Peter – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Simone – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Janice – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Fredwynn – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Clara – | Review Score – 4/5
Everyone – | Review Score – 3/5
Cave of Kelpius – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Lee – | Review Score – 3/5
The Creator – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Boy – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Dispatches From Elsewhere is the 2020 TV show equivalent of Marmite; you’ll either absolutely love it or hate it. Utilizing all the usual tricks of the mystery box trope, Dispatches From Elsewhere presents a surrealist rabbit hole for our main characters to dive down, disguised in the form of a Game which our four protagonists play.
Those expecting definitive answers or a more conventional conclusion will almost surely be left disappointed by this but the bold choices and unusual journey to reach that point should be enough to at least stick it out for a few episodes to see if this your jam.
At the heart of the story lies Peter. Our mundane average Joe finds himself mixed up in an unusual game fronted by the enigmatic leader of the Jejune Institute, Octavio. As Peter starts to dive into the heart of the game, he’s joined by fellow players Simone, Janice and Fredwynn who work together and form a dysfunctional team, setting out to uncover the truth around the game and find Clara, who seemingly holds the clue to all of this.
For the first 8 episodes, the game essentially unfolds one clue at a time with our characters uncovering the different layers of mystery and learning more about just what’s going on. With a bubbling conflict growing between the Jejune Institute and their arch-rivals, The Elsewhere Society, what follows across these episodes is a back-dropped struggle for dominance as our group continue to search for clues.
Along the way each of the four main characters grow, learning more about each other and discovering just how important friendship and comradeship actually is. This happens to be one of the more important themes of the whole show and if you’re someone who isn’t into deeper meanings and picking out all the intricate Easter eggs and clues dotted along the way then this probably isn’t the show for you.
For spoiler purposes I won’t divulge what happens in the final two episodes (and in particular the finale) here but suffice to say it’s likely to be a massively polarizing finish to this unusual series. Going back to that earlier Marmite analogy – this really will be something you love or hate. It’s certainly a ballsy way to end a TV show and unlike anything else likely to come from the small screen this year, at least in terms of conclusions.
Stylistically there’s a lot of interesting techniques used throughout the show, with the production team allowed free reign over the sets and the art department completely in their element. Animated cartoon cutaways, CGI signs distorting and changing, fourth-wall breaks and bizarre imagery are all here in abundance and this hedonistic trip into the creative unknown is partly why the show works as well as it does.
Dispatches From Elsewhere is a very personal show that feels designed and tailored for a very specific audience. Mystery box shows have been around since LOST and few have ever managed to reach that same level of intrigue. In some ways, Dispatches From Elsewhere feels like a show that’s self aware of this, instead using it as a narrative stepping stone to tell a bigger story that doesn’t always work as effectively as it could.
While the execution doesn’t quite land, oftentimes wobbling and stumbling when it matters most, the ride to those points is enjoyable enough to make it worth watching. Unfortunately that polarizing ending makes it a difficult show to recommend to everyone, especially if you’re not sold on the first few episodes. Still, if you’re in the mood for something a little bit weird and a little bit different, Dispatches From Elsewhere is a solid enough choice, flaws and all.
Verdict - 6.5/10