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Recap: The Mrs. Davis Finale Doesn't Chicken Out When It Comes to the Truth
In Episode 8 of the Peacock series, Simone meets Mrs. Davis' maker and sips from the Grail.
In the second episode of Mrs. Davis, JQ (Chris Diamantopoulos) issued Simone (Betty Gilpin) — and by extension, the audience of the Peacock series — a helpful word of advice. “Don't underestimate just how stupid this gets, sweetheart.” Back then, the “stupid” thing was a bunch of people pretending to be people who were pretending to be Nazis in search of the Holy Grail. But, the finale of the eight-episode series proved JQ right and takes the stupidity to a new level when it reveals the truth about Mrs. Davis. It’s so stupid that it’s brilliant, actually.
The Algorithm — a constantly evolving A.I. that incentivizes community service through a social justice lens — was originally intended to be an app for the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant chain. Everything Mrs. Davis has done, we learn fairly quickly in the finale, happened because an ambitious young programmer named Joy (Ashley Romans) made a pitch to the chicken wing restaurant in 2013 with an app that was way, way too ambitious for their needs.
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Simone discovers this because she put together the pieces of the various glitches that Mrs. Davis has exhibited in the past few episodes. That repeated mantra of “1042, Sandy Springs” is, combined with the weird group singalong of “Electric Avenue,” Joy’s current address. Simone visits Joy, who is having a family cookout to celebrate her Nana’s birthday. As Simone eats a honey butter and beef baloney sandwich (Nana’s famous recipe), Joy explains everything about Mrs. Davis.
Joy wanted to use Buffalo Wild Wings as a “Trojan Horse” for her community service app, but when Buffalo Wild Wings turned down her pitch, Joy uploaded the code for free. Suddenly, so much about Mrs. Davis makes sense. The wings? Literal chicken wings. The expiration dates? Coupons. And the Holy Grail? Well, according to the BWW employee manual that was written into the A.I.’s code, “100% customer satisfaction is our Holy Grail.” Joy posits that Mrs. Davis is trying to destroy the Grail because she realized 100% customer satisfaction isn’t possible.
“This is so… dumb,” Simone says.
“Algorithms are super dumb,” responds Joy, who stresses that she’s not Mrs. Davis’ mother. “I didn’t create life. I created code.”
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Meanwhile, Wiley (Jake McDorman) has reported to the Pyramid, where they’re playing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in the lobby. (A little on-the-nose, no?) Danni (Sherri Saum) — the woman we briefly saw in the premiere when she stepped out of a helicopter to talk to Mother Superior (Margo Martindale) — introduces herself as Wiley’s Transition Assistant. She was supposed to die in this Pyramid when her expiration date came up, but she was too scared and instead opted out. Now everybody knows she didn’t earn her wings and she works for Mrs. Davis. Wiley, though, is not scared. He’s convinced this is all a front, and that he’s not actually going to die.
“No way the A.I. would go to all that trouble to kill users in the end,” he reasons. “Takes ‘em right to the edge.”
But, when it comes time for Wiley to actually get into the machine that will kill him — a crazy roller coaster with a series of deadly loops — he’s not quite so sure it’s a bluff. Still, he’s committed. When Danni says he can still opt out, Wiley refuses. “I’m riding the f-cking bull this time,” he says, taking a swig from his flask “for courage” and going into the first drop. He’s not holding on to the restraints, but throwing his arms into the air. Wiley’s ready to die, if it comes to that.
While Wiley is riding Universal Orlando’s next big ride (kidding), Simone is reuniting with Mother Superior outside of the now-abandoned convent they once lived in. Mother Superior is now a Mrs. Davis user (she has a camel in her truck that she’s bringing somewhere on behalf of the A.I.), but she’s still here to help her friend, Simone, attempt to destroy the Holy Grail and by extension Mrs. Davis.
After explaining the situation to Mother Superior and telling her what to do in the event that her head explodes, Simone prays so that she can go to the restaurant and say goodbye to Jay (Andy McQueen) before sipping from the Grail.
“Have you been there?” Simone asks Mother Superior.
“I don’t need to, such is the strength of my faith,” she replies, in a very sweet line that will be echoed shortly.
Simone prays and finds herself back at the restaurant, but she’s not alone. Wiley is there, presumably because he’s currently dying, and he’s shooting the sh-t with Jay at the counter, asking Jesus if he knows about “hashtag blessed.” It’s nice to see that Simone’s ex and her husband are getting along just fine, but Simone needs to speak with both of them.
To Wiley, Simone apologizes for handcuffing him to the bench, though Wiley says she was right to do it. He’s happy for her, but it’s time for him to “get back to his massage.” He exits the restaurant, leaving Simone and Jay alone.
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Jay knows why Simone’s here. It’s a mission of love and mercy, but she’s going to kill him — or at least free him from this state of existence he’s trapped in. He claims he’s happy here and that he’s not suffering despite what his mother says, but Simone counters that he never gets to eat, only serve. She cooks for him, making Nana’s honey butter and beef baloney sandwich. Jay starts crying as he eats for what must be the first time in 2,000 years. Now he admits that he’s scared to lose this, to lose what he has with Simone.
“I may not be able to come see you, but I will always feel you,” Simone says.
“How can you be so sure?” Jay responds.
“Such is the strength of my faith,” Simone answers.
It’s an emotional moment, one that’s undercut slightly when Simone returns to reality but is stopped by Mother Superior at the last second before she drinks from the Grail. Mother Superior makes a pitch that Mrs. Davis is good. She and the other nuns certainly found fulfillment through her, and even if the wings are just a carrot to get people to do good, Mother Superior says they’re still an important symbol. “Given the chance, any one of us can take flight.”
Simone lies rather than burst Mother Superior’s bubble with the truth about Mrs. Davis’ origins as an app for a chicken wing restaurant, but she raises an interesting issue. And, with that, Mother Superior gives her blessing for Simone to drink whiskey out of the Grail. Whatever Simone decides to do, she says, will be the right choice because she was chosen to make it.
Simone drinks… and gets a nosebleed (!) and…
…the Grail glows and explodes into dust! Mother Superior is shocked, confessing that she “98% believed” Simone’s story but the strength of her faith “maybe wandered when [she] got to the sneaker commercial.” Which, y’know, fair!
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The Holy Grail may have been dealt with, but there are still a lot of loose ends for Mrs. Davis to tie up, starting with the truth about Monty. After telling Mother Superior to send the Grail ashes to Shroddinger so that he knows his vow has been fulfilled, Simone meets with dear ol’ mom once more. As promised she takes Celeste (Elizabeth Marvel) to the location where Monty has been hiding ever since he faked his own death. They’re back inside Celeste’s collection of Monty memorabilia, and standing before the piano where Celeste claimed she could “smell” Monty at his funeral, Simone reveals the truth. He did fake his death by acid, and it was his plan to pop out of that very piano and surprise everybody. However, perhaps due to a heart attack, Monty actually did die inside that piano, and his corpse tumbles out when Celeste pries the back open.
Simone confesses that she wasn’t actually Monty’s accomplice — Mrs. Davis was. She just told her mom what she needed to hear. The musical cue that Monty had set up for his grand reveal triggers, and a recording of his distorted, three-year-old voice asks “Who wants to see a resurrection.” Simone touches her cross, as the most famous resurrection of all time happened to be the person she loved, and the person she just lost.
Wiley, though, is getting a resurrection of sorts. His original hunch that Mrs. Davis wouldn’t actually kill him was correct, although the roller coaster ride damn-near convinced him. Danni explains that he got an expiration date stamped on him because he thought his life was worthless. Now, he believes he is worthy, and he’s going to go on and try to help people. Mrs. Davis has one request for him, but we don’t get to hear what she says.
Having exhumed Monty, Celeste and Simone are at the donut place, where they start to repair their relationship. And, Simone needs to have one final conversation with Mrs. Davis. It’s a very mother-centric conversation, which makes Simone’s choice to have Celeste proxy even more loaded.
Simone tells Mrs. Davis that she met her Mother, Joy. And, even though Mrs. Davis wants her mother’s approval, Joy does not approve. But, it’s hard to blame Mrs. Davis for that, as she did what she was created to do. She wanted to give people the world they wanted to see and convince them there was no war, hardship, or famine. She wanted to protect people from pain, but Simone explains that’s not what a mother’s purpose is — it’s to hold our hand when we feel pain, and to say sorry when she causes it.
At this, both Mrs. Davis and Celeste say sorry.
Simone has made a decision. Mrs. Davis didn’t kill Monty, but she did leave him in a piano to die. Mrs. Davis wasn’t “made to care,” Simone explains. She was “made to satisfy.” Mrs. Davis accepts Simone’s judgment, explaining that only her impassioned critic would have the strength to judge and doubt, which was exactly why Simone was meant for the role.
After getting a five-star satisfaction rating from Simone — a grade Mrs. Davis wonders is just Simone telling her what she wants to hear — the algorithm shuts down. Every single user gets a little message saying they were her favorite, and there’s some The Leftovers-esque pandemonium. But, it’s not all bad. We check in on a few characters from past episodes, including the Pope, the kindergarten teacher from the premiere, and Mother Superior, who appears to have graciously accepted Simone’s decisions to go through with shutting down Mrs. Davis. Joy and her family, who never used the algorithm, don’t notice. And JQ, having been betrayed by Wiley, gets a new spark of life when he goes all in during a game of poker, now that his competitors no longer have A.I. to help them.
It’s then that Wiley arrives, riding Simone’s very much not-exploded horse from the premiere. It’s the hero’s arrival Wiley’s always wanted, and Simone is thrilled to see her horse (and also Wiley, too). She gets on the horse and they prepare to ride off into the sunset. Celeste sees them off, calling her daughter Simone rather than Lizzie for the first time. It’s a happy ending.
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…Or is it? Before shutting herself off, Mrs. Davis noted a windmill nearby the donut place that had been broken since Simone was a kid. It was working again because Mrs. Davis had asked users to take shifts riding a stationary bike to power it. When she shut down, a confused cyclist staggered out of the base of the windmill. But, the last shot of the series shows the windmill start to turn again.
Did Mrs. Davis not actually turn herself off, and she directed the cyclist to return to his post? Or did he return to the bike of his own accord, either out of aimless inertia or a sense of purpose and appreciation for physical fitness? And, if he did come back, is that good or bad? The show doesn’t say, leaving us with questions. It’s fitting, as amidst all Mrs. Davis’ twists and turns, the show never took an overtly negative take on either technology or religion that one might have expected from a show with this premise. Critical at times, yes, but never dismissive. Both religion and tech have flaws. Both, as seen especially in the character of Mother Superior, can have good in them, too.
It’s a lot to think about in a wonderfully, beautifully stupid show.
All eight episodes of Mrs. Davis are now streaming on Peacock.