Expect mommy issues, hall passes and grief discussions aplenty in an episode that sets up the season one (series?) finale.
One of the joys of Mrs. Davis is its versatility to move between genres. We’ve had episodes that employ the conventions of religious epics, screwball comedies, spy movies, and now, with “Allison Treasures: A Southern California Story” we’ve got a proper heist story.
I’m a sucker for a “plan montage”, so there’s a delirious joy is seeing how Simone/Elizabeth (Betty Gilpin) and Wiley (Jake McDorman) plot to infiltrate her mother Celeste (Elizabeth Marvel)’s panic room to obtain a coveted magical object. It doesn’t hurt that their game plan is incredibly convoluted and over the top, or that Celeste is so clearly one step (or, as she later clarifies, “the whole staircase”) ahead of them the whole time.
So yes, there’s plenty of good fun to be had with putting the exes in tight confines to activate their sexual chemistry, or seeing Simone struggle with her mother’s ridiculously long passcode while the walls of the “Call it trash compactor because your mom stole it from Star Wars” hallway close in.
And don’t even get me started on JQ (Chris Diamantopoulos) repeatedly referring to Simone as “Nun!” or the flimsy “constipator” contraption that predictably fails. This show is such an absurd delight.
Of course, none of this would be memorable without the emotional resonance behind Simone and Wiley’s backstory and how it mirrors (and slightly deviates from) her parents’ failed marriage. Back in episode three, “A Baby with Wings, A Sad Boy with Wings and a Great Helmet”, we learned that Celeste believes her husband Montgomery (David Arquette) isn’t truly dead, which winds up playing a huge role here as we learn about the grotty details of the magician’s demise on live television.
Credit writers Noelle Viñas & Alberto Roldán for coming up with the amusing animated depiction of Montgomery’s horrific “accident.” In true Mrs. Davis fashion this involves an acid tank and a supposedly impenetrable suit called the Lazarus Shroud (the reaction of the crowd and the spill of bloody viscera were my favourite parts). Initially it seemed odd that we didn’t see the actual footage considering we saw Clara’s head explode in the last episode, but in hindsight, it’s likely because, at episode’s end, it’s revealed that Montgomery did actually fake his own death.
While I’m not sure that we needed the Mrs. Davis proxy to spell it out so directly, hearing that Celeste’s strategy for combatting her guilt over Simone’s childhood accident is to turn her daughter into an adversary who is seeking revenge makes a ton of sense. We also get confirmation that Mrs. Davis is savvy enough to manipulate people by telling them what they want to hear because that keeps them “more engaged.” Therein lies the true danger of the AI: everyone uses it to learn the truth (in this episode alone we hear how it ruined both magic, as well as professional poker), but what is the truth if Mrs. Davis lies or reveals selective truths that are relevant to her needs and desires?
The show’s ability to blend these kind of heady ideas with smaller, more character-driven storylines is a huge asset. While general audiences undoubtedly appreciate the show’s wacky shenanigans and the amusing dialogue/banter, Mrs. Davis is low-key telling a deeply relatable story about shitty parents, childhood trauma, and how it shapes the adults we grow up to be.
- Key questions after this episode: why did Montgomery fake his death? (Likely money). Where is he now? What did Mrs. Davis tell Simone? Will the Lazarus Shroud actually protect them when they track down the Grail Whale? And what does “10/42” – the error message we’ve heard repeatedly when proxying with Mrs. Davis – mean?
- I liked the lore (for lack of a better term) that great sex will bring devotees to Jay (Andy McQueen)’s diner, but he can only see or hear them if they address him by name. It’s significant that Simone elects to do so, almost as a form of confession.
- P.S. I wonder what real life Catholics will think of the suggestion that Jesus & God are cool with open relationships?
- While Simone and Wiley don’t go all the way, kudos to Mrs. Davis for continuing TV’s depiction of female sexual pleasure as the sex we do see is him going down on her.
- Naturally we can’t entirely forget the Sisters of the Coin, so the episode ends with a tease that Father Hans (Tom Wlaschiha) has reunited with Mathilda (Katja Herbers) to pursue Simone and Wiley using a tracking device in Wiley’s shoe.
- I’m glad that Celeste is continuing on the quest because the character is a great foil and Marvel is a joy to watch. Her simple “No” when Wiley asks for a cup of coffee is solid gold.
- So many great lines, as usual, but Gilpin’s exasperated delivery of “Damn you, constipator!” has got to take the cake, right?
- Finally, I hope we get to see The Kitty Cauldbums, the Scottish dance troupe advertised at Montgomery’s Memorial, in action before the season ends.
Mrs. Davis airs Thursdays on Peacock (in the US) and Crave (in Canada)