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TV Review: Electric Dreams (Season 1, Episode 10)

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We’ve finally come to the end of Electric Dreams. Every episode has been so incredibly different, in terms of concept, approach, tone, using Philip K. Dick’s stories only as a loose framework rather than a roadmap.

The series as a whole likely left hardcore fans, or ones who take a fundamentalist approach to PKD’s work, disappointed. However, it undoubtedly worked to the show’s favour, because it brought an element of surprise that would not have otherwise been achieved from a slavish adaptation

As one may or may not expect from an anthology, episodes were hit-or-miss, with both extremely strong and fairly poor adaptations hustling side-by-side each week. Thankfully for fans and for Electric Dreams’ future (who knows if we can expect a second season), whether this be a season finale or a show finale, ‘Kill All Others’ ended it on a high.

‘Kill All Others’ is a simple but effective political parable commenting on the general rightward swing of global politics, between Trump’s America, the UK’s Brexit, Putin’s Russia and many others.

This instalment is set in 2054, where the United States is now Mexuscan, absorbed alongside Canada and Mexico into a single meganation. Elections now are all about ‘process’, and votes are people’s chance to voice their support for the single, nameless candidate (Vera Farmiga) standing.

Philbert Noyce (fantastically portrayed by Mel Rodriguez) is a despondent factory line worker frustrated with the way technology has insinuated itself into his home life and his marriage, whose life suddenly takes a turn when The Candidate, during a live televised interview, casually tells viewers that they must “Kill all others”.

The message is not picked up by the interviewer, the audience, or the news cycle in following days, which leads the protagonist to rapidly devolve into paranoia as to whether something is very wrong with society or whether he is going insane.

‘Kill All Others’ was written and directed by Dee Rees (Mudbound), bringing her raw and realist work to the sci-fi realm, delivering dynamism to an otherwise oppressive nightmare. She fills every corner of the episode’s universe with details that make it feel authentic and lived-in, so much so that by the end of the hour, Philbert’s paranoia affects the viewer.

The themes of ‘Kill All Others’ resonate eerily with experiences of living in the Trump era. Every day the administrations presents another affront to humanity and yet, each disgusting comment and discriminatory policy gets shrugged off as politics as usual.

This finale circles on this idea that society has become so desensitised to these horrors and right-wing rhetoric’s that people stop caring or worse, absorb those ideas and enact them. Noyce’s troubles appear circular and repetitive, and as the intensity and drama builds, it’s really the same struggle that replays itself over and over again.   

Is that a design flaw? Choose to believe that Rees is aiming for a mega-truth. The storytelling of this episode is circular, like the repetitive horrors relayed in news cycles are. Both stop having an impact if they fail to evolve into a grander narrative, a narrative which can re-grasp audiences’ attention; Otherwise, we become immune to the tragedies and evils we see.

Noyce goes through the same paranoia and trauma over and over, so that by the end of the hour, do we even really care that he’s been hung and his corpse used for propaganda? Or are we desensitised to that too?

Electric Dreams aired on Channel 4 and is available for catch-up on All 4.

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