Film and TV

When Mrs. Davis Earns its Jokes There's Nothing Funnier Than a Nun Fighting Artificial Intelligence

Betty Gilpin plays Simone the nun in Mrs. Davis.
Betty Gilpin plays Simone the nun in Mrs. Davis. Screenshot

Mrs. Davis is Preacock's new sci-fi dramedy from David Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers, Watchmen) and Tara Hernandez (Big Bang Theory), which pits a nun against an all-knowing artificial intelligence in a zany and reference-heavy adventure.

The series follows Simone, a nun who is given an epic and cliche quest to find The Holy Grail. Mrs. Davis has themes of religion and trauma, as well as being a commentary on A.I, the idea of the hero’s journey with a wealth of film and TV references—and with all that weaved throughout every episode, through its four-episode batch release, it's simply just a really good time with an incredible performance from its star.

We are introduced into the world of Mrs. Davis first through a true sword and sandal homage about the Knights Templar in the 14th century, who are in possession of The Holy Grail that features an incredibly violent and entertaining sword fight. We fast forward to the present day, where a scientist who has been stranded on a remote island for a decade is rescued and finds out an artificial intelligence has risen and rid the world of war and famine, giving every person on the planet purpose.

We then meet Simone, played by Betty Gilpin (Glow), in an incredibly weird sequence where she puts a stop to three magicians scamming a rich guy out of thousands of dollars on a highway near Reno, Nevada.

Simone is a nun who does her holy duties at her convent during the day while hunting down magicians on a white horse at night. Simone has a grudge against magicians, and with good reason, and refuses to communicate with the A.I., referred to as Mrs. Davis, that is trying to get in contact with her for some reason.

She gets her targets from a guy named interestingly named Jay, who runs a small restaurant and answers to an unseen and threatening boss. Simone's convent is sold after some intervention from Mrs. Davis, hoping to force Simone to talk, and she gets kidnapped by German mercenaries who threaten to blow up her horse if she doesn't give up what the A.I. wants from her. and is then rescued by her old friend Wiley who is the leader of a resistance group fighting a secret war with Mrs. Davis. Simone comes to the conclusion she has to finally confront Mrs. Davis, who pegs her as the chosen one and sends Simone off on a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Simone's motivations are fleshed out through the first four episodes, which all serve as an introduction to what the show is trying to do. Her parents were magicians, and she had a tumultuous childhood, hence her anti-magician crusade. She blames Mrs. Davis for the death of her father, hence her anti-A.I. stance. The bizarre and purposefully cliche story beats (cliches being something that are repeated several times throughout the show) are exciting and pretty fun, especially when it's leaning into its references like Spaghetti Westerns and obviously something like Kill Bill that also features a story about a woman on an increasingly weird, escalating and pulpy journey.

The adventure itself is the real promise of the show. The quest given to Simone is a cliche as it reminds us continuously, but it's the journey itself that will make it worthwhile, and so far, the journey is fun.

Lindelof has a certain vibe in his works that just leans into the weirdness of whatever he's trying to do, and Mrs. Davis is no exception. Unlike his other series that get caught up in high-minded shenanigans, Mrs. Davis feels like its more concerned with just delivering a good time rather than getting bogged down with philosophy that, more times than none, eventually turns into a high school-level discussion of whatever themes the show has been hammering home.

It does have religious themes and ideas about free will, but its themes are not necessarily the focal point, which is a good thing. The total commitment to the absurdity of a nun tracking down and foiling magicians in the desert is noted and appreciated and shows an absurdity of vision its creators Hernandez and Lindelof, are going all out for. The little breadcrumbs that get sprinkled throughout the first batch of episodes get very satisfying payoffs.

When the shows goes all in on a bit, it works and is hilarious, like with JQ (Chris Diamantopoulos), who is a parody of every over-serious macho action hero ever, is constantly shirtless for no reason and looks through high-tech binoculars while still wearing sunglasses. When it executes on a bit like that perfectly, there's not much out there that's better or funnier. The show is stylish, looks great, and is bolstered by its star Betty Gilpin, who is great as Simone and very capable of carrying the comedy and emotional and narrative stakes of the show.

The over-saturation of jokes and quips is very apparent. A lot of media, whether TV or film, suffer from this problem. It may be The Big Bang Theory connections half of its creator duo has, but the joke-after-joke nature of its dialogue can be hit or miss. There are moments similar to the memes about the Marvel Cinematic Universe where a big action set piece or intense moment takes place, and it's followed by a lame quip or a joke to ease the tension.

The show is good when its humor is spread out and actually earned within the narrative, but there are moments in which it will beat you over the head with this style of dialogue. It has the feeling of having too much going on rather than honing in on a few things and making what works phenomenally. It's good enough for you to want it to be great, and it might get there by season's end. Watch and see.

Mrs. Davis is streaming on Peacock.
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Contributor Jamil David is a native Houstonian and Texas Southern University alumnus. He is interested in TV, sports and pop culture. @JMLJMLD
Contact: Jamil David