We’re close to the end of this narrative, but Dispatches From Elsewhere still wants to throw in some more twists. About a year has passed since the death of Janice’s husband and Peter and Simone’s disastrous date, but Peter has used the time to really commit to self-improvement—and his newfound daring has put him into a new realm of danger.
Fredwynn plays the role of narrator tonight, because, as we learn in this episode, the continued mystery surrounding Clara has led to a new level of obsession for him. That said, the first half of the episode is largely devoted to Peter and Simone, as their nascent relationship gets the opportunity to bloom after Peter demonstrates a real effort to prove his interest in growing. While his attempt at putting on a magic show is a total bust—never a good sign when your escape act gets interrupted by a pick-ax—it still wins over Simone’s heart, and the two of them eventually manage to reconnect.
As any fan of romance stories knows, after all, a major setback like last week’s breakup between Peter and Simone (referred to by Fredwynn’s voiceover as the worst day of Peter’s life) only happens to set the stage for a heartfelt reconciliation. Peter and Simone literally fall into bed together in a sequence touched with just the right level of surreality to make it feel special.
While officially, they have different levels of experience in the bedroom—Peter says it’s been a long time, while Simone says it’s her first time—both seem brand new to the experience of loving another person in this way, and it’s beautiful to witness. Peter’s so-very-earnest soul comes out in such a profound way that when later, Simone presents him with the mural featuring himself at his most wondrous, it’s no wonder she can’t help but kiss him.
However, this is not just a show about them, and Janice is there to offer a reminder of this, especially after they realize how long it’s been since anyone’s heard from Fredwynn. And thus we discover that he’s been locked into a sleepless fugue state for quite some time.
Life has moved on for everyone—Janice has been studying psychology, specifically the theories of Jean Piaget when it comes to mental development; her younger self is there to push her forward. But in Fredwynn’s case, his determination to figure out what’s going on with Clara after discovering her false urn has become all-consuming.
The thing about the game, as presented by this show, is that it’s all about the artificial creation of a beautiful escape; the world, unfortunately, isn’t quite as beautiful as the opportunities offered by Lee and her experience. This is something Dispatches faces in this episode, even as the arrival of someone hinted at before as The Boy enters, offering up more answers than previously made available.
Janice, Peter and Simone are able to drag Fredwynn back from his fugue state—AKA “Elsewhere”—to the world of the living, even thought it’s a place that disinterests him. But what propels him to do so is to bring the team back to Clara’s house, otherwise known as Lee’s house. And the titular creator is able to explain how the game she created was meant as a panacea for this brutal world.
Clara’s frustration over having to incorporate advertising into her programs is very understandable, but what’s less clear is how all of this corresponds with the arrival of The Boy at Lee’s doorfront—a boy that Peter feels compelled to follow. It’s clear setup for the finale, an episode which should bring all of these random aspects into focus.
“We are, as we always have been, in the middle of our story,” is what Fredwynn says. But while stories might be manipulations, they also tend to have endings. The belief that we’re in the middle of our story is a luxury not all can claim these days. Life, and what comes after, is always lurking. This is no longer a game. And this episode, while a bit disjointed, feels very very conscious of that.
- Why is Simone’s dance class happening on a balcony? Who knows. But it does look like a really fun time.
- Wearing five pound VR goggles does, in fact, not sound like a good time. That does deserve consideration.
- The editing of Fredwynn’s “did I mention I wasn’t sleeping anymore?” montage deserves special consideration here, as it really does a brilliant job of capturing the disintegration of a man’s sanity.
- “I was surprised to find out how much I liked hats, but how much I disliked wearing hats.” This is a train of thought that actually makes a lot of sense—to me, anyway.
- Clara’s big idea—“We need to engage with the world, not retreat from it”—is haunting in this moment. Oh, how nice it would be, to live in that world fully.
- Why does the video seem to short out, as the episode ends? “Life is weird,” as Fredwynn observes. “Anything is possible. We’re Team Blue, and our story is our own.”