Ed (Steve Buscemi) works at a “spirit mill”, working to implant quantum consciousness into part-synthetic beings known as “Jacks” and “Jills” while also planning to escape the town that he lives in, which is slowly being destroyed by coastal erosion and a decaying food supply. Soon, he meets an intriguing life insurance saleswoman (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who is revealed to be a dying Jill and together, they make a plan to steal several quantum consciousness pods, selling them for an enormous amount of money so that Ed can escape on a sea voyage with his wife (Julia Davis) and Jill can prolong her own life.
After the noticeable down-to-earth, everyday quality of last week’s episode, “Crazy Diamond” cranks up the sci-fi a notch and gives us a tale that seems like quintessential Dick, full of artificial beings, philosophical issues on life and dreams and an ordinary man who gets mixed up in a crazy plot with an enticing otherworldly woman. It may indeed be more sci-fi, more like Dick than “The Commuter” (which was brilliantly different nonetheless), but unfortunately this episode has been the weakest one so far.
The main problem is that the story doesn’t make much sense; the backstory of world that the characters inhabit isn’t explained properly and overall, the episode just isn’t interesting or exciting enough. I kind of understand what Buscemi’s character does for a living, creating artificial consciousness and placing it into artificial bodies, but what is the purpose of the synthetics in the first place? There is an explanation of what “Quantum Consiousness” actually is but it’s all too hastily explained, too confusing and difficult to adequately comprehend. And personally, I never understood just where the characters actually were (an island?) and all of the parts relating to food, how it’s illegal to grow your own food for some reason and how the food that they’re all provided expires in a day or two, is truly baffling, uninteresting and just not properly explained in the problematic script. Plus, there’s a pig/human hybrid character who works at a tolbooth but that inclusion is just random and inconsequential.
The episode ends up as something of a homage to film noir, seeing as how a Double Indemnity style plot emerges (not exactly subtle since the title is specifically mentioned!) that features a husband being lured into a shady scheme by a mysterious woman, who later on pays him a visit at home, but all of this makes the episode seem quite pedestrian and slightly uninteresting and, in true film noir style, there are a few final twists but they make absolutely no logical sense, another example of the episode’s half-hearted writing.
As previously mentioned, this is more of a sci-fi heavy story so the visuals are understandably more colourful and futuristic but regrettably, it’s all too much and too superficial (although maybe that was the point); there doesn’t appear to have actually been much thought put into the production design – they just dressed up a few Volkswagens to make them look more sci-fi-y, put in a few fake plastic trees (any Radiohead fans out there?) and ultimately, it’s all too garish and just weird for the sake of being weird. There are also a few particularly dodgy special effects that took me out of the episode completely but on the other hand, the score often gets appropriately otherworldly and eerie.
Despite the episode problems, Steve Buscemi seems right at home and he’s always fascinating to watch; his everyman character is pretty thinly written but Buscemi gives it everything he’s got and he’s always genuine and likeable. Alongside him, The Duke of Burgundy‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen steals much of the limelight as the mysterious part-synthetic femme fetale; she definitely has a unique look that does her good in a role like this and overall, she works well with the material, using some expressive eyes that often change colour, and she gives the episode most of its intrigue. And elsewhere, Julia Davis has a largely thankless “wife” role that is nonsensically written (and her American accent doesn’t sound too good) and This is England‘s Michael Socha is miscast and over-the-top as the badly designed leader of a group of woodland bandits.
So this episode has been a bit of a step backwards mainly due to Tony Grisoni’s troublesome, confusing script and dodgy design. It includes issues of artificiality and whatnot, things that we have come to expect from a Philip K. Dick adaptation, especially since the synthetic beings are practically replicants, but that’s also the problem – these are all things that we’ve seen before and “Crazy Diamond” doesn’t add anything new or exciting. It never catches fire and either doesn’t make sense or is otherwise just uninteresting.
A complete opposite of last week’s “The Commuter”, this episode is all surface but no substance.
Next week: Anna Paquin and Terrence Howard – whose life is real and which is just fantasy? Caught in a landsli-