Channel 4’s Electric Dreams
Season 1, Episode 6: “Human Is”
Directed by Francesca Gregorini
Written by Jessica Mecklenburg
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Real Life” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Kill All Others” – click here
Terra. 2520. A man named Silas (Bryan Cranston) pledges his “loyalty to the state,” giving a speech for an award he receives in front of a crowd including wife Vera (Essie Davis), General Olin (Liam Cunningham), and others. He’s not happy with how things went. At home, he’s much different from the war hero people see in public. There he is a verbally abusive, wretched man.
Otherwise, life isn’t a treat. There’s only a limited resource of clean air, so they’ve got to return to Rexor IV, another planet. They’ve also got to deal with another species, which Silas sees as just a dangerous, foreign Other. He doesn’t want to share anything with them, he’d rather opt for destroying them. Men – always willing to go to war instead. Looks like Silas has a new mission for himself, because General Olin isn’t much different of a man.
More of the home life, Vera and Silas are as different as two people can be, so she takes every chance she can get to live her own life. And what an interesting life, at that. Now and then she throws on a beautiful dress, a “breathing apparatus,” then heads out on the town. She likes a dingy little place, an intriguing club in the wastelands of Terra.
It’s a strange sex club where anything and everything happens. She walks through the various cavern-like halls. Eventually finding two people who catch her eye. They invite her inside, and the three of them embrace sensually.
It’s launch day for Silas and his crew. He’s such an unsentimental, uncaring man, compared to her. No wonder she’s out in the evenings at a place like that. He’s barely present when they’re together, anyway. While he’s gone, she gets a break, a chance to enjoy life.
Eventually Rexor IV becomes a war zone. There’s no hope left, so the team on Terra must detonate warhead. It blasts everything to bits, as they must watch back at home. And then, they must move on, they must fight harder, stronger. Vera tells Yaro (Ruth Bradley): “I‘m so used to my life revolving around his, I feel untethered.”
But suddenly, the ship is coming back from Rexor IV on auto-pilot. Silas is on board. Although nobody can be sure he’s okay. When he gets back he’s actually alive, so they take him to the medical bay and have him fixed up. He’s definitely not well, but he’s living, breathing. Vera takes him home, caring for him there, as he recuperates.
Vera begins to see a difference in her husband since his return. Maybe it’s just that he isn’t well, that he went through something life altering on Rexor IV that he’s being different. Or, could he have literally been altered? Either way, she cares for him and just feels glad to have him back in one piece.
When General Olin and the others review the battle, they find out Rexorians made it onto the ship. But Silas didn’t tell them about this, so it makes them suspicious. What’s he hiding? Did something else come back with Silas after his trip?
Like a different man, Silas is cooking breakfast, tracking down a rarity – strawberries – and all around being strangely caring. She almost doesn’t want to confront the idea that something happened on their ship out there, because then it might mean that Silas isn’t even himself anymore, and that would spoil this grand illusion. So, she goes about her day, trying to return to normal. Even while Yaro warns she must “be vigilant” in case the Rexorians go to her husband. They are, supposedly, very dangerous.
That evening, Vera and Silas go to bed together. It’s passionate, erotic, they make love like it’s the first time in years. For once in ages she doesn’t have to abscond to the sex club in the night, scurrying off to find her gratification and fulfillment elsewhere. After they finish the married couple lie in bed, close, in love. There’s absolutely some different part of Silas emerging.
But is it good? Or bad? A bunch of armed man show up in the dark, they arrest Silas at gunpoint. Oh, my. Turns out that Private Matthews (Jamie Wilkes), also having returned from Rexor-IV, showed signs of being a “metamorph” from the planet. That means they put Silas in an interrogation room, grilling him for information about himself, trying hard to verify his identity. Plus, his wife has to testify in the trial. They can’t “execute” without a proper trial.
Thus commences a trial. First, General Olin speaks, then of course they have to hear from experts on metamorphs, explaining what they can do to a human host. And naturally Vera speaks about her husband, she tells of his changed mood since returning. However, she claims to the court that he is not Rexorian, that Terra is merely in a state of high alert against intruding alien forces. Sound familiar?
Well, nevertheless, Vera vouches for her husband Silas. Yaro then says she believes Vera is purposefully shielding a metamorph. This prompts Silas himself to testify, he tells them that he is the same person he has always been, condemning others for rallying in panic, in fear. He also says that, so long as his wife is spared, he’ll confess.
The state court determines Silas is not human, accepting his terms. But Vera interrupts before they take him away. She brings up the lack of a “moral code” in the Rexorians, on the basis that Silas, if he were an alien from that planet, would never give himself up for another person. And what does make someone human? Is it the “ultimate test” of sacrifice for love? Here, maybe.
Back at home, Vera and Silas are together again. Finally her husband admits that he is indeed a Rexorian. Yet, for love, she is willing to accept that. She’s better off with whatever he is than the human her husband was before.
Wow. Loved this episode! Really different. So unique. Davis and Cranston were fantastic playing off one another.
“Kill All Others” is next, directed and written by phenomenal director Dee Rees.