Wednesday, April 26, 2017

'Dimension 404' Episodes, Ranked

“I’m sorry, viewer.  The TV show you’re searching for cannot be streamed in your reality.  Please stand by for reconnection.  From the darkest depths of cyberspace, there is another world.  A lost dimension, home to wonders unseen, terrors unspeakable.  Stories unlike any ever told.  Until now.  Do not click back.  Do not reload.  We have reconnected to... Dimension 404.”

With such mesmeric, eerie intro from the legendary Mark Hamill, who serves as the shows’ narrator, you just immediately know that Dimension 404 is special.  Right off the bat, it’s pretty obvious that it’s trying to channel The Twilight Zone.  And I love The Twilight Zone.

Just like Black Mirror, Dimension 404 is a Twilight Zone-esque science fiction anthology series that presents thought-provoking cautionary tales about where modern society is currently at and where it might be going, especially in its relation to technology.  However, Dimension 404 is probably more “youth-oriented”; it’s more satirical in tone (almost more Goosebumps-y or Are You Afraid of the Dark?-y than Twilight Zone-y) and less complex in its plot.  As a result, the “simpler” delivery makes the intended moral much more apparent and easier to grasp.

Dimension 404 isn’t as smart, thrilling, and appealing as Black Mirror.  But I love it nonetheless.  We need all the modern Twilight Zone-inspired shows we can get.

Anyway, this is how I rank its six episodes (no announcement yet if there’s going to be a second season or if this was just a “one-shot”), from my least to most favorite, with some accompanying thoughts…

EPISODE 2: “CINETHRAX”
Synopsis: What should be a bonding moment for a die-hard cinema fan with his niece turns into a nightmare as the 3D movie they’re watching proves to be a gateway for tentacled, brain-sucking interdimensional invaders – and only he can see it!

This episode feels like a cross between the movies They Live and The Puppet Masters.  The narrative flow is a bit predictable, but still succeeds in bringing about its desired effect.  Patton Oswalt, a geek icon and a real-life movie junkie (he used to watch at least two films a day in a stretch of four years!), plays the snooty film purist uncle to delightful perfection.  Also, it has the darkest, Twilight Zone-esque ending among all episodes.

EPISODE 4: “POLYBIUS”
Synopsis: Set in the 1980’s, it’s about a young arcade game and wannabe game magazine writer who attempts to beat a new, enigmatic game called POLYBIUS, which he soon learns to be diabolical in origin.

Back in the 80’s – or even until now – there’s a radical belief among some fundamentalist Christians that video games are from the Devil.  It’s hilariously ridiculous.  But what this episode does is assume if that thesis is true, and then centers the story on an awkward teenager who has to hide his love for video games from his religious parents.  It’s kind of fresh and brilliant that way.  I also liked how the character’s video game-based philosophy in going through high school life is dramatically changed after his ordeal with POLYBIUS.

EPISODE 3: “CHRONOS”
Synopsis: In order to graduate, a physics student has to finish and submit a term paper due in a few hours.  But she’s distracted when she discovers her favorite cartoon show has been seemingly erased from the memories of everyone in the world, as if it didn’t exist in the first place.  With the clock ticking down to her paper’s deadline, she is further tempted into going on a nutty time travel adventure.

It’s a fantastic, relatable tale about nostalgia and time management, and has a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure vibes with a superhero edge going for it.   Also, it has my most favorite ending among the six episodes.

EPISODE 6: “IMPULSE”
Synopsis: An impulsive, up-and-coming gamer is determined to achieve her dream of becoming a professional.  In order to take the first step towards that, she must win the current tournament she’s in.  Willing to do whatever it takes, she turns to an energy drink that gives “bullet time” senses.  But there’s, of course, a risky side effect.

(SPOILERS in this paragraph) The side effect? Her life fast forwards in proportion to the volume she drinks.  Thus, when she used tons of it during the tournament, the next moment she finds herself in – to her shock – is in a post-apocalyptic future, already married and with children.  (SPOILERS end)

There’s a huge unexplored plot point here (i.e. what’s the deal with the energy drink’s seller?) that is kind of bothersome.  But other than that, this is an interesting, amusing story with a very important, resonating lesson to tell about the necessity of responsibilities and priorities and the hazards of self-centeredness and taking shortcuts in life.

EPISODE 1: “MATCHMAKER”
Synopsis: A music blogger believes that finding the girl of his dreams is impossible.  But when his best buddy signs him up on the online dating site Make-A-Match, he gets to meet a girl that has every single quality he wants in a girl down to a T.  Naturally, he falls madly in love with her.  But as their relationship progresses, he soon discovers that everything isn’t what it seems.

With this as the first episode, Dimension 404 is able to start off with a bang.  Right off the bat, it can be sensed that the eerie romantic comedy setup has a plot twist waiting to happen.  I was actually expecting it to go to a certain direction, but when it went opposite of that, I was blown away.  The plot twist is introduced early, but it’s executed in a competent Twilight Zone-y manner, and its impact still resonates till the end.

EPISODE 5: “BOB”
Synopsis: An Army psychologist’s holiday plans is interrupted when she’s conscripted by the NSA to treat Bob, the agency’s best analyst, who is critical to stopping an impending terrorist attack.  Oh, and by the way, Bob is a super computer.

This episode has a unique, mind-blowing concept design for a super computer.  It’s probably the first time I saw a super computer “interpreted” in such a way.  Beyond offering a fresh look on AI, it’s also the wittiest – if not also the funniest – as well as the most touching and heart-breaking Dimension 404 episode.  It’s a thoroughly gratifying watch.

No comments: