Channel 4’s Electric Dreams
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Hood Maker”
Directed by Julian Jarrold
Written by Matthew Graham
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Impossible Planet” – click here
We open on a gorgeous river, people fishing in the distance. One woman stands basking in its natural beauty. Cut to the dreary streets of a city, people marching and protesting, signs make it clear the government has overstepped its scope. The woman from the river is Honor (Holliday Grainger), flanked by other law enforcement such as Agent Ross (Richard Madden). She’s telepathic, marked by a large red scar down her face. She’s there to read people, to see who’s a committed activist, who’s merely there for one foolish reason or another. Someone she lingers on too long can tell she’s reading him, then a crowd bears down on them. Suddenly, a man in a hooded mask appears, tossing a molotov cocktail.
Ross chases the man through the streets until he gets the guy. But the hood spells troubled times. I wonder if it prevents a person from being “read“?
At the office, Ross speaks with fellow copper Senior Agent Okhile (Noma Dumezweni). In the meantime we see how people like Honor, they’re treated differently. Outcasts, bearing a version of the Scarlet Letter right across their face.
These telepathic folk, “teeps” they’re called, get partnered with cops. Reluctantly, Ross works with Honor on a man in their interrogation room. She reads his life, his memories, taking on the personality of his mother and speaking in her voice. Getting to the dark secrets inside. Then the man repeats a mantra, she repeats one opposite of his own until he’s repeating what she says and he’s back to being under her spell. She begins to figure things out, about the hoods, about the secret operations of their misfit group.
“I can see everything”
They’re able to make a bust, but Honor’s clearly drawn to something further. She finds one of the masked men in the basement of where they make their arrests. A sharp noise pierces her brain, now she knows the hood prevents her from reading those who wear it.
What’s funny is, we’re essentially watching a world where police have foregone the traditional idea of law enforcement. They’re busting people based on this extra-sensory perception the telepaths have, like working on thought crimes, similar to an Orwellian concept or Dick’s precrime in Minority Report. So, there’s a kind of double-edged sword where you feel disgust for how telepathy is used by the state, and simultaneously you feel sympathetic to Honor and the plight her people face at the hands of both the state and other citizens. She even considers herself “software” at society’s disposal.
Ross and Honor continue searching for answers. Soon, she starts seeing another telepathic woman named Mary (Anneika Rose), trapped in the service of awful men, calling out for help. They track her down in a veritable den of iniquity. A man holding a gun to her. They manage to diffuse the situation, though the guy’s Franklyn (Paul Ritter), a Free Union man. Untouchable. He speaks of an “underground” saying they’re “ready to rise up.” But it’s clear he has, other nasty ideas for the use of telepaths.
At least they’ve got a bit more information, about the hoods, where they’re being made, as well as ultimately why. They discover a doctor, Thaddeus Cutter (Richard McCabe). Apparently, he had a break down. Surely he knows lots, if they can find him.
Already on the streets is a breakout of the underground. Mary and others rising, using their telepathic powers to try taking back social power, to take back their lives. Meanwhile, Ross and Honor are also stuck between the dynamic of the “normals” and the teeps. Although they do get closer, the cop isn’t exactly like all the others. It’s against the rules for the telepaths to read cops, but Ross asks her to read him. She refuses, not wanting to push him away, explaining things about her growing up. Moreover, we discover that opening scene was Honor looking into the past of Ross, he and his father fishing on the river. Beautiful moment. And she explains to him that when they’re together, her mind feels quiet just like the feeling he had on the river, unlike the noisy headspace of being on the streets.
Later, Ross finds Dr. Cutter stowed away in a dingy old basement. He believes that, eventually, people will “make [their] own hoods,” that perhaps humans will evolve to resist the telepaths.
And this is why Ross is a potential aid to those fighting the telepaths. He’s a “weapon” with the ability to block being read. A tragic moment, undoing all the trust between him and Honor.
So then she sings the song, to call the underground. She’s led them directly to the doctor. Now, she leaves Ross and Cutter to the others. They kill Cutter, then soak the masks, the material, and light the place on fire.
Will Ross allow himself to be read to prove himself to her? Or will he burn?
We go back to the literal beginning of the episode, on the river. Honor walks down through the waters where she finds him as a young man, his father fishing. And she also sees him talking with his fellow agent, hearing how he’ll do whatever possible to infiltrate her, the underground. The only question left is whether she’ll let him live, or if she’ll leave him behind.
Or does it matter, when the world outside is crumbling, burning to the ground? Does love still matter? Can it conquer all?
Wow, I truly loved this episode! There’s a lot to take out of this one. Saw a review that said there’s no ‘modern day message’ to the episode, which I find insane. Clearly shows a divide world, on the precipice of burning down entirely. At its heart, the episode speaks to whether love can heal the divide, if it’s worth pursuing the individual interest nowadays in a time where there’s so much hate that the social climate necessitates we keep strong in groups opposed to hatred, so on. So, really, I don’t know WHAT some reviewers are talking about, honestly. Give me more!
“Impossible Planet” is next week, a whole new world, a whole new story, new characters, new cast. Love anthologies.