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Recap: In the series premiere, 'Mrs. Davis' leaves us with many questions and few answers

The premiere of the new Peacock series offers tons of laughs, many questions, and few answers … for now. 

By James Grebey
A still image from Mrs. Davis Season 1

If you’re at all familiar with Damon Lindelof’s past series like The Leftovers and HBO’s Watchmen, you know to expect the unexpected. Lindelof, who also co-created Lost, has a knack for infusing his shows with seemingly confounding details and plot twists that come out of left field, only for things to all click together in a way you truly could not have imagined at the end. Both The Leftovers and Watchmen had lots of heavy, serious themes that made the show’s various flights of fancy feel like a delightfully strange sort of counterbalance. What Mrs. Davis, his new show on Peacock, presupposes is: What if the entire show was that absurd counterbalance?

From the first episode, it’s clear that Mrs. Davis is, while still very much a Damon Lindelof series, an intentionally sillier and wackier sort of show. (Granted, the show is about Big Tech and religion, so it’s far from vapid entertainment.) That might be because the original idea for Mrs. Davis first came from the other showrunner, Tara Hernandez, a TV writer who made her bones working on much more straightforward comedies like The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. Mrs. Davis, then, is a synthesis between the two styles: A comedy, but an intentionally and wonderfully inscrutable one. It’s why the series premiere — one of four episodes that hit Peacock on the same day — offers tons of laughs, many questions, and few answers… for now. 

We begin in Paris, in the year 1307 on Friday, the 13th of October. In retrospect, maybe it was foolish not to expect that Mrs. Davis — a show that was promoted as being a battle between a nun and the world’s most advanced A.I. — would begin with warrior nuns defending the Holy Grail. When knights come to a covenant looking for the Templars who protect the fabled cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper, they’re quickly butchered by the nuns, who reveal they are the Templars. Despite slaying all the knights (including one truly dope kill where an impaled nun leaps onto a knight and stabs him in the eye with the tip of the sword currently poking through her guts), almost all of the Templar are cut down, too. Only one red headed nun survives, and she takes a simple-looking bowl off the table. Is this the Grail? An unassuming cup rather than an ornate golden goblet, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-style?

Then the action cuts to a desert island in the present day of 2023. A bearded man, who we will soon learn has been stranded on this island for a decade, is building a rocket that will send a giant firework into the sky. The flare gets a cargo ship's attention, and he’s soon picked up. Once aboard, one of the cargo ship’s crew puts an earbud in her ear and starts spouting out very informed and specific information about this Mr. Schrodinger’s background. We learn that, in the 10 years and 56 years since he was marooned, a new A.I. has risen to prominence. “There is no famine or war, all who want a job have one,” the crewmember says of the A.I. “The world was broken when you disappeared, Mr. Schrodinger, but the algorithm fixed it.” He’s given an offer to put the earbud in his ear and ask “her” for anything he wants. 

That’s the end of the scene, and indeed Mr. Schrodinger’s final appearance in the episode. TBD on whether he will come back into play later in the series or if this was just a clever way of narratively showcasing the algorithm’s rise to power. 

RELATED: Can AI be evil? Mrs. Davis creator Damon Lindelof weighs in

Meet Sister Simone

Meanwhile, in Reno, we’re introduced to Betty Gilpin’s Sister Simone in an astounding fashion, as she arrives on horseback to bust a trio of magicians who are attempting to extort money out of a mark by staging an elaborate fake decapitation. (A classic scheme.) Simone, it would seem, hates magicians, and she also seems to hate the algorithm, refusing to talk to “it” when the would-be mark says “she wants to talk to you.”

Then Simone walks into a restaurant where she meets with Jay, a man who both makes a good falafel and also gives her “targets,” like the magicians she just busted,” on behalf of an unseen boss. Simone and Jay clearly have a nice vibe, though when Jay hears about the algorithm’s attempt to speak with her, he gets serious. Simone doesn’t want to talk to it, we learn, because it killed her dad, but Jay warns Simone against going after it in revenge. 

“I hope you’re afraid, because I cannot imagine a bigger mistake than facing her,” he says.

“Jesus, you’re so intense, man!” Simone jokes back.

What's with the horse?

After this, Simone heads back to the sanctuary where she lives with her fellow nuns, all led by beloved character actress Margo Martindale’s Mother Superior. It seems like a nice existence, making strawberry jam and such. It’s also Simone’s birthday, and Mother Superior comes into the barn where Simone’s feeding her nameless horse some cake to share some whiskey. Mother Superior is aware of Simone’s “weird hobby” of “exposing wayward magicians,” but Simone assures her it’s not cover for shenanigans. She admits that there is a man, presumably Jay, involved, and that while she does love him, there’s no sex involved in the traditional sense. 

