Dispatches from Elsewhere: Janice Review
*This review contains spoilers*
On this week’s episode of AMC’s Dispatches from Elsewhere, Janice, we learn more about Janice’s (Sally Field) past as the group begins to learn more about what the Jejune Institute is really about.
While we catch up with the group as they peddle after Octavio’s (Richard E. Grant) car after Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin) hops in the trunk, Octavio has other plans for viewers. After apologizing for Peter and Simone’s stories possibly not connecting to everyone, which I don’t feel is totally true, he says he’s ready to take us a much more emotionally resonating journey with Janice – and he doesn’t lie. Once again, the series has another great animated sequence that details Janice’s life with her late husband. As we see the ups and downs of Janice’s life with her husband and Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune plays over it, it’s hard not to feel reminiscent of Up. It’s a perfect storm of emotion as its easy to connect to Janice’s fears after her husband is gone and the simple idea of her wondering what to do next and how to live on her own again is both perfectly haunting because of how real it is and a great motivation for her becoming involved in this game.
Once that’s all taken care of, we’re thrown back into the chase as the group follows Octavio’s car to the Jejune Institute event. At first, their main goal is to find Fredwynn, but after Janice convinces an employee to direct her to the garage the group finds that Fredwynn is on a mission of his own. Before they are met by Octavio as he approaches them with his guards, Janice gets a very secretive call from Fredwynn and gives her a new objective – steal an envelope from Octavio. Oddly enough though, Octavio isn’t too mad at them for snooping in his trunk and instead takes them backstage for the event.
With Octavio in front of them, they begin to ask him things about what this game is really about. Octavio talks about how Commander 14 and the rest of Elsewhere Society are basically the equivalent of rebellious and ignorant teens and he wonders what happened to 13 previous commanders – a joke that Simone finds clever. However, Peter’s question is much more pertinent as he simply asks if everything they’re experiencing and doing is actually real – a question that Octavio is more than happy to answer. He says that it is, but he does it in such an eccentric way that you and the rest of the group don’t fully buy it. Janice isn’t even really interested in what Octavio has to say and much more focused on what’s in his pocket.
She makes an attempt to get Octavio’s jacket by playing into his more “gentlemen-like” qualities, but it only lands her a seat in the house with other Jejune Institute members to see Octavio’s presentation. There still isn’t a whole to get out of the first parts of the presentation about the Jejune Institute’s actual intentions. Basically, like the Elsewhere Society, they see Clara (Cecilia Balagot) as a force to save the world and they look to expand people’s views through technology and creating more personalized experiences. While the visuals are perfectly mind-bending and look as if they are stemming from a real-life documentary, things really get interesting when Octavio comes on stage. He gives what almost feels like a sermon to his anxious audience and talks about how they are looking to help people figure out what life exactly is – which almost feels like he’s baiting Janice because it’s incredibly similar to what he says in the opening of the episode.
If he was baiting her, Janice takes it hook, line, and sinker when Octavio asks for a volunteer to come on-stage in the hopes that she can take what’s in his jacket. When she comes on-stage, her and Octavio shared some delightful banter and she is introduced to a virtual reality device supposedly made by Clara. It seems like Clara has played on both sides of this supposed war and it really makes you curious why she’s gone into hiding and who she really is. Regardless, Octavio puts the headset on Janice and through old photos and videos on her Facebook, she is transported to her favorite memory – her wedding day.
The entire sequence evokes an incredible amount of emotion as we see Janice relive her wedding day. From her seeing her husband beautifully look at her to her commenting about a relationship she sees going sour, living through Janice’s experience really tugs at your heart and is made even better when she has a heart to heart with her younger self. It’s an incredibly passionate reunion filled with conflicts about dreams, life, and love that really makes you think about life and Field’s performance is truly award worthy. There’s a great discussion about what it means to grow up and how your ideals and dreams change with age. Seeing Janice conflict with her younger self about that is very touching and certainly thought-provoking as it’s really a lot to take in.
Seeing that it’s too much for Janice, Peter and Simone put an end to her suffering as she’s left trembling and then the Elsewhere Society supporters come in with Commander 14 in the flesh. While his face is still hidden, his intentions are not, and he causes a riot to occur when the two factions go into battle with harmless weapons. After the group leaves, they reunite with Fredwynn – who has some mind-blowing info about what’s really going on. After pointing out some directive clues and things that are basically keeping them on a beaten path, he’s come to the summation that this “game” they’re playing is merely a distraction and that the Jejune Institute and the Elsewhere Society are really one in the same. It’s an interesting revelation that continues to peel back the layers about what were seeing and what’s really going on.
While Fredwynn wants to pursue these findings further right now, everyone suggests that they take a break for Janice because of everything she just went to. Janice feels like they are placating her because of her age and leaves in a huff after giving Fredwynn the envelope she snuck out of Octavio’s pocket. As she returns home, there’s a legitimately surprising reveal with her husband Lev not being dead but being in a coma. It’s a reveal that actually says a lot of Janice and is a little more horrific than him just being dead. Her inability to live on her own is apparent as she still talks to him about her day as if he’s alive and it’s a scene that makes you very empathetic with her life. It’s certainly a sad moment for a character I’ve already come to love, but it’s also admirable because of the compassion and love she has to a fault. Either way, it’s excellent and we’re given a creepy image of a clown-face boy staring at her through the window – something that will likely come into play in the future.
The third episode of Dispatches from Elsewhere doesn’t disappoint in delivering an empathetic and tear-jerking look into Janice’s life that’s boasted by a moving performance from Field. It’s also peels back more layers on the Jejune Institutes intentions and Fredwynn’s findings excellently pulls the rug out from under viewers and makes you wonder, once again, what’s really going on.
Watch the Trailer Here: