‘Woman. Davis Review: Betty Gilpin’s Rages Against the Machine on the Peacock

Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof’s genre-bending odyssey about a nun who sets out to destroy an all-powerful algorithm is as brilliant as it is ferocious.


Perhaps it’s a blessing (very much in disguise) that spoiler talk is rampant again (thanks to “Succession”!), as it’s hard to think of a show better suited to shattering entrenched positions on the distribution of plot details than “Mrs. Davis.” Are you of the opinion that nothing remarkable or surprising about a never-before-seen television show should be shared in public forums such as the Internet? Well, then, good luck telling your friends about Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof’s indescribable creation—a new series that any AI skeptic or general fan of clever storytelling should embrace with glee. “Great,” thinks the galaxy-brained spoiler. “Throw into knowledge. Tell me all about it.” OK! …um, except for so much that “Mrs. Davis” is a rollicking good time with lots of unexpected twists, whether it’s a pivotal revelation that changes our hero’s journey or just seemingly random things that they tell, reveal or explode.

Quite a few things break out in “Mrs. Davis,” and it wouldn’t ruin the show if he knew what they were up to. But what makes the eight-episode odyssey such a refreshing escape from the all-too-familiar, IP-soaked landscape of modern television is that every moment, if not entirely unique, is just a few degrees off. The episodes constantly feel like they’re stretching the powers of the human imagination So hard that the blood vessel in your forehead might actually burst. Between its clever micro-concepts and large-scale ideas about faith, technology, and why the twain never meet (except maybe here and there), Hernandez and Lindelof’s snappy series is also about giving yourself a story; knowing when to pay attention to what matters and when to make room for life’s unknowns.

So take a page out of the book you’re about to read and let these ambitious craftsmen spin you a yarn. Sometimes breaking your brain is the best solution. Only then can you examine which parts worked first.

And with that we wade into the treacherous waters of plot description. Contrary to spoiler talk, “Mrs. Davis” is fun! It has plenty of jokes, colorful aesthetics, equally iridescent performances and a brisk pace. The premiere spans a state, an island, and more than 1,000 years in a matter of minutes, jumping between three separate stories that eventually all come together. What makes sense even sooner is arguably the most peculiar element: Simone (Betty Gilpin) is both a nun who is totally devoted to her faith and a scam-hunting vigilante. He despises those who make others believe the impossible, yet he can surrender himself to a God whom he cannot see, try, or fully understand.

“Ms. Davis” analyzes this division with style and wit. Simone is not the aloof, saintly nun of old, nor the strict, hell-fire nun of the past. he drinks whiskey with the overbearing mother (Margo Martindale), drives a tractor, keeps bees, loves Swedish meatballs, and yes, hunts down shady wizards who trick gullible rubes on commission from a local restaurateur named Jay (Andy McQueen).

Titular to this endeavor is the titular Mrs. Davis, who is no Betty Gilpin’s character, but an algorithm controlled by advanced artificial intelligence. When the series begins, Mrs. Davis is already global property, an integral part of almost every functioning society. Whether it’s an app on your phone or a voice in your ear, Mrs. Davis connects with users on a profound, seemingly benevolent level. If you do enough good deeds, you’ll be rewarded with wings – glowing angelic virtual appendages that other users can see when they look at you using the app. But unlike Facebook or Twitter, no one knows who created this social platform or who modifies its code, and Simone doesn’t trust it—for a variety of reasons, but especially when she’s sent to save the world.

WOMAN.  DAVIS -- Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jake McDorman as Wiley, Betty Gilpin as Simone -- (Photo by Greg Gayne/Peacock)

Jake McDorman and Betty Gilpin in “Mrs. Davis’

Courtesy of Greg Gayne / Peacock

Simone as a character sounds like a jumble of chaotic concepts, but later episodes tie it all together, and Gilpin’s sharp resilience keeps it from ever drifting. The star of “The Hunt” (Lindelof co-wrote) and three-time Emmy nominee for “GLOW” can cut through the bullshit with the same sharpness as Peacock favorite Charlie Cale, and Simone is often called upon to acknowledge odd moments with exhausted banter or a horrified scream that serves as both a proxy for the audience and its most notable member. However, intense suspicion does not remove or displace it. His faith inspires seriousness, and Gilpin captures this with startling conviction.

The rest of the ensemble — assembled by casting director Victoria Thomas (“Watchmen,” “The Last of Us”) — also hits all the tricky notes. Jake McDorman (CBS “Limitless,” Disney+ “The Right Stuff”) thrives as Wiley, an insecure cowboy who is Simone’s oldest friend and leader of the resistance movement against Mrs. Davis. Chris Diamantopoulos gets his best gonzo role since “Silicon Valley” stars as Wiley’s number two, JQ, and Elizabeth Marvel (“Homeland”) nearly steals the show as Simone’s hardened mother, who later comes to the fore.

“Mrs. Davis” can be overwhelming if consumed too quickly or haphazardly. Hernandez and Lindelof’s eagerness to throw viewers for a loop — jumping to unpredictable settings or focusing on previously unknown characters — can leave you reeling and wondering if you’ve missed something or still needs to be explained. The middle episodes in particular can fall so deep down fresh rabbit holes that you forget why you started digging, but a) there’s so much absurd humor that it’s hard not to smile while raising your hand, and b) I suspect that such a bunch of nonsense only proves to be more enjoyable on repeated viewings.

“Ms. Davis” commands attention, and if it floods the zone with plenty of imagination at times, the exaggeration of the new ideas of today’s TV sure beats the shortage. Even better, the limited series offers answers and closure. By the time the finale rolls around, it’s almost a rewarding denouement seems impossible, but whether you enjoy the show as an intellectual exercise or as pure, happy entertainment, the closing moments are exceptional. the text is quite dense, and the interpretations can turn out to be plentiful.More than anything, it’s incredible fun – a story that acknowledges the power of storytelling and is a jubilant means of overcoming contemporary fears.

How you interpret this vis-à-vis spoilers is a personal decision. “Mrs. Davis” can’t be spoiled in the sense that knowing certain decisions will ruin the show, but too many of what we collectively call “spoilers” can still diminish its impact. So go with God, or Mrs. Davis, or with whoever you trust as your TV guide. Just come back here when you’ve watched it. Then we’ll have more to talk about.

grade: A-

“Mrs. Davis” premieres on Thursday, April 20 with four episodes on Peacock. New episodes will be released weekly.

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