Adventurous TV Fans Owe It To Themselves To Watch The First Four Episodes Of Mrs. Davis

This post contains minor spoilers for Peacock's "Mrs. Davis."

The year is 2023. In an alternative timeline, an all-seeing, all-knowing artificial intelligence program has taken over society under the guise of being a benevolent force. Among the masses, who are mostly obedient to this force of technology, is a nun who embarks on a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail with the intention of dismantling said AI. This is the premise of Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez's techno-thriller "Mrs. Davis," which melds warring genres, tones, and sentiments to create a smorgasbord of zany adventures brimming with hilarity.

The first two episodes of "Mrs. Davis" first premiered at this year's SXSW, which /Film's Jacob Hall described as "the most audacious science fiction TV show ... since the early episodes of HBO's 'Westworld,'" while praising its willingness to take "big swings" and its "outlandish comedy." Peacock has decided to drop the first four episodes of the show at once as a part of its premiere, and this is a solid decision for several reasons. For one thing, "Mrs. Davis" is the kind of show that takes its time to yank the rug out from under your feet — the deliberately messy structure of the episodes leads to massive pay-offs that allow the mystery to deepen and linger.

Additionally, the episodes paint a wonderfully addictive, surreal picture of the threads that bind the story together, such as the age-old tussle between faith and science, and how the two systems share characteristic overlaps when taken to the extreme. There's a lot going on in "Mrs. Davis," from deeply emotional moments that raise profound questions about humanity to the exaggerated absurdity of a tournament involving a fake Excalibur. If you're curious about the latter, you should definitely check out this lovely little show. 

An adventure that is worth your time

Even the most adventurous television viewers might feel hesitant to commit to four hour-long episodes of a new series. While this is understandable given the overabundance of media that our current binge-watching culture boasts, "Mrs. Davis" ensures that patient viewers keen on experiencing an unpredictable ride are rewarded with something distinctly out-of-the-box and thoroughly enjoyable.

There is no dearth of sci-fi thrillers that pit science against religion, or dramas that feature some variation of the warrior-nun trope while introducing a good old crisis of faith. "Mrs. Davis" does all of the above, but the way these storylines are executed is bound to give you whiplash: There is nothing hackneyed or predictable about what happens at any given moment. Take the central MacGuffin of the Holy Grail. The Grail has been an overused artifact in numerous treasure-hunt-driven narratives that throw in a bit of history and a whole lot of thrilling fabrications for good measure. Not only does "Mrs. Davis" openly acknowledge how cliched this quest-trope is, but it also calls it a MacGuffin within the context of the plot to defy an AI that thrives by controlling a core aspect of humanity: existential purpose.

The results are mostly hilarious, and the show heavily leans on slapstick, often veering its comedy in the most outrageous directions. The third and fourth episodes truly cement why this approach works for the show, with the inclusion of a Vatican subplot that seems innocuous at first but ends up providing answers to the central mystery in baffling, ultimately convincing ways. The four-episode drop works in favor of the show's strengths, as it highlights the method in the madness, and how a million absurd detours/flashbacks somehow make sense within a larger context.

Let's talk about Simone

The nun in the midst of chaos is Simone (a brilliant Betty Gilpin), a woman with a backstory that gets increasingly bizarre as the show progresses. But at no point does she come off as a caricature or an amalgamation of deliberately-zany tropes. Beneath all the what-the-heck reveals and the outlandish events that follow her wherever she goes is genuine sincerity and depth, along with a wealth of complex emotions. Unspoken traumas about childhood hound her in the present, her relationships are constantly recontextualized in shocking reveals that I do not want to spoil (they're worth the wait, by the way), and Simone wrestles with her faith in more ways than one.

There's the question of trusting someone she is intuitively distrustful of -– the titular AI, Mrs. Davis — while being faced with instances that slowly make her question the faith she is wholly devoted to, her love for the divine, and Jesus Christ in particular. Simone does not embody the stereotypical portrayal of nuns in media: She will deck a dude in the face when push comes to shove, and promptly hop on a scooter and zoom off like she means business. She also swears a moderate amount and embraces the messiness of her humanity in refreshingly honest ways. Although there are moments in which she deliberately evades uncomfortable truths, this reaction is completely understandable. After all, she's only human.

While a one-episode-per-week release structure might have provided a fragmented picture of who Simone truly is, Peacock's bulk release allows her character to bloom instead. By the fourth episode, you will find yourself actively rooting for a nun who exposes magician scammers and embarks on impossible quests for reasons both personal and universal. 

Stuff to look forward to

Apart from Simone, there is a whole cast of eccentric characters that inhabit the beautifully absurd world of "Mrs. Davis." Among them is Simone's best friend/former lover Wiley (Jake McDorman) who seems especially hell-bent on rising up against Mrs. Davis and has an entire undercover, black-ops-style team dedicated to this cause. Many of the sillier aspects of the episodes stem from scenes that center on this operation, where the self-serious dudebros jump off planes for a rescue mission or dramatically snap off flip-phones to maintain anonymity. These running gags manage to never go stale.

Then there's the question of Mrs. Davis herself (or "itself," depending on who you ask), who seems particularly interested in Simone for reasons that are gradually unveiled. The emergence of chatbots that mimic sentience and original thought ("mimic" being the operative word here) is a discussion that warrants complexity and nuance, and "Mrs. Davis" lays out the various threads of this discourse in interesting ways.

Can AI truly be benevolent, its purpose simply being the satisfaction of the human race, with wars, conflicts, and unrest becoming relics of the past? Or is this veneer of holistic harmony only a distraction from the ugliness of reality, where the masses are trapped in an endless cycle of validation? The truth can often be stranger than fiction, a sentiment this show aims to nail.

Finally, there's an exploration of faith and belief, where characters with varying religious stances (or lack thereof) experience sudden epiphanies or uncomfortable revelations. The foundation of entire realities is questioned, and all of this is done with equal parts sincerity and irreverence. The results are deeply fascinating and absolutely worth sticking around for.

The first four episodes of "Mrs. Davis" are streaming now on Peacock.