Mrs. Davis

Mrs. Davis May 19, 2023

Forgive me readers…it has been eleven days since my last blog post.

That Catholic allusion seemed like an appropriate way to start this post about the topic that drew me out of my sabbatical blog lull: the hilarious, profoundly moving, hard to categorize TV series Mrs. Davis. Like Everything Everywhere All At OnceMrs. Davis manages to be ludicrously silly, literally laugh out loud funny, and so emotional that I got choked up. This seems to be an emerging genre of its own, and I have no idea what to call it.

The brilliance of the show is that it brings together the timely sci-fi trope of a powerful artificial intelligence with sensitive (if often spoofy and satirical) treatment of religious themes, which are not just window dressing but woven into the fabric of the show. It will not be a major spoiler to tell you that the series features Jesus–and his boss as well. Nuns play a major role, as does the holy grail. The genius of the story is that it explores the parallels between an algorithmic effort to provide us with what we need, and what people seek from religion. The app sends people on quests in an effort to acquire wings that are visible when the person is viewed through the app. In other words, these might well be considered meaningless quests, and thus the question is raised about whether religion meets the same need, telling us we are part of something that provides meaning to our efforts, and in the absence of which they might be judged pointless.

Okay, so that’s not the genius part, in my opinion, although all of what I’ve described is great enough. But a television show like Mrs. Davis does exactly these things – it satisfies us, gets us invested in a quest that is patently silly, and rewards us by making us feel good at the end. And it genuinely does that. It addresses parenting, the meaning of life, the difference between happiness and customer satisfaction, and much else, with a tidy happy ending in the finale, yet apparently with room for a second season.

I won’t give any spoilers because the twists, turns, and revelations are precisely what make the show so entertaining. What I will say is that if you like any of the kinds of television shows and movies that you know I like from reading my blog, you will like this show. If you share my interest in religion, you’ll enjoy it even more. If you are a professor who teaches or writes about religion and popular culture, then you must watch it. The show has everything that people like us find interesting, not in the superficial way religious symbols are sometimes overlaid on a show for effect, but at a much deeper level. The show manages to be both pious and irreverent in roughly equal measures, which is quite an accomplishment.

The show is obviously extremely timely, given its focus on an algorithm that has in essence taken over the world. It hasn’t done that by enslaving us in the manner that dictators do, but by giving people what they want. That isn’t just satisfaction from meaningless quests and activities. Those do indeed satisfy some, but in the case of others, the app pushes people outside of their comfort zones to exercise, help others, give to their community, and make the world a better place. That makes the question with which the show begins and ends the most important one of all: is the world a better place with or without such an algorithm?

If you haven’t watched Mrs. Davis, please do. It is streaming on Peacock.

If you’ve watched the show, please comment and tell me what you think, flagging spoilers for the sake of those who haven’t seen it yet. Which moments made you laugh out loud? Which moments made you cry? How do you interpret the ending? Are you optimistic or worried about the prospect of a second season? Perhaps most importantly, do you think the world is a better place with or without Mrs. