Honing in on the conflicted Simone and a singing fish, Dispatches From Elsewhere still manages to find a human note within all its surreal excess.
This recap of Dispatches From Elsewhere Season 1, Episode 2, “Simone”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
In its second episode, which is no less odd than the first, AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere hones in on Peter’s (Jason Segel) partner-in-crime and love interest Simone (Eve Lindley) as they continue to meddle in the nebulous nonchalance war between the Jejune Institute and the Elsewhere Society. And no, nobody really knows what’s going on.
What’s obvious, though, is that Simone has some deep-rooted issues; she nervously coaches herself into attending a Pride rally but isn’t ready to embrace the acceptance such a crowd offers. When presented with a megaphone she flees rather than sharing her own story; Richard E. Grant’s narrator Octavio relates how the biggest obstacle between herself and acceptance, or happiness, is herself. She is perennially apart and alone, and the fluctuations of identity – sexual, gender, whatever – can’t seem to match anyone else’s rhythm.
Simone’s job isn’t as mundane as Peter’s – she works in an art gallery – but she’s equally detached from it; it’s a reminder of the lives she might live if she wasn’t stuck living this one. There’s no wonder, then, that when Bigfoot arrives with a riddle for her to solve, she sees it as an opportunity for adventure – and perhaps for something more, since she recruits Peter and a singing wall fish to aid her in the task of finding this mysterious Clara.
Peter and Simone bond in Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 2 largely over their inability to bond with anyone else. Simone is more charismatic and haunted, but they’re both fantasists. The fish leads them, perhaps unsurprisingly, to Fishtown, where, with the aid of batteries, it begins talking in Clara’s voice. Clara evidently left an impression on Fishtown, which Peter and Simone deduce by exploring and chatting with the locals, one of whom has an angry message to pass on, and another can’t talk because the Jejune Institute is watching. A door labeled “Elsewhere”, unlocked with a special coin given as change for a transaction that didn’t even occur, leads them to a room full of odd contraptions, including a pedal bike that powers an expository animation.
Clara is, I think, some kind of prophesized golden child in need of protection from the Jejune Institute by – who else? – the Elsewhere Society, whose objectives and membership are described in such hilariously grandiose terms here that they scarcely mean anything at all. Advised to follow the setting sun, Peter and Simone climb a ladder to the rooftop of a building, where Clara, through the fish, advises them to share their secrets out loud with each other as a bonding exercise.
This is where things go a bit pear-shaped in Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 2. Peter’s secret is obvious – that Simone has awakened in him some musical feelings that he doesn’t recall ever feeling before. But she’s cautioned from opening up in return by a version of herself; once again she flees, prompting Peter to abandon the quest and return to work, rejected in his one moment of openness.
Simone receives wise counsel from her grandmother, Nana (Deanna Dunagan), and meets with Janice (Sally Field) and Fredwynn (André Benjamin), who have been on an adventure of their own. For the first time, we’re presented with the idea that perhaps the Jejune Institute are the good guys, and the Elsewhere Society is the malevolent force. This makes a subsequent decision more difficult. Told to choose between attending an Elsewhere protest or a Jejune shareholder meeting, only Fredwynn suggests rejecting division and visiting both. They start at the protest, which is reminiscent of the Pride rally from the top of the episode, and when Simone spots Peter, this time she grabs a megaphone of her own volition in order to apologize to him; to share her problems and halve her burden. The crowd cheers her bravery, which amongst all the bizarre excess is the most human moment Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 2 managed to conjure.
In something of a cliffhanger, Dispatches From Elsewhere Season 1, Episode 2 ends with Fredwynn jumping in the back of a limo belonging to Octavio – the protest is against him – while Peter, Simone, and Janice give chase in a less-than-ideal form of transport. The next episode, the first of four obviously intended to flesh out the core quarter, will focus on Janice.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.