The show’s first episode succeeds with offbeat storytelling and equally offbeat characters
By Jonathan Pabico, Contributor
The season premiere of Dispatches from Elsewhere—a show written by, directed by, and starring Jason Segel—is delightfully puzzling and highly relatable. The story of this show excels with its fantastical surrealism and charming oddities, yet it remains grounded through its contemporary settings.
Segel plays the main protagonist Peter: an everyday man and lonely introvert. The episode’s use of following camera shots and obstructed close-ups convey how trapped Peter feels in his bland life. An ethereal soundtrack, dry colours, and gloomy lighting also illustrate how emotionally disconnected he is from the world. Regardless of all these factors however, Segel has a mixed performance. He is very underwhelming in some scenes. Yet, he does bravely explore Peter’s growth through relationships with other characters.
Of the entire cast, Eve Lindley and Richard E. Grant are terrific standouts. Lindley plays her character Simone, a tough and confident trans youth, with an endearing attitude. She has perfect chemistry with Segel, and that creates a humanizing and heartwarming friendship between their characters.
Grant as Octavio—the omniscient narrator who orchestrates the story’s strange events—portrays his character with riveting charisma. His monologues have the perfect tone to evoke compelling philosophical themes about existence and truth that enrich the plot’s bizarre world.
Beyond the cast, the episode has social satire about how entrenched commercialism has become in our daily lives. This commentary is achieved by Peter’s unusual fascination with street advertisements that provoke his immersive fantasies. Subsequently, these sequences supply the story with enjoyably strange humour. The premiere also uses its characters to relay the idea that happiness can be found, even when leading unconventional lives with strange new experiences.
However, the episode’s beginning suffers from slow pacing. The story takes a long time to set up Peter’s life as bleak as possible before anything substantial happens. Consequently, the plot may not appeal to viewers that prefer a more fast-paced and straightforward narrative structure. Still, when Peter’s adventure begins, the story drastically improves through a more vibrant atmosphere and visual style.
Aside from slow pacing, supporting characters Janice (Sally Field) and Fredwynn (André Benjamin) have little involvement in the episode. Although their story arcs will undoubtedly develop as the series continues, their entrances into the plot feel last minute. The two have some decent screen time with Peter and Simone, yet the supporting characters ideally should have had more time. It’s the integral premiere, so the interconnection of all characters should be clear.
Overall, the season premiere of Jason Segel’s Dispatches from Elsewhere promises a series of provocative absurdities and exciting performances from a talented cast. Although this episode has drawbacks, the show offers a story eager to please viewers with its zany characters.