Main cast: Richard Madden (Agent Ross), Holliday Grainger (Honor), Noma Dumezweni (Senior Agent Okhile), Anneika Rose (Mary), Chris Mayo (Damien Gibbs), Tom Mothersdale (Rathbone), and Richard McCabe (Dr Thaddeus Cutter)
Director: Julian Jarrold
I wasn’t impressed with Richard Madden when he was clean shaven, but give him a stubble and I swear I spent the entirety of this episode gazing into those eyes.
The Hood Maker is the opening episode of Electric Dreams, an anthology series based on Philip K Dick’s stories. This one is loosely based on Mr Dick’s story of the same name, with enough changed to promote an eye-rolling “relevant in the horrible, horrible days of Orange Man Bad” message that ends up making zero sense at all.
Set in a dystopian future, we have a totalitarian government that employ telepathic people, or “Teeps”, to basically mind rape criminals as well as dissidents into submission. For the Teeps, who have colored facial markings here because people watching TV are too stupid to detect nuances and subtlety – this is not a good thing because they relive the often horrifying things they had gleaned in the minds of often very bad people for a long time. Also, they aren’t paid well or even respected, as they are confined to ghettos.
And then, trouble begins when a mysterious person called thee Hood Maker begins disseminating specially-made hoods that protect ordinary humans from being mind probed by people. And then, the Teeps decide to revolt… Thrust into this mess are Agent Ross and a Teep, Honor. To Honor, Ross is a pleasant surprise – unlike other humans, he is infallibly kind and respectful to her, and his mind is also peaceful and quiet, a novelty that she craves in a world where there is little filter against stray thoughts and worse. Is her trust in him well-placed, however, as her people and his begin to clash violently?
The good thing about this episode is the two lead actors. Mr Madden is so pretty, and he plays the woobie Agent Mulder to her more wary Agent Scully very well. The chemistry is sweet and natural, and I personally won’t mind if someone made a TV series about these two characters.
However, nothing in this re-imagined version of the original story makes sense. Why am I supposed to sympathize with the Teeps again, when they turn out to be a destructive, merciless faction as bad as they claim the oppressors to be? If the episode had let me make up my mind as to which side I would root for – or not – that will be fine, but no, Matthew Graham’s script imagines that the Teeps are the X-Men so I am supposed to blindly root for them. Sorry, what I see here puts me squarely on Team Hoodie – if I were a human in that time, give me a hood STAT.
In fact, the denouement, which is supposed to make me root for Honor, has me actively disliking her for the first time in the entire episode. There is a bigger picture here, a greater good or bad to think about, but she is all about “Oh! Me! It’s all about me!” in a most eye-rolling manner. Give me a break. In that moment, she reveals her cards: if you want her love and affection, you must let her mind-rape you so that there is nothing you can hide from her, even as she is perfectly fine with keeping secrets from you. With such an attitude, that creature can eff off. Seriously, give me a hood.
Also, the basic premise makes little sense. If the Teeps were so powerful in the first place, why aren’t they in charge? Now, you can argue that this same logic, or the lack of it, can apply to anything X-Men, but at least those stories make an effort to say that the mutants are outnumbered, or most are captured and taken into custody when they were kids. Here, though, it boggles the mind as to how the Teeps can read normal people’s mind and yet still live under their tyranny. Surely they can easily outwit the silly humans without breaking a sweat?
Anyway, I am giving this episode three oogies mostly because it’s still watchable despite being fundamentally flawed in so many ways, and the lead actor brings on so much pretty here. Let’s see how the rest of the series will play out.