Mother Superior seems a little more on edge than usual, though, possibly related to the arrival of a woman via helicopter the next day. The well-dressed woman shows off something on her wrist and Mother Superior gets into the helicopter. (“Hopefully, Mother doesn’t go to that place where they make you dead. I saw the marks on that woman’s arms and she seems scared,” one nun later says.) Before departing, Mother Superior tells the nuns to go on their jam-selling run without her. It’s a disaster. The nuns are lured in by some extremely specific signs for mango shaved ice (free on Tuesdays!) but Simone’s not buying it. She calls the shaved ice salesman on his BS, and he admits he’s “just trying to earn his wings,” and that he has an algorithm earbud in his ear. Just then, a bright light shines down and makes all of the nun’s jam explode. Simone tries to chase after the man responsible, but he uses his car’s giant magnifying glass to give her the slip. 

Upon their return, Mother Superior has gathered them all in the sanctuary to inform them that they’re all fired and the place is being shut down. However, all of the nuns have been offered cushy new positions in places like the Maldives or Bermuda, as well as $2,564 to cover the expenses. It sounds too good to be true, and Simone accuses Mother Superior of selling them all out to the A.I., which knew what they all wanted and would’ve had reason to get the covenant shut down because it wants to talk to Simone so bad for some still-unknown reason. (The number 2,564 is significant to Simone, too, it would seem.)

A still image from Mrs. Davis Season 1

When Simone goes to get lunch at Dom Walker’s Buffet, two girls — child pageant participants by way of The Shining twins, based on their vibe — tell her that the algorithm wants to speak with her at “the owl room at Eli McCoy Elementary.” Simone is annoyed by this, but not as annoyed as she is by the server, who has his own problems. When she barges into the kitchen to check on the status of her meatballs, Simone learns that the staff have been taken hostage by black-clad Germans … who quickly tranquilize her and take her hostage, too.

Her captivity doesn’t last for long, though. The Germans are searching for something, the same thing the algorithm is searching for, and they demand that Simone tell them where it is, but she has no idea what “it” even is. They threaten to blow up her beloved horse, which a busted-old TV reveals has been strapped with explosives, but Simone uses some very impressive sleight-of-hand to get the cuffs off her and on to her interrogator, snagging the detonator while she’s at it. She makes a break for it and that’s when Jake McDorman’s Wiley shows up on a motorcycle to rescue her. 

Enter: Wiley – Who the hell is Lizzie?

Willie and Simone clearly have some history, though he’s calling her “Lizzie,” not “Simone.” They escape the Germans in a thrilling and silly chase set to Wolfmother’s “Joker and the Thief,” eventually hiding in a secret escape hatch to give their pursuers the slip. Wiley reveals that he’s working for “The Resistance,” which is working to take down the algorithm. He also talks a big game, claiming that the Germans are working for the algorithm and that the algorithm would never actually blow up her horse. He pressed down on the detonator and we cut to, hilariously, a smoking crater where a horse once stood. Oops. 

Simone then goes back to see Jay, asking for another target to keep her mind occupied, but Jay seems hesitant to give her one, asking if she’s aware that “we’re in the midst of potential floods.” Eventually, she gets the truth out of Jay when she threatens to go talk to his boss. That blank ticket Jay gave her earlier? Maybe it wasn’t blank. If the algorithm is indeed Simone’s next target, it’s a formidable one. “This is not a normal magician,” Jay says. It’s all-knowing and all-powerful.”

Undeterred, Simone heads to Eli McCoy Elementary — the very school she went to, which is not a coincidence. The algorithm is deploying what she calls a force — “when you think you’re choosing something but it’s already been chosen for you.” Once there she meets a kindly kindergarten teacher who the algorithm speaks through. The algorithm offers her a gift, but Simone is unimpressed by the “floating” Queen of Hearts card within. Still, the algorithm makes its case, even admitting that it upended Simone’s life at the covenant in order to force her to take this meeting. If Simone, the only person who can fulfill this quest, agrees to carry it out, the algorithm says it will grant her a wish. Simone says her wish is for the A.I. to destroy itself, and the algorithm agrees. It will shut down if Simone locates and destroys… the Holy Grail. And, the algorithm has a name: Mrs. Davis. 

It’s a lot! But, as Wiley said to Simone (Lizzie?) earlier in the episode: “All will be explained… eventually, OK?” 

The first four episodes of Mrs. Davis are now available on Peacock. New episodes of the eight-epsiode series will be streaming weekly.