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Deep into the pandemic, as most of the world existed behind closed doors, TV decided it was time to reinvent the Lost era. Two variations of a plane crash storyline were born. The Wilds (Amazon) took a unique approach in 2020, following a group of unsuspecting girls who become stranded on an island for experimental purposes. Then 2021’s Yellowjackets (Showtime) had a more traditional angle, following an all-girl soccer team whose fight for survival turns them into ruthless cannibals. Just when we thought all iterations of this narrative were exhausted, Netflix has now decided to have its fun.
In the six-episode limited series, Keep Breathing – from co-creators Brendan Gall and Martin Gero (The Lovebirds) – Liv (In the Heights star Melissa Barrera), a New York security litigations lawyer, finds herself the lone survivor of a plane crash. Stranded in the Canadian wilderness, she must brave the elements as well as her inner demons in order to stay alive.
When we first meet Liv, she’s frantically chewing out an airline assistant. She must get to the remote town of Inuvik today. After her pleas are shot down, she miraculously manages to convince two strangers to let her hitch a ride on their private jet. Soon afterwards, she’s flying over beautiful snow-capped mountains crowded with deep emerald pine trees.
Liv is dozing off one moment; the next, she’s in a frantic descent. In true survival drama fashion, the screen goes black. But what follows is more high-end glamping than rough and ready endurance. Completely unscathed, Liv tirelessly swims to the shore. She sets up camp just in time for nightfall, choosing an oversized pine branch as a stand-in blanket. Days pass before she has her first sip of water, and her only nourishment is a handful of berries. Still, her hair remains perfectly coiffed and her face pristine.
Between failed attempts at fly fishing and searches for phone service, we’re offered dreary glimpses into Liv’s backstory, largely told through flashbacks and hallucinations. While these elements have dramatic potential – her father’s recent death, her mentally ill mother abandoning her during childhood, and her current pregnancy with a coworker she keeps at a cold distance – Liv’s character still manages to feel ridiculously one-dimensional.
In one overdone scene, an apparition of Liv’s mother tries to push her to give up and take her own life. Although this moment is supposed to show Liv’s resilience, as she chooses to instead chip away at a literal boulder that’s pinned her down, the improbability of this scene far outweighs its intentions.
Where its predecessors were inventive in their approach, Keep Breathing plods along, tediously unrealistic and painfully predictable. You might even find yourself rooting for Liv’s demise in an effort to stir up some excitement.