Dispatches from Elsewhere: Lee Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers for Episode 8*
On this week’s episode of AMC’s Dispatches from Elsewhere, Lee, the group reflects on their journey together and take on hardships that signify a new end in the game.
After finding out that Lee (Cherise Boothe) is the architect that Fredwynn was searching for in the last episode, we’re treated to an opening that gives a peek behind the curtain to her putting the game together. From her looking at all the induction videos where most of the group displays their unique skepticism with the game they entered, except for Peter (Jason Segel), to Lee casting Octavio (Richard E. Grant) and approving piece to the game we’ve seen unfold, it’s a really enthralling behind the scenes look that sets up Lee’s position in the game. Not to mention, there’s a great “fake out” that starts the episode and another great opening monologue from Octavio that establishes Lee’s motivations. Just like we learned at the end of last week’s episode, Clara (Cecilia Balagot) is dead and Lee somehow plays a part in it that makes her remorseful. It’s so bad that she carries a piece of paper with the word redemption on it as a motivator and goes to therapy – which shows us that she’s truly been there every step of the way.
In a discussion with her therapist, we see that Lee has always been in the background of everything we’ve been seeing since the start. When Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin) jumped into the trunk of Octavio’s car, she was there. When Janice (Sally Field) was picked to go on stage with Octavio to re-experience her wedding, she pulled the audible for it to be her. When Fredwynn made the group go to that woman’s house, it was actually a surprise to her and the little girl they thought was her daughter actually wasn’t – which is pretty funny. It’s a perfect tie-in to what Octavio says about her seeming like a background character in his opening monologue and it’s interesting to see her drive and passion for making the game work. It’s even interesting to see the respect she gains for the group in them wanting to uncover the deeper truth to the game and throughout this look through Lee’s involvement, you can tell that even though they may mess with the flow of the game, Lee definitely develops a soft spot.
Now with us understanding Lee’s involvement, we’re all caught up to now reunite with Janice and the rest of gang as they follow up on the clue Lee gave Janice. Still thinking about the night before, Simone (Eve Lindley) and Peter reflect on their relationship – which is sweet. With the group looking for the grave of T. Emerson, the group is so lost and desperate to find this grave that in an attempt to cover more ground, Fredwynn hilariously confuses a funeral for a group of goth kids hanging around. Eventually the group finds something, but not before we see what Lee is up to.
Clearly, she must have disappointed Clara in some way by making the rounds and pleasing the likes of corporates instead of creative minds and she develops anxiety seeing people walk around like the walking dead with their heads in the phones. What follows is a nice sequence of Clara spilling her guts through a tape recording the group finds at her grave that also reveals Lee’s motivation. Basically, Lee felt bad that Clara sold her company away and then died six months later, so she created this game to push forward her ideas of wanting people to find inspiration in others and look at the magic of life around them. This isn’t too much of a surprise considering this is exactly what Octavio said when the game ended, but it’s sweet to see how much this means to Lee as this monologue is intercut with her putting the game together and even creating a new ending for the group.
It’s also easy see the ending for what it is when the group’s trip to their favorite meeting spot, the Continental diner, results in a funny moment where their eavesdropping waitress recaps everything. It’s a great moment that establishes another true end to the game – even though there’s still two episodes left. Part of me wonders if creating these “ends” is kind of pointless just because there’s obviously still more story left so you kind of don’t believe it anyway. However, with Peter finally asking Simone out on a date and Fredwynn still peeking over his shoulder at Janice taking a mysterious call, there’s definitely more interesting arcs and storylines to explore, so I’m not complaining too much. While everyone goes their separate ways with Fredwynn still not being a big hugger and Simone giving Peter a kiss on the cheek, the inner Fredwynn in me knows there’s still one piece of the puzzle that hasn’t fit yet – the clown-faced boy.
However, before we get to that, we join Peter and Simone on their awkward, sweet, and heartwarming date that really shows why they’re relationship so damn heartwarming and also kind of tragic. Attempting to overly impress Simone, Peter takes her to an incredibly fancy restaurant that they both aren’t too much of a fan of and try to get one another better. The way the both of them try to make things work with one another, like Peter telling a story about nosebleeds just to tell Simone something about himself and Simone trying to ask Peter anything just to get to know him better, is incredibly endearing and why their relationship and feelings towards one another come off as genuine. However, the two eventually question what they’ve been worrying and doubting in the back of their heads – is their relationship the same without the game.
Simone eventually talking about calling it quits with their relationship is legitimately heartbreaking and touches on both the all too real personal struggles the face as well as the doubts they’ve been secretly worrying about the whole time with the game seemingly over. No matter how much they persist or try to hide themselves, their personal struggles are too much to overcome. Peter is really discovering himself for the first time and Simone sees that and feels that she needs something more to help her feel comfortable with herself.
Her coming out to Peter as being trans and worried about the transphobic world around her, or at least the one in her head, is really deep and the complexity of Simone’s characters is brought out beautifully by Lindley. It’s matched by a strong performance from Segel that evokes the heartbreak I feel as a viewer as he tries to salvage his relationship with Simone and fight to not go back to his dull life. It’s a fight that’s real and is touching in how its characters are coming back to reality and dealing with an end that’s not so good as the last. So, while Peter and Simone calling things off for now is definitely heartbreaking, it shows that these characters aren’t done growing yet and that’s great as a viewer.
As always, we also catch up with Janice’s phone call and Fredwynn following her and its not anymore pleasant than Peter and Simone’s relationship fallout. Rather than being another step forward in the game, Fredwynn takes another step forward in his growth as he comforts Janice as she must decide whether to take Lev off of the machines keeping him alive. It’s a scene that hits all the right emotional chords in Fredwynn conflicting with himself about how to comfort Janice in the right ways and Janice conflicting with herself, again, about finally letting go of things and living for herself. It’s an absolute tear-jerker from start to finish and a moment that shows how this series taps into truly raw human emotions to deliver moments that are real and bring out the same kind of emotion in its viewers.
It leads to another ending to an episode that could service as even a great end to the series with everyone moving forward in their lives. Fredwynn is finally able to evoke emotion and companionship in him finally hugging Peter and taking Lev’s hand in his final moments to take the place of their son. Simone and Peter go their separate ways. Janice’s eulogy at Lev’s funeral show that she’s finally capable in moving forward on her own. Even hearing Clair de Lune playing during the funeral signifies how things have come full circle and Fredwynn giving everyone their player profile should show that things are over, right? Well, with Fredwynn still having that itch that things are not what they seem and Lee’s closing monologue going on, there’s still some mysteries left to be solved.
While last week’s episode of Dispatches from Elsewhere showed that endings may not be so bad, this week’s episode shows sort of the opposite. In delivering a melancholier and more meaningful look into these characters, the series hits a new emotional peak as it touches on raw human emotions and genuine struggles in a way that’s uniquely relatable and heartbreaking. Episodes like Lee, show why Dispatches from Elsewhere is truly unlike anything else.