Channel 4’s Electric Dreams
Season 1, Episode 7: “Kill All Others”
Directed & Written
by Dee Rees
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Human Is” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Autofac” – click here
YES US CAN! YES US CAN! MEX-US-CAN!
Philbert (Mel Rodriguez) and Maggie Noyce (Sarah Baker) have to deal with ads all over the house, living holograms constantly selling coffee, shaving cream. They have “voice control” around the home, routers everywhere. Poor Phil doesn’t seem to enjoy life a whole lot. Meanwhile around him, in the year 2054, an election is about to transpire. On TV, the Candidate (Vera Farmiga) speaks to the citizens about their “yea ballot” – North America is a unified country, ruled by a unified party. There is only one Candidate in this Meganation. No choice, just the illusion of something resembling choice. Everybody follows along, because things are okay, y’know.
During the day, Philbert works in a factory, though he’s chronically late. He doesn’t have a “computer–operated vehicle” like everybody else. His Supervisor (Louis Herthum) considers him a “manualist,” a traditional guy who doesn’t want to have his entire life automated. But he lives in the midst of automation: automated factories, automated cars, automated elections. At work, he and Lenny (Jason Mitchell) and Ed (Glenn Morshower) talk like normal, joking around, trying to survive the rat race like any of us. His buddies at work suggest, to cure his depression, Philbert should “buy something.” Retail therapy. That’s the motivation of life in 2054.
Phil’s work pals further suggest to buy up some cheese. To get a bit of time with his own hologram, the product lady. Both he and his wife Maggie each buy their own products, enticed by the various ads. He goes for Yellow Bonnet cheese, so his ad lady is the Yellow Bonnet Girl (Kylan Conroy). Later, he and Maggie watch the Candidate’s speech. The woman goes on about investing in public schools, infrastructure. Except in the middle of it she says: “And as you all know, we have to kill all Others.” And instead of the TV host challenging the statement, nobody says a word. Nobody. This really troubles Philbert.
At work, nobody else heard it, and Phil is surprised it isn’t all over the news. Nothing is on Google, nothing over social media, no links. Lenny and Ed doubt him a little bit. It’s as if he’s the only person to have heard the words. Meanwhile, he’s questioning his own place in the automated factory, why only three of them are there working while machines can do everything else; he sees himself and his co-workers as “tokens.” Phil is always questioning the world around him, whereas everybody he knows is done asking questions. Turns out, Ed actually saw the Candidate make the statement, too. But he believes politics aren’t worth worrying about, just entertainment.
On the train home Phil does see a short piece on a news channel about the Candidate’s words. Someone, not unlike those doing the dirty work of the current POTUS, tells people the words weren’t meant “literally,” as if the statement has some possible other meaning. Yet things go all haywire on the train. Outside on billboards, he witnesses screens flashing KILL ALL OTHERS. He tries taking quick pictures. Soon, the train stops when he pulls the emergency lever.
Philbert is questioned later about what happened. He rambles a little, trying to tell them of the “hate speech” on the billboards. He believes the words are dangerous. No one believes it, they’re only concerned about the little train crash after he pulled the emergency stop. For now, he’s banned from the train.
At home, Phil and Maggie try getting back to themselves, just the two of them without the cheese and the coffee and the politics. They’re now riding around in an automated computerised car after his accident, gets him to work on time. Except the streets are a bit chaotic, They see a woman being chased down; a group tells him she’s “an Other.” Phil waits for the Peace Officers to show up, then he’s ordered to get away.
Back at work, he has to get a health check. Insurance purposes, human resources, all that. Phil is further advised to “lay off the political talk.” A very authoritarian glimpse of 2054. So, he gets back to doing his job, doing the routine. On lunch, he and the guys see a billboard close by on the freeway. A dummy is hanging from it, or is it a person? The words KILL ALL OTHERS stand massive forty or fifty feet off the ground. Meanwhile, Lenny, Ed, and Phil debate about the Others.
On the TV show Politics Now, the Candidate is live again. Phil calls in as Bob, but technology sees through the act, identifying him as Philbert Noyce for everyone to see. He complained about the “gruesome” ads, thinking it’d be anonymous. Now, the Candidate sees him, directly asking: “Are you an Other?”
In a day and age where we now, in 2018, are already seeing a tiny bit of authoritarianism creep into American society, Phil’s mere suggestion of having opposing political beliefs to the norm is enough to have him ostracised. The next day at work, nobody’s willing to talk to Phil. There are Peace Officers at his house talking to Maggie, so he avoids going home that night. His entire life has changed in the blink of an eye. Because, almost like today, being an Other in this near future society is merely having an-Other opinion.
Phil crawls into the bathroom window at home, warning Maggie that people are coming for him. He sees a “witch hunt” coming for them. Only soon he believes his wife is in on it. He runs off, intent on making everybody see what’s really going on behind the facade.
He gets to one of the billboards. Officers are on the scene, trying to use the medical bracelet he was fitted with at work to calm him down. They’ve branded him on the news as being part of “political terrorism.” At the top of the billboard, he proclaims to everyone: “We are all Others!” He tries hauling down the hanged man, but falls to the ground below.
TV coverage cuts to the Candidate, giving a bullshit speech about a “self–identifying, self–correcting democracy” in Mex-US-Can. She tells everyone that people like Philbert merely purge themselves from society. ‘Cause if you’re sane, if you’re stable, words don’t hurt or do damage, and if your’e not an Other, no worries, right? Yeah, sure.
In the meantime, the new body hung from the billboard is Phil. An example, for all to see.
Extremely relevant, creepy episode. Love Dee Rees. Her directing and writing both do well here under the umbrella of Philip K. Dick, she is so unbelievably talented. This episode comes along at just the right time in history, when people continually pass the POTUS off as not having any real effect when he says awful, stupid, unhinged things. Words do matter.