Electric Dreams Show Review

January 30, 2018

 

Electric Dreams combines multiple subgenres of sci-fi in an anthology that brings Philip K. Dick's short stories to life in spectacular fashion.

 

The first thing I'll tell you right off the bat is that if you've seen Black Mirror and would rate the series at a 6/10 or higher, drop everything you're doing and start watching the entirety of Amazon's Electric Dreams.

 

Personally, I feel as though to say this collection of sci-fi short stories adapted to visual format was a treat that I will not be forgetting about anytime soon.

 

Being the Blade Runner fanboy that I am, the majority of this show has been exactly the type of science fiction story I seek. (Shout out to Minority Report for being pretty awesome, too.)

 

1. Real Life

 

Episode one starts things off on a great foot. I'm a huge Philip K. Dick fan, and I feel there are many similarities in the stories that we tell.

One thing that I really liked about this first episode as well as Philip K Dick's work in general, is how science fiction accentuates his stories, rather than being the focus of his stories.

 

This might seem obvious, expected, or redundant to say, but if you consider the subtleties that make up a story, (particularly in a visual medium), sometimes it's the visuals, or the CG, or some other element, that comes to the forefront, leaving the story itself behind.

Think about the replicants of the original Blade Runner for a moment, or the dynamic between Officer K and Deckard's daughter, or perhaps Deckard himself. These elements, are the pillars of the story, and I've noticed this seems to be the case with pretty much all works based on Philip K. Dick's writing.

 

The science fiction is interwoven into the story seamlessly, and you care more about the people, their problems, and what's happening to them, than you do the visual supplements, the gizmos, and the special effects.

 

Entertainment vs. Storytelling. I'm a big fan of storytelling.

 

(Hats off to Terrence Howard for a phenomenal performance. His acting in this episode was arguably some of the best of the entire season.)

 

The first episode of any season or series is especially significant, as it sets the tone for what viewers can expect for the remainder of the series. Isa Dick Hackett and the entire Electric Dreams production team was certainly mindful of ensuring the anthology gets off to a fantastic start.

 

2. Autofac

 

The second episode of Electric Dreams "Autofac" was where I really started to fall in love with this series. If the first episode was good, the second one was great.

No, I need to rephrase that. Episode 1 was really good, and episode 2 was something special.

 

I felt somewhat enamored by it. I also thought Autofac could have easily been transformed into a big-budget feature film.

 

It's a bit more on the dystopian side than the first episode. But it was beautifully crafted, and Janelle Monae does a remarkable job of playing Alice the robot.

 

The story keeps you on your toes with an unexpected twist or two. I'm so glad I got to experience the treat that is Autofac, as well as the Electric Dreams anthology as a whole.

 

Autofac is my personal favorite episode of this season. Although almost all of the episodes are great, I felt Autofac was the one that came the closest to being complete, for lack of a better description. It has more of what I'm looking for in a show or film than the others were, even though all the episodes were either good or great in their own way.

 

     All Images: Sony Pictures Television

 

3. Human Is

 

The talk of near-future, plausible, cyberpunk science fiction hasn't even finished exiting my mouth, and bam, episode 3 is Hahde! (in my best Boston accent.)

 

The year is 2520. The Earth we once knew is called Terra, and on the verge of running out of breathable air. There's societal turmoil, galactic conflict, and the alien invasion of human bodies.

 

A wild, far-future concept starring Bryan Cranston, who is also a producer on the show. Maybe I'm a bigger Philip K. Dick fan that I thought, (As if that's possible) but I'm 3 episodes into this series, and it's showing no signs of slowing down.

 

What I especially liked about the 3rd episode is all hard science fiction concepts considered, the story was still rooted in the emotional connection between Cranston's character and his wife, which both serve as high-level government/military officials.

 

In this IGN interview, Cranston says:

 

"If you think about the themes that we're telling through those stories, what is it to be human, it's not in the big, grand gestures. It's found in simple kindness, in thinking and compassion. That's where love is. That's where love resides, in the everyday little things that we do. And that's why 'Human Is' is an important story to tell, because it is how we behave and treat each other on a regular basis that really is the measure of humanity."

 

There's a sneaky little twist at the end that I won't give away, which serves as this episode's icing on the cake.

 

4. Crazy Diamond

 

Slower pacing, but that's not a bad thing at all in this case, as it fits in well with the episode's overall vibe.

 

It's actually a very thought-evoking and intellectually methodical episode. And although toward the end of the show it gets more suspenseful and climactic, it spends its first half to two-thirds being more of thinker's episode.

 

So if you're into more mentally stimulating science fiction (think Cloud Atlas, but nowhere near as hardcore.) Definitely make a note to watch Episode 4 - Crazy Diamond.

 

It stars Steve Buscemi, and depicts a funky future in which soil erosion is gobbling up homes, growing your own vegetables is outlawed due to economic concerns, and android robots can be injected with lab-grown souls, making them virtually indistinguishable from natural humans.

 

My least favorite of the first 4 episodes, but still a really good show. (Which just goes to show you how solid the first 3 episodes were...)

