Main cast: Juno Temple (Emily Zabriskie), Janelle Monáe (Alice), David Lyons (Conrad Morrison), Nick Eversman (Avishai Hahn), Jay Paulson (Reverend Perine), Maximiliano Hernández (Lewis), Rebecca Jordan (Susan), and Roberto Mantica (Garret)
Director: Peter Horton
If the previous episode is hard hitting, Autofac is a kick in the groin when it comes to delivering blows to the feels. While this one shares the same name as Philip K Dick’s story on the dangers of over-reliance on automation, Travis Beacham’s screenwriter veers off into its own territory in its third act, delivering something that is completely different from the story.
The world is broken after the war, and in one remnant colony, the folks try to eke out a life for their own. It’s not easy, because the nearby automated factory – or autofac – has survived the destruction and is in fact still in operation. The problem is that it keeps producing and delivering things that the people can’t use anymore – like sneakers – while consuming essential resources that these folks need to rebuild their lives. Zabriskie, Conrad, and Perine, three partners in crime, decide to lead the charge in reversing their town’s fate.
Their initial effort – to destroy the delivery drones that bring useless supplies from the autofac – leads to the arrival of the autofac rep, an android named Alice, just as expected. Alice refuses to agree to cease the autofac operations, however, forcing Zabriskie to knock Alice out and try to reprogram it. Once she succeeds, they will use Alice to let them into the autofac, where they’d blow that place up and free their people from the robots’ tyranny once and for all.
Well, all this sounds good on paper, but things never go as planned most of the time…
To be honest, I’m not sure that the script is that great. The performances by Juno Temple and Janelle Monáe lift the rather generic great human existentialism angst 101 script into something more sublime – their performances give their characters the humanity needed to resonate with me. It’s quite ironic, I know, considering that Alice isn’t human, but this is how the dice rolls here. The two actresses make their characters feel so real, so human, that the twist is a much welcome maelstrom of feels.
In the end, Autofac does something rare: it takes a premise that originated from a great source, to turn it into something completely different yet so well done in so many ways. This is a great episode, probably the best in the series to date. It lacks the hard-hitting social messages in Mr Dick’s story, but it transforms an admittedly clichéd existentialism-themed premise into a gut-wrenching tale.
Well, there is that really unnecessary final scene, that kills the build-up that leads to the scene right before that one, but I guess it’s okay, nothing is perfect.