Electric Dreams Episode One “The Hood Maker” review
The mind is an open book in the first episode of this Philip K. Dick adaptation.
Before we begin, here's a short history lesson for those unfamiliar with the genius sci-fi stories of the late Philip K. Dick. Even if you're not an avid reader you're probably already familiar with movie adaptations of his work in the form of Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau. Those Hollywood productions played pretty fast and loose with their source materials, but this Stan Original series entitled Electric Dreams aims to more closely clone Dick's short stories. They're replicants, if you will.
The first flying hover-cab off the rank is "The Hood Maker", an ahead-of-its-time tale originally published in Imagination magazine way back in 1955. It's set in a world without advanced technology, where mutant telepaths (or “teeps”) have become humanity’s only mechanism for long distance communication. Sounds like a great alternative to Skype, but the general population is less than on board with these all-knowing mind-readers. After dissident numbers grow, Honor (Holliday Grainger), a young telepath cop, is embedded with a riot squad commanded by veteran detective Ross (Richard Madden). This freelance teep is there to study the protesters; however, she's unknowingly being surveilled by a mysterious photographer.
This peaceful demonstration turns ugly when Honor is blind-sided by a molotov-happy protester wearing a telepath-blocking hood. Not being a fan of cocktails, Agent Ross runs down the perp (while displaying a love for his own fedora that borders on Indiana Jones level). The meek and mild Honor brings up the rear and is admonished for triggering the incident by making her abilities known. Seems if you read folks too hard, they will detect it and react like it's mental pick-pocketing. This is why teeps are second-class citizens reviled by the "normals". Even the Police Chief calls Honor "it" and is sickened by the way she violates the mind of their new prisoner in order to extract valuable leads.
That being said, this activity is precisely what some of the ruling class are engaging in, too. On the wrong side of town, Walter Franklyn (Paul Ritter), a big wheel in the repressive Free Union regime, visits teep brothels in order to have the mind-readers mentally project his most twisted sexual fantasies. A series of "hood raids" lead our detectives to this sleazy politician just as he's about to murder one of Honor's call-girl pals. Agent Ross draws his sidearm and threatens to put a fresh breathing hole in Franklyn's hood, but the scumbag ultimately gets off the hook when he barters his freedom for some intel on hood manufacture.
Later, at Ross's apartment, a run through of the evidence puts the detectives in close-quarters proximity. Triple-scotches and pheromones do the rest – pretty soon the only thing being investigated are the contents of underpants. Some post-coitus pillow talk reveals that Ross' remarkable mental calm comes from his father, a fly fisherman fond of plain-speaking and marathon trout-catching sessions of pure zen. Honor suggests they ought to retire to the river she glimpses in his thoughts, now that he's ruined his career by tapping a teep. Ross seems lured by the idea.
Unbeknownst to her sexual/professional partner, Honor is formulating this escape plan for a reason. Through the teep “grapevine” – which is like an organic Internet – she's caught instant messages of her fellow mutants planning an uprising. Not only are they pressuring her to join, but they're demanding she hand over any info she has on the mysterious Hood Maker. His product, while fashionable in some circles, represents a large monkey wrench for their plans. None of this is mentioned to Ross, who ventures out alone to chase down their next lead.
Lurking deep in a disused textile factory is our paparazzi shutterbug from the riot, Doctor James Cutter. He believes that the human mind is the only free independent state left in existence, and preserving its sanctity has driven him to create, manufacture and anonymously distribute his hoods. Ross observes that having a personal firewall against the teep grapevine may sound useful, but allowing only a select few to have them would cause another power struggle. Cutter is unfazed. What he's really trying to do is give evolution a kick up the backside; to twist normies into becoming naturally resistant to telepathy. He thinks that he may have achieved this with Agent Ross...
An eavesdropping Honor breaks from her cover at the mention of this. Shocked, she tries to really read her partner for the first time, to troll his depths and snag the truth. What comes back sends her reeling: it's the same old looped memory of a father-son fishing trip from long ago. Ross starts to explain that he received mental training, but for what purpose was never made clear to him. His confession is cut short by the sounds of an encroaching teep pitchfork mob. They've followed Honor right to the Hood Maker. He's going out of business today, whether he likes it or not.
In short order Cutter is brutally mind-murdered by the teeps. Ross finds himself trapped between a raging fire set by angry telepaths and a locked door with Honor on the other side. She demands that he drop his own firewall and allow himself to be read, or else she'll let the literal one consume him. In tears, Ross apologises beforehand and lets her in. Beyond the river memory is a recap of their Police Chief setting Ross to his true assignment: using his gift to get close to Honor, securing intel on any mutant uprising and gaining her trust by any means necessary. Ross tells the chief that he'll have "it" eating out of the palm of his hand in no time.
The fire continues to close in. Ross confesses that he ran away with the assignment and fell for Honor. He wants to run away like they talked about earlier, and reminds her that she can only read minds, not his heart. He's an open book now, like his father. If they can't trust each other now, what hope is there?
Honor's hand rests on the door latch. Ross's pleas and reasonings continue. Outside and around them both, the sparks of a normie / teep civil war start to catch in this filthy dystopian city. The sound of a crackling fire intensifies.