16th Oct2017

‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams 1×05: Real Life’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

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When will Virtual Reality go too far, becoming a little too comfortable for us to want to leave it? That is the question raised in Real Life, the latest installment in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

Sarah (Anna Paquin) is a policewoman who shares so-called “headspace” with George (Terrence Howard) a brilliant game designer. Both are pursuing violent killers whose plans have shattering consequences for their worlds. With the connection between the two realities merging closer and closer, the question has to be…what happens when one reality takes too much control?

Real Life is interesting because we’ve seen this type of scenario replicated in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The idea that another reality can feel much more comfortable than the one we live in always raises the same question. If we had the choice, which one would we stay in? In this episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,the complicated question is are both realities actually real? Both feel realistic and both have characters that feel pain based around the character of the wife played by Rachelle Lefevre. In Sarah’s reality she is alive, but in George’s she was killed.

The reasoning for these two differences is that Sarah is looking for something to be guilty about, and the death of the wife because of actions George took is the perfect guilt. George of course wants to have Sarah’s reality because that would bring back the woman he loves. We see that Sarah is fighting happiness because she wants guilt, and she wants to be punished. Even if she is not to blame for what caused the feelings in the first place.

The conundrum that we are given is made all the more interesting through the performances of Paquin and Howard. While Paquin gives a more sombre performance, Howard is much more emotional. His is the reality that requires the most feeling, in Paquin’s it is more about the lack of feeling (or punishment) which is causing the conflict.

That is where the problem for Sarah is raised. If she wants punishment, then of course she would choose the reality where she is punished. George goes through a tougher journey to discovery because he longs for the happiness. Does the decision that is finally made show which reality was really real? We may see a conclusion that makes it seem like the wrong choice was made, but in the end, didn’t we see the same question raised in Buffy?

This week’s Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is interesting and well-acted, but in the end not the best episode so far. It is good, and interesting questions are raised. In the end though it doesn’t “blow your mind” like some of the previous episodes have. It is safe to say though that this episode is still high-quality television, and ironically enough a nice escape from the realities of the world.

***** 5/5

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams airs in the UK on Channel 4, 9pm on Sundays.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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