Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: “Kill All Others”

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In a futuristic Northern American mega-nation called MexUsCan, presided over by a single “Candidate” (Vera Farmiga), Philbert Noyce (Mel Rodriguez) works as part of a three man quality control team for an automatic factory but one night, whilst watching one of The Candidate’s campaign speeches, Philbert becomes convinced that she sent out a subliminal message urging people to “kill all others” and is baffled when he learns that no-one else anywhere noticed it and moreover, the message starts appearing on billboards all over the city. As he tries desperately to get to the bottom of the mystery, he notices an increasing wave of paranoia, aggression and suspicion sweeping the city but is Philbert losing his mind or is there indeed a deadly conspiracy that no-one else can see?

Closing off this series is an episode full of ideas and themes that are quintessential Dick and it’s both written and directed by Mudbound‘s Dee Rees. Unfortunately, while the episode is very effectively directed, successfully creating a truly hellish, nightmarish atmosphere, the writing is problematic, in my opinion, and it all ends up being a muddled and perhaps overambitious instalment that doesn’t quite work.

Starting with the positives though, Rees’ direction is probably the best thing about this episode as she successfully makes it seem as though Philbert is going through a nightmarish ordeal, finding himself under suspicion for no reason, watching as the world goes mad; as events in the last act reach fever pitch, tension is kept at maximum and we never know just what’s going to happen next. Colour is effectively used to help create that dystopian atmosphere and the music is also a great help in keeping the tension up as there is a central theme heard throughout and as things come to a head, the music builds and builds and builds, getting to the point where it sounds absolutely manic, furthering the idea that the whole thing is just one big inescapable nightmare.

But while “Kill All Others” is a stylish, technically proficient episode, the rest of it is relatively disappointing because the story is far too convoluted and it doesn’t come together as successfully as it could have. For me, I’d say that there is an abundance of messages, themes and ideas included in the episode but the problem is that the plot isn’t strong enough to support them all, that the episode is too ambitious for its own good and it ends up being confused, directionless and unsure of itself. It’s entirely possible that the purpose of “Kill All Others” simply flew right over my head, maybe it was just too smart for me, maybe all the real world allusions just didn’t interest me, but I’d say that the episode ended up as a hodgepodge of derivative ideas and it deserved a more compelling central plotline to serve as a proper conduit for the main themes.

Regarding the cast, Mel Rodriguez does well as Philbert, a classic Dick everyman; he’s certainly an unconventional hero and Rodriguez effectively shows him as a sane man in a world that’s going crazy, showing plenty of confusion, exasperation and desperation as he tries to make sense of the madness. And Vera Farmiga is perfectly sinister and creepy as The Candidate but the problem is that she’s not given enough screen time and we only see her in televised interviews and debates; the episode could have benefited from Farmiga playing a bigger part, from her character being given more depth and purpose.

C+

* * *

And that’s it! I’m not going to do any final thoughts for the series but here’s my final episode ranking, links included. Thanks for reading and who knows, maybe we’ll do it all again if a second series comes along . . .

  1. Impossible Planet (A+)
  2. Safe and Sound (A)
  3. The Commuter (A-)
  4. Human Is (B+)
  5. The Hood Maker (B+)
  6. Autofac (B)
  7. Real Life (B)
  8. The Father Thing (B-)
  9. Kill All Others (C+)
  10. Crazy Diamond (C)

 

One thought on “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: “Kill All Others”

  1. Really enjoying your reviews of Electric Dreams. The show overall is really good if a slightly hit and miss. It’s obvious to say that the short stories are actually even better and Philip K. Dick does not waste or “pad out” his ideas, cutting to the chase or concept really succinctly. Interested you enjoyed IMPOSSIBLE PLANET the most; I felt it lost the key aspect of the original story by inserting an unlikely romance. Having said that at least in this show there’s some quality actors and writers on show.

    Liked by 1 person

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