 

Did I mention it's got robots? Can't stress that enough!

 

 

5. The Hood Maker

 

A thorough love story between a telepath and a law enforcement officer. Very reminiscent of Blade Runner, IMHO. Especially when it comes to the wardrobe and overall visual aesthetic.

 

Interesting ending to consider that can be perceived various ways. Somewhat unresolved conclusion, open to interpretation.

 

I wish the main male character's Scottish accent was a smidge milder. And the lights in the ending scenes were flickering a bit too fraudulently. Other than that, Not only was the story bad ass, but so was the creative direction. A lot of artistic, tastefully crafted cinematics. Audio, too.

A couple quirks, a couple teeny-tiny gripes, but otherwise friggin epic. Probably another episode that could have been a feature film if it wanted to be.

 

6. Safe and Sound

 

I'm not a big fan of young adult content, and I have no problem admitting that. And since the 6th episode's subplots revolve around teenagers and high school drama, I also have no problem admitting Safe and Sound was my least favorite episode of the season.

 

That said, I think it's important to note the episode's storyline still has some interesting facets of science fiction and technology, including a far-future cellular device, tracking, delivery drones, and an America that seems to be operating as two separate countries, East and West.

 

Not a bad episode by any means, especially if you're into or don't mind YA content. Just not my cup of tea. Especially considering how potent many of the other episodes were.

 

Safe and Sound also helped create a more demographically well-rounded season, so there are plenty of positives about the episode, too.

 

 

7. The Father Thing

 

Before I could finish yapping about teen drama, came a middle grade episode. The weird part is, I don't mind this content nearly as much.

 

Ender's Game, Stranger Things, IT, and now The Father Thing. Maybe a lack of teen angst is all it takes to make a story palatable for me, but episode 7 of Electric Dreams is definitely geared toward satisfying the type of audience that appreciates the aforementioned films and shows.

 

It doesn't contain the same depth and intrigue many of the other episodes possess. But it's not a bad show either. It's really worth noting that there really aren't any bad episodes.

 

Nothing you watch with one brow raised or feel the need to terminate via the magic sci-fi wand that is your remote controller.

 

You'll notice that each episode contains a familiar face or two, and I think the time and thought the production team put into actor and director selection has really paid off.

 

8. Impossible Planet

 

A young galactic tour operator digs deep to do the right thing in a morally questionable situation, and it's got science fiction written all over it. Pretty gnarley how notably solid this series is.

 

Another mind-fucky episode. Hard sci-fi. But simultaneously grounded enough in a simple premise to offset the existential chaos. Definitely a pleasant and enjoyable episode. Oh, and there's a robot. All episodes containing robots get an automatic power rating boost.

 

I love how balanced the episodes are between hard science fiction and near-future sci-fi. Adult, young adult, and middle grade content. Earth, and charted but distant worlds. Great blend of sci-fi topics, timeframes, and settings. Something for everybody.

 

 

9. The Commuter

 

Interesting episode. They definitely saved more of the deep-thinking episodes for the latter half of the season, not to scare anybody off. I'm kind of digging it.

 

And when an episode ends and I didn't fully grasp everything the episode was trying to accomplish, hell, I like that, too!

 

Sometimes I take something different away from the show than Sarah does (my wife and viewing buddy) and that's awesome.

 

The best example of this that comes to mind is recalling System Of A Down being asked what a particular song of theirs was about.

 

Their retort was simple. "What did it mean to you?" and upon the fan's completion of the question, they followed up with, "Then that's what it meant."

Sometimes, art can set out to accomplish a narrow, finite task. Other times, it can have a broad agenda or be open to a wide array of interpretation. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with either one of those scenarios.

 

The pseudo-utopian town in episode 9 really caught my eye. Elysium comes to mind before anything else, but we don't get to see utopia in science fiction nearly as often as we do dystopia, or as often as we can and should.

 

10. Kill All Others

 

Season One of Electric Dreams concludes with an episode titled Kill All Others that contains a heavy political theme and raises questions about data, privacy, and freedom.

 

It's the third most thought-evoking episode of the series, and probably the most dramatic.

 

A satisfying finale to a science fiction anthology that asked to be absorbed, but simultaneously savored.

 

 

Conclusion:

 

I've been singing the praises of Amazon's Electric Dreams since I first started the series several days ago. And I hope I've somewhat done the same here.

 

The cast is studded with notable faces, especially for being only ten episodes in length.

 

Amazon's Electric Dreams series does a great job of leveraging sci-fi to shed light on the possibilities of our near-future existence, in a negative as well as a positive light.

 

Makes you want to run out to your local bookstore, swipe your arm across the shelf containing Philip K. Dick's works, knocking them all into your basket for immediate purchase.

 

Fans of Blade Runner 2049, Ghost In The Shell, I, Robot, and Black Mirror, should see each and every episode of Electric Dreams.

 

Go. Watch. Enjoy.

 

Shows of this caliber don't come around as often as they should.

 

-A.C.H.

 

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