By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 19, 2023 |
By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 19, 2023 |
You couldn’t have timed Mrs. Davis and its series finale any better, culminating as it did during a writers’ strike where one of the points of contention is over the role of AI in the profession’s future. Mrs. Davis is some of the best proof imaginable that AI should never replace writers and that content should not be dictated by an algorithm. The Peacock series is the anti-algorithm. It’s the kind of series that only the minds of brilliantly creative people could come up with.
That is probably, in part, the point of Mrs. Davis, which was not created under the umbrella of the algorithm-friendly Netflix, but rather the fledgling Peacock, which probably not only encourages risks in its content but needs big swings to help the streamer separate itself from the competition, some of which has been ground into a paste of drab content mush, the television equivalent of staid, Saturday night missionary-position sex.
Mrs. Davis is a rando Wednesday afternoon backseat sex. And it brings the toys.
Spoilers for the entire series ahead: Mrs. Davis is about a nun named Simone played by Betty Gilpin. She’s married to the literal Jesus, and she has to drink from the Holy Grail in order to destroy Mrs. Davis, which was originally designed as an app for Buffalo Wild Wings but now makes decisions for humanity via an algorithm. The Holy Grail is stolen from a cult by a woman, Clara, while it’s being featured in a sneaker commercial filmed for the Super Bowl. Clara takes it to her father, Arthur Schrodinger, and the two spend years trying to destroy it until Clara decides to drink from it. Her head literally explodes, and Schrodinger decides to hide the Holy Grail in the belly of a whale. But Schrodinger’s Cat — yes — offers a clue as to how to destroy the Holy Grail. After Clara’s head explodes, Schrodinger donates her liver to a young Simone and her best friend, Wiley. When she becomes an adult, Simone finds Schrodinger marooned on an island, and they design an intricate-almost-impossible plan for Simone to retrieve the Holy Grail after being eaten by the whale. It works, and in one final step before Simone drinks from the cup and destroys the Grail, Mrs. Davis instructs her — through the singing voices of a group of beachgoers performing Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” — to visit the original maker of the Buffalo Wild Wings app.
The reveal that the world is being controlled by a Buffalo Wild Wings app is my favorite thing since Mark Linn-Baker’s turn in The Leftovers and its use of the Perfect Strangers theme. I clapped out loud in a room by myself.
Honestly, there’s a lot that’s left out — Simone’s magician parents, the attempt to kill Wiley via roller coaster, the glorious speedo of Chris Diamantopoulos — but the point, ultimately, is that no algorithm or AI could come up with something as bonkers as what Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof concocted. In fact, I asked ChatGPT what it thought of the plot description, and it conceded that it could make for an “engaging and unique story” but “the execution of such a plot would require careful storytelling and well-developed characters to ensure the audience can follow along and connect with the narrative.”
Exactly. Hernandez and Lindelof nail exactly that, along with veteran TV directors Owen Harris, Alethea Jones, and Frederick E.O. Toye. It’s the cast, however, that sells the story, particularly Betty Gilpin and Jake McDorman, but also prolific character actress Elizabeth Marvel. David Arquette also steals a few scenes, as does Mathilde Ollivier, and Andy McQueen as Hot Jesus. Chris Diamantopoulos, meanwhile, is the acting equivalent of the storyline itself: Off the fucking wall.
Lindelof’s The Leftovers is one of my three favorite series of all time, and Watchmen is in the top ten, but I love Mrs. Davis because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It doesn’t try and answer big religious or philosophical questions, either, although there are some poignant moments and a lot of heart. While Lindelof’s previous works delved into death, grief, and the afterlife, Mrs. Davis is more about what it means to live, and to do so untethered from our devices. I don’t know what the numbers on this thing are like — nun tries to destroy AI is probably a tough sell for the marketing department — but I hope everyone comes around to it because it is joyfully bonkers, a “carefully told story with well-developed characters.”