Cordon: Virus Pandemic in New Belgium Thriller

A sneeze, a kiss, a hug – interactions we don’t think about in great detail. Why should we? Well a new Belgium Thriller ‘Cordon’ will have you reaching for the hand gel and hoping that man you were talking to on the tube didn’t cough directly onto your face (although knowing the London Underground…).

Last weekend BBC4 premiered ‘Cordon’ a new Belgium thriller produced by Eyeworks for VTM. The series begins with an Afghan man being taken out of a container after traveling illegally to Belgium. Upon visiting NIIDA, the National Institute for Infectious Diseases, he is given the all clear and sent away. However, it’s not long after he leaves that his doctors are quarantined after showing signs of a rare disease. The government is then forced to lead a police investigation to find the man and everyone he has been in contact with in fear that the disease is easily spread and, at worst, fatal. From then on a 48 hour quarantine is put in effect in the area in hopes of containing the outbreak.

As we know from countless other films and TV series, trying to contain an outbreak like this is hopeless. Throughout the first episode we see how easy it is to come into contact with someone with the disease via a kiss, a hug or even just brushing past them in a crowd. Essentially we see the media trying to play down a mass panic whilst the police are well aware the pressing issue. From then on its “two arm lengths apart” to all possibly infected citizens.

One of the storylines also focuses on a group of school children and their teacher Katja (Verlee Baetens) on an educational tour of NIIDA. After a short trip looking at bits of diseased flesh in jars, an alarm sounds and they’re sent away for an apparent safety test. Unfortunately for them it isn’t a test. As soon as they are seated back on the bus an armed guard escorts them off and back into the halls of the facility. After a few panicked phone calls it’s clear to Katja that it may not be a small precautionary measure.

An important sub-plot to the story is Lex (Tom Dewispelaere) and Jana (Liesa Van der Aa) whom have just moved in together in the middle of Antwerp. Lex is one of the leading police officers helping with rounding up the suspected contaminated citizens. From his point of view we see the government’s reaction and response to this Virus. More importantly how they plan to contain it in such a short period of time.

We also follow several other narratives such as a schoolboy in the school when the quarantine is announced and a Journalist wanting to report the story online and not getting the opportunity when the first signs began. Although these are only minor characters they help build a bigger picture on how the epidemic is being shown via the press and from the viewpoint of a schoolchild.

Unfortunately, cordon is not an original idea – not even close. 28 days later is the instigator for the surge in these kinds of contaminated zombie films and does it better even after 12 years. The first episode is slow but is something to be expected in this genre. When we deal with an outbreak like this the primary narrative is to show ordinary people doing painfully ordinary things. It then has to incite that panic by building up the pandemic in later episodes. It’s a format that is easily translatable to any other country, and even now CW are filming their own version ‘Containment’ set in Atlanta. Although it doesn’t break any boundaries and do anything unique, it does it well which is perhaps why It has succeeded where others have failed. A good cast and varied amount of storylines keeps Cordon interesting and the allure of a mass panic in coming episodes will keep me watching.

Cordon is now available on BBC iPlayer or BBC4 on Saturdays 9pm.


  1. Hiya. I’m sure I read somewhere that this program is a remake of a German program. Would you know what is was called.

    1. I’ve had a look and this seems to be an original programme. It may have similarities to a German drama but I wouldn’t be able to tell you which show that would be. Apologies!

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