Wow. Some thought went into this episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.
There is actual real UX design here as it could work in the real world for augmented reality, not just the thoughtless nods that most TV shows make. There’s also strong commentary on the privatization of schools and how that will allow corporate propaganda infiltration into scholastic environments on a level never seen before. It also deals very well with the effects and outlook of corporate mass surveillance in combination with a threat-averse overarching security state. It is a look at our possible — and likely — future.
The two main actresses are also a marvel. Just really great. The always-reliable Maura Tierney as the mother is utterly believable as the combative, compassionate, conflicted mom who despises all the tech intrusions and insults of her society, but still wants the best for her daughter. She doesn’t get nearly enough screen time but is perfect in the time she does have.
There’s a scene, though, where the daughter (played by Annalise Basso) is having trouble adjusting to her new environs with all its necessary tech. She doesn’t know how to use her new “Dex” which is some augmented reality surveillance device that everyone uses. She finds a friendly tech support person to help her with the device and is speaking to him to set up the Dex — just watching her face as she makes that simple connection over a voice chat with one of the few people who has been friendly to her in her new environs is a study in great acting. I watched that scene a few times and it just gets better each time.
Also, the sound design and costume design is just spot-on. It seems like a real world, like someplace you could visit. Really, cheers to whoever worked on both of those for this episode. Completely immersive yet divergent from our own timeline.
This episode covered so much territory so quickly without being at all preachy that I can’t even encapsulate it. Mixed into all of this is how the episode deftly handles how mental illness is exploited in the media and society, and in such a heartbreaking way in this particular program. After she is caught for her “terrorist activity” and at the end of a prepared speech, Foster (Annalise Basso) starts rambling off-script about, “People need someone to trust, even if they can’t see them, even if their voice comes from sunbeam or tree.” This part is just acutely sadder than any scene I’ve seen in a TV show. The whole society has harmed her — and she may actually be mentally ill — but all the society was interested in doing was exploiting her illness and weakness in this respect to further their propaganda and control goals. And, just like us, she’s the pawn and doesn’t realize it.
I suspect the relatively-low IMBD rating because all of the leads and most of the important side characters are women. Any woman-heavy show or program is usually a point or so below its “natural” level in IMBD.
But fuck, man, Annalise Basso in that episode is devastating.