Babies, those little bundles of joy that bring unconditional love into our lives, can also, as any parent will tell you, come with a lot of drama. Usually it's in the form of having less time for one's friends, getting a lot less sleep, and the crying … dear God, the crying. However, for all the baggage they come with, most parents are afforded the luxury of having children that people don't, you know, keep dying around. Unfortunately, in HBO's The Baby, one U.K. woman has this exact problem. For Natasha, played by Michelle de Swarte, shit's getting weirder by the day.
Natasha is a single head chef who is less than thrilled that she's losing her girlfriends to the wonderful world of parenting. After a small falling out during their regular card game, she decides to get away for a day or two in order to get her head right. She rents a very remote seaside cabin, but before she can even exhale, she hears a noise, steps outside and a young woman falls from a cliff to her death right next to where she's standing. Before she can make sense of that, a baby literally falls from the sky right into her arms. Then, before she can make sense of that, the two officers who came to take the baby away from the scene are crushed by a "randomly" falling boulder. The baby, of course, is perfectly fine in the back of the now-demolished squad car. After yet another death (that makes four now), a short run in with the police, and a sort of freaky dream, Natasha gets to go home, sans baby. Everything seems to be normal again, at least until her doorbell rings. Surprise! The same baby is inexplicably sitting on her doorstep. I don't know exactly what's going on, and neither does Natasha, but something tells me she won't be able to shake this kid that easily.
The thing setting this series apart, besides the crispy visuals always afforded us by HBO, is its tone. This is supposed to be a comedy, in the way that a dramedy is a comedy. The difference is that instead of combining drama and comedy, it combines horror and comedy, making it, what, a horredy? (I don't know if that's a real word, but if the term takes off, you heard it here first, folks.) Frankly, it runs on fear way more than funny. There's also this guttural moaning that seems to happen when the titular baby is making bad things occur, that is, in a word, freaky. Like, nighttime sacrifice in the woods freaky, but also, it perfectly captures the "creepy vibe" on the kid, as Natasha put it.
Additionally (small spoiler for episode two), it seems that anyone who knew Natasha before the baby arrived can't seem to remember that it isn't hers, at least when it comes to her friends, Rita (Isy Suttie) and Mags (Shvorne Marks). The horror movie style tone of the show requires everyone's performances to serve this feeling of creepy social isolation that seems to be derived from the kid's presence, leaving the comic relief bits to our lead, who's snark and down-to-Earth reactions do all the heavy lifting in the laughs department. I've never seen de Swarte in anything other than this, but she seems more than capable of shouldering the brunt of The Baby's comedic workload, so to speak.
Now, I don't know if this baby is pure evil (it probably is), but that's the whole thing about potentially evil babies, right? They're still little kids. Remember The Good Son? That little psycho thrived as long as he did because of his perceived innocence. And that little jackal-born antichrist from The Omen? Looking like a baby is what kept our would-be hero from offing that demon in the church at the end of the movie. The point is, being a murderer, or a demon, or whatever this kid is, in baby form makes dispatching said evil from this mortal coil an exponentially harder task, especially since most every human in the world is instinctually programmed to prevent just that. Natasha's probably going to have to figure out what this little hellspawn wants and get it to him fast before she finds herself hurtling towards the bottom of a cliff, or worse, stuck raising the little murderer as a her own.
And speaking of murder, The Baby's kills have a pretty Final Destination style lean to them, which is in line with the ever-creepy feel of it all. There's a moment in the first episode when Natasha is being held overnight by the police while they sort things out, and she has a nightmare about the baby being brought into the cell with her, her breastfeeding it, and then it biting her nipple so hard it bled. As far as that Final Destination thing goes, let's just say there a scene involving the baby, a dog, and a busy street that doesn't turn out well for one of them (and the show's not called The Dog, know what I mean?).
I can honestly say that, TV show-wise, I've never seen anything like this. I love the plot, and the cast is hella diverse, which isn't abnormal for U.K.-based productions, but is always a plus. I also dig the female-driven nature of the show, as well as the fact that the straight characters seem to be in the minority, which is particularly refreshing.
My only real gripe with this series is its 30-minute runtime. Yes, 22-30 minutes is standard for a comedy, but also, this is a little more than a comedy, no? It's a horredy. That means that in every episode there are more and more unanswered questions being raised, and a plot that needs to shell out clues while also creating enough additional mystery to keep me hooked and guessing until the next episode. That's a big ask in a half-hour show.
I don't know, maybe that was the point, but if you ask me, waiting a whole week just to get a measly 30 minutes is the truly unnerving thing about watching The Baby. At least parents can fit it in during their kid's nap.
New episodes of The Baby premiere Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.
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