy hands on the gasoline surplus that powers the factory.
The Supervisor shows Arthur and Grace how to kill Glimmers. She pours gasoline on the floor and one of the creatures scampers forward to lap it up. Before it can drink, she turns on a fluorescent light and the monster explodes violently into green dust. Killing them isn’t the issue. The problem is that thousands of Glimmers have already been destroyed and they simply keep coming in greater numbers.
Grace wants to get behind the wheel and take her chances driving through hordes of the beasts. We learn that the red Camaro Grace speeds around in is named “Sexy Susie.”
Elsewhere, Julian’s conference call is hilariously breaking the fourth wall.
Corporate: “What are these creatures called again? Glimmers?”
Julian: “Yes. They said the fucking name.”
Wait a minute…are these executives critiquing the road race, or the actual television show Blood Drive? It’s kinda hard to tell. Heart isn’t so sure that Glimmers is that cool of a monster moniker. While talking, Julian is practicing shattering the phone with a hammer. He drops his pants and moons the phone as the callers begin to pick up on his agitation.
Episode 3 is a turning point in the debate over how to fill the gas tank without killing people, and it also shows that not everyone in the dry wasteland of the United States is evil or out for themselves. Unlike the cannibals at Pixie Swallows, the Steel City survivors are fairly benevolent.
We lose another Blood Drive racer, and the destructive power of the Pulse Charge implants is shown.
The creators of 245 Trioxin are a certain evil corporation. Who could it be?
The Aki android really takes this dominatrix seriously during a very “A Clockwork Orange” torture scene, and Chris Carpenter has a very bad time of it in Episode 3.
True to the demands of Corporate, Grace does indeed show growing trust and respect towards Arthur. It’s more of a partner thing than anything romantic on her part.
We get to know the nature of Domi and Cliff’s relationship and then see it begin to change. She’s bored and he’s frustrated, and they both want to go back to their carefree days of killing whoever they wanted. But after Cliff’s attack on Clown Dick, Domi gains new respect for him. We see a souvenir from their wedding night, which is Something Blue. They really thought outside the box, culminating in a passionate makeout scene that isn’t like what you see on other shows.
Clown Dick speaks his first words, and we learn of his very common weakness.
Grace makes a very important deal with the Scholar.
The white suited voyeur in the Heart Enterprises conference room shows up briefly.
During a commercial break, we are given a number to call to complain about Blood Drive:
325-400-DGAF. I highly recommend you call it, if you’d like to hear Julian Slink instruct you to write your complaint out in a letter and then flush it down the toilet.
We are also treated to a commercial for the new “Blood Drive” dating app, The Suck Bus. It will help pair lonely singles with one of the racers and allow them to consummate their relationship inside a sketchy looking vehicle. The commercial features a woman sharing a glass of wine with a plastic skeleton smoking a cigarette, and this tagline: “If you’re into IT, let us get it into you!”
The ad treats Heart Enterprises as if it were perfectly real, and I’m absolutely loving this kind of immersive content and faux ads. So much fun. Pardon me while I download the Suck Bus from our friends at the Heart Enterprises App Store.
The most obvious source of inspiration for “Steel City Nightfall” is the 1984 monster flick “C.H.U.D.” in which homeless people living in New York subway tunnels are exposed to toxic waste and emerge to feed as Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Like the Glimmers, they have glowing fluorescent eyes and hang out in a trashy looking urban landscape. With their huge mindless numbers and aversion to light, there’s also a bit of the vampire and zombie tropes in the Glimmers.