Dispatches from Elsewhere: Simone Review
On the latest episode of AMC’s Dispatches from Elsewhere, Simone, we spend more time with Simone (Eve Lindley) as we begin to understand her personal struggles as her and Peter (Jason Segel) solve more clues that gives them a bigger picture of the game they’ve been sucked into.
While Simone may seem bubbly, lively, and adventurous on the surface, internally she struggles with being herself and finding her own self-acceptance – especially with her being trans. Simone being a trans character is actually really interesting both inside and outside the show as it creates a interesting conflict that’s unique from Peter’s and is cool because there aren’t many trans characters in TV. It’s an added bonus that Lindley is actually trans herself, another rarity in terms of trans characters actually being played by trans people, as she makes Simone’s struggles more genuine.
Even when Simone finds herself in the middle of a pride parade filled with people who would do nothing but support her, she struggles to find her voice and tell everyone who she really is. Octavio’s (Richard E. Grant) opening monologue over flashes of her life growing up feeling unhappy with herself and not feeling accepted by those around is very powerful. Really, she can only talk about her acceptance issues with the paintings in the art gallery she works at – which is an amusing conversation that fleshes out some issues of loneliness that Simone has. It’s another strong, quick introduction that makes you immediately connect to Simone as she gets a new clue.
After another run in with the Sasquatch man (Ryan Patrick Folster) provides her with instructions that give her both fish food brand batteries and an address that takes her to Peter’s job. Her surprising Peter at his boring job leads to two things: the first being a funny double-take that Peter does and the second being a very sweet moment when he’s embarrassed that Simone must see him in a place so boring.
Their dynamic so far, especially in this episode, is incredibly sweet and both Segel and Lindley bring such a genuineness to their performances that creates this irresistible chemistry. Even the small line Lindley has about lying to security saying that she was surprising Peter for his birthday really puts a smile on your face and it’s a testament to both Segel’s strong writing and the great performances this show has. Now, after they get a new clue in the form of an animatronic fish and a new riddle, Peter hilariously raises his hand to say that he knows where to go.
Embarking on another adventure, Simone and Peter get to know each other a little better. Simone tries to break Peter out of his shell by talking about his job and the kind of music he listens to, but when he tries to do the same, she pretty much shuts the conversation down. It’s a great moment that shows how Simone isn’t comfortable with herself and her negative thoughts even bleed into the outside world when the bus seemingly puts her down. Upon arriving, to their location, a beautiful mural labeled Fishtown, they feed the animatronic fish it’s food in the form of batteries and we finally get to hear what Clara (Cecilia Balagot) sounds like. She sounds very young but given that she says she’s been hiding for a long time – I bet this game against the Jejune Institute has been going on for quite some time.
Especially when Clara directs Simone and Peter to grab some 3-D glasses from a clerk who has a bad past with Clara and a seedy bar. While the two unsuccessfully grill the bartender about knowing Clara, which leads to Simone’s negative thoughts once again coming into the real world, they are secretly told by him that they are being watched and are told to go to the back where they find a door labeled Elsewhere. Inside, they find themselves in a meeting room for the Elsewhere Society filled with odd portraits and sculptures. More importantly though, they find an exercise bike that one of them must ride in order to power a headset that the other person wears so they can get new details. What follows is both a perfectly funny sequence as an out of shape Peter tirelessly pedals and one of most visually pleasing sequences of the show so far.
Something I’ve really loved about these first two episodes is how they implemented animation sequences to liven up the story and create more visually compelling sequences and the one they place here is perfect. The animation is almost like a mix between a war cartoon that’s rallying the troops and a superhero comic strip. The information doesn’t give too much away still, but rather gives more details on what we already know. Basically, the Elsewhere Society is made up of normal people and has no designated leader outside of Commander 14, Clara is out hiding from the Jejune Institute and everyone needs to find her, and that they need to remain hopeful to keep the cause alive. It’s all animated beautifully and it’s just plain incredible. Just as they seem to gain a grip on things, an alarm sounds and they are back on the run.
After they escape, Simone and Peter follow more clues to a secluded rooftop that overlooks and incredible visual of colored rooftops that make a small map – and I have to say the production design in this series is really top-notch. While up there, they’re instructed to turn to each another and reveal their inner secrets and struggles. While Peter opens up about his issues and how Simone makes him feel emotions that he was unable to feel before, which is only made better through Segel’s incredible performance, Simone just leaves him hanging. It’s a solid conflict that’s made stronger when Peter is shown to be really hurt by him worrying that she now hates him because he was so open about his issues. Thus, she meets up with Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin) and Janice (Sally Field) to find out that they’ve been collecting their own info.
While Simone looks to go to a rally for the Elsewhere society, Fredwynn and Janice think that they should attend a meeting for the Jejune Institute. It’s an interesting moment that makes you question who’s really good or bad and the debates between everyone about who they should go see is really intriguing. Regardless, the group ultimately decides to attend both, starting with the rally, and while the rally itself isn’t too interesting, it leads to a strongly emotional scene. Seeing Peter slowly walk away from the rally, Simone takes the time to apologize and own up to why she’s so closed off. It’s a great scene that piggybacks off a greater scene of Simone being consoled by her Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and while she’s still keeping her secrets to herself, it’s a strong step forward that starts to close her struggling arc the episode starts with. Just as things seem all good, Octavio steps out of the building and Fredwynn hops into his car’s trunk to sneak into the Jejune meeting. Not wanting her partner to be gone, Janice convinces everyone to hightail it after him and we’re led into what looks like her side of things next episode.
The second episode of Dispatches from Elsewhere takes viewers further down the rabbit hole as Simone’s personal struggles, her relationship with Peter, and all of the strangeness of the game they’re in creating an incredibly compelling narrative. Lindley and Segel as just plain perfect in this episode and if the rest of the series can boast the great character writing, atmosphere, and ambition that’s displayed here, we’re in for one incredibly strange ride.