Credit where due department: Even in a show as studiously zany as Mrs. Davis, I didn’t expect the main character to have a sexual relationship with Jesus Christ Almighty.
That’s the big reveal that dominates the back half of the Peacock science fantasy-comedy’s four-episode drop today. At least, it was a big reveal to me. Maybe you already sussed out that when Simone replied to her boyfriend “Jay”’s marriage proposal with “Yes, Jesus,” she was neither swearing for emphasis nor leaving herself wiggle room to abandon the marriage for the convent. Nope, she was literally saying yes to Jesus himself. It’s clever writing; I’ll give it that!
But actual emotional impact beats cleverness any day of the week, which is why I’m so glad writers Alberto Roldán and Damon Lindelof stuck the revelation into the story where they did.
We learn the truth during a fraught conversation between Simone/Lizzie and Wiley at a thing called Excalibattle — it’s basically a medieval-themed Hands on a Hard Body with a giant sword instead of a Nissan truck. It’s kind of a long story, but just before they’re slated to get married and move to Alaska together, giving away the fortune Wiley inherited from his grandfather to charity, Wiley learns from his central-casting childhood rodeo instructor that he never really “earned his boots”; his success in the sport as a kid was all engineered by his parents so that eventually he’d get injured badly enough to warrant inclusion on the transplant list for his bum liver. (He and Lizzie each have half of the same adult donor liver.)
Determined to prove his mettle, Wiley bribes his way into a rodeo to ride the most dangerous bull they’ve got. But at the last moment, his courage fails him, and he bails. When he looked into Lizzie’s eyes, he tells her at Excalibattle, he could see her love for him was gone in that instant.
Which it was, but not for the reason he thinks. In the course of desperately praying for Wiley not to get hurt, she gets whisked away to Jay’s felafel joint, which it turns out is some small slice of literal Heaven. (God the Father is the mysterious boss behind that locked door.) She falls in love — real love, romantic love, wanna-have-sex-with-you-and-watch-The-Golden-Girls-on-Hulu-with-you-afterward love — with Jesus/Jay at first sight. It wasn’t Wiley’s cowardice that killed her love for him, since she doesn’t believe it was cowardice that stopped him from riding that bull to begin with. Jesus answered her prayer and seduced her in one fell swoop.
There really are moments that can last a lifetime in a sense, instants where you can feel your world shift on its axis. Realizing you love someone is one; realizing you no longer love someone is another. Mrs. Davis smooshes these together, then uses supernatural means to prolong them, literally stretching out the time during which Lizzie/Simone makes the transition from Wiley to Jesus/Jay. It’s a deeply vulnerable moment for all involved, even Jesus, I think; in a show so relentlessly fixated on puncturing its own mystique, I’m grateful for this oasis of genuine wonder.
Bonus: This also gives Simone’s quest to find the Holy Grail and destroy Mrs. Davis, the imprimatur of God Himself, which is a whole lot more impressive than “my anti-magician secret society said so.”
As a final side note, and speaking as a very lapsed Catholic, I’m also grateful for how this enables the show to sidestep a nagging question: Why become a nun, of all things? Without getting into the weeds about it, the Catholic Church’s actions and beliefs are real things that have had real pernicious effects in the real world. Yes, it’s fun to watch a beautiful woman in a nun’s habit ride motorcycles and kick ass, but it’s less fun when you consider what the church she belongs to believes in and/or has covered up. Lindelof already played fast and loose with a problematic institution, policing in the United States, to the detriment of Watchmen; I’m happy to see him and his colleagues write their way out of doing something similar this time around by making Simone’s commitment romantic rather than ideological in nature.
If that’s the series’ high point so far, the episode that follows — “Beautiful Things That Come With Madness,” written primarily by internet humorist Jonny Sun — is pretty low. After getting struck by lightning at Excalibattle, presumably because Jesus doesn’t care for his girl’s ex, Wiley gets kidnapped by a rogue priest who’s also a master of disguise, played by Thomas Wlaschiha — a.k.a. Game of Thrones’s Jaqen H’ghar, a rogue priest who’s also a master of disguise. The priest is on the hunt for some mystery video that he believes either Wiley or the Pope (Roberto Mateos), whom he’s replaced with a doppelgänger, possess.
Meanwhile, Simone finds her way to the Vatican, too, despite herself. She’s been ordered to go there by Jay, to whom she swore to be a literal servant in her vows after all and deliver a king cake to the Pope. When she realizes that Jay is “married” to countless other women who’ve embarked on the same quest before her, she flips out. Not because she’s upset about getting cucked by the Lord, which she made her peace with long ago, even if she doesn’t particularly want to hear about it, nor because of the servitude thing, which she understood full well when she took those vows, but because being just one of many “errand girls” really pisses her off.
As for the tape at the heart of it all … man, I don’t know, it’s either very important or another MacGuffin, depicting the Templar execution and battle from the series premiere exactly as originally shown, until it morphs into a commercial for a British Knights sneaker. Mrs. Davis arranged for Wiley to wear a pair during Excalibattle, and Wiley’s comrade JQ accidentally stumbles into a subterranean cache of the things while attempting to rescue Wiley via one of those Silence of the Lambs “they’re not actually in the same place” mixups. Clara (Mathilde Ollivier), the warrior from the footage and the possessor of the Grail, then talks directly into the camera, threatening to expose the priest, while the weird-looking cat that was stuck on the desert island with that marooned guy from the premiere roams around in the background. Maximum zaniness, maximum clues, maximum twists, maximum reveals — I think you get the general idea by now.
What frustrates me most about Mrs. Davis, though, is how uncomfortable it is with its own maximalism. The dialogue, particularly from Wiley in episode four, uses the conceit that Mrs. Davis is creating clichéd scenarios to drive Simone’s quest for a stream of constant commentary, pointing out just how over-the-top, on-the-nose, and, well, clichéd everything that’s happening is. In much the same way, his rodeo instructor saying “My bad” like a Buffy refugee after dressing Wiley down saps the scene of any genuine drama or humor in favor of a sort of humor-like substance.
It makes me want to scream, frankly. Commit to the goddamned bit! Actually blow us away with how wild your ideas are, how quickly you’re launching them at us, how likely they are to conceal yet another wild idea within them. Don’t do crazy shit and then have a character snicker, “See how crazy that shit was? Just like something out of a bad TV show.” It’s your show, my dudes! You didn’t have to write it that way if you didn’t want to! But you did, and you’re stuck with it, and we’re stuck with it, and I’d rather see everyone just get onboard and take the ride than make metaphorical Jimfaces at the camera with every line. Lindelof has never hesitated to just go for it before on shows with a much more realistic base against which the crazy shit contrasted. What’s his excuse here?