Dispatches From Elsewhere season 1, episode 1 recap – “Peter” Nonchalantly

March 3, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV, TV Recaps


Thoroughly weird but undeniably compelling, “Peter” was as inscrutable and arresting as TV can get.

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Thoroughly weird but undeniably compelling, “Peter” was as inscrutable and arresting as TV can get.

This recap of Dispatches From Elsewhere Season 1, Episode 1 contains spoilers.

Jason Segel’s new show Dispatches From Elsewhere is… weird. I think that’s the best word for it. The thing’s an oddball fusion of genres and tones and magic and technology quite unlike anything else on television, let alone on AMC, where the series airs. On the one hand, this might be off-putting in the way that difficult-to-classify stuff can often be – think Legion, for a point of comparison. But unlike that show, which had comic book storytelling to burn for fuel, Dispatches From Elsewhere feels as if it’s being plucked from a demented mind in real-time.

The premiere episode, for instance, begins with Richard E. Grant staring at the viewer for an unnervingly long time before finally breaking the fourth wall and declaring, quite smugly, that most episodic shows waste far too much time on rote set up – so we’re going to fast-forward through that and get to the good stuff. He’s right, of course, but to be told this directly is unusual, to say the least.

Grant speaks entirely in arch philosophical ways intentionally written so that each line teeters between genuine insight and outright parody. He introduces Peter (Segel), a timid and thoroughly bland man who lives alone and for whom each tomorrow is a recycled yesterday. He works at a company that is literally Spotify in all but name, has no friends or loved ones or colleagues or even passing acquaintances, and he’s desperate, although he might not know it quite yet, to be something more than he is.

Grant as the narrator takes great pleasure in telling us that, at some point during this introduction, he lied. He doesn’t bother to clarify what about.

In his daily life, Peter is nudged into vivid imaginings, usually of himself doing something interesting or weird. He’s particularly susceptible to fliers. When he sees a hooded man putting up a flier imploring people for information on a missing person who is quite clearly the hooded man putting up the flier, he takes the contact information for the Jejune Institute, which he calls from his landline. A woman calls back on his mobile, which is already suspicious, and invites him to an orientation at 12616 South 7th St., suite 1607 – a lot of numbers, indeed.

Peter obviously attends the Jejune orientation, as a form of therapy if nothing else, since his actual therapy is a bit token and isn’t really working. By the time he makes it to the building and through its bizarre hallways and locked rooms, he has already passed the first test, described to him by Octavio Coleman Esquire, aka the Narrator, aka Richard E. Grant. Very few people would have been bothered to take the various convoluted steps to sit in this lone chair in this odd little room; in so doing Peter has established himself as special, an idea which immediately moves him to tears.

But they’re not necessarily tears of joy. Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 1 immediately presents the possibility that the Jejune Institute aren’t quite what they advertise themselves to be, although admittedly what they advertise themselves to be is quite nebulous anyway, and various warnings and instructions lead Peter outside and to a new address at the behest of Commander 14 of the Elsewhere Society.

Peter meets Simone (Eve Lindley), a fellow Elsewhere recruit, and after some deliberation the two team up to complete the next objective. Simone triggers something in Peter, some outburst of battened-down emotion that he’s unfamiliar with and a bit terrified of; most functioning humans would recognize it as an attraction, or perhaps even love, or at the very least excitement at the possibility of something new. Peter tells his therapist he wishes he could be more like her.

It’s a testament to the weirdness of Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 1 that Peter’s next set of instructions are delivered by Bigfoot during a dance party. That’s honestly something that just happens, out of nowhere, and for no real reason other than why not? When Peter runs into Simone again, she has experienced the same thing. Further instructions delivered to them via headsets speak of false nonchalance and divine nonchalance, which is around the time I just threw my hands up in defeat and decided to go wherever the show wanted to take me.

As it turns out where it wanted to take me was to a diner, where fun-loving older woman Janice (Sally Fields) and conspiracy theorist Fredwynn (André Benjamin), two more members of the Elsewhere “family”, swap their theories on the whole ordeal. Later, Simone is chased down an alleyway and attacked, but sprays her attackers with mace and flees; this sequence features an animated accouterment for no reason at all. To close out Dispatches From Elsewhere Season 1, Episode 1, Richard E. Grant introduces Simone, suggesting the second episode will focus on her in much the same way that the premiere focused on Peter – primarily by being weird.

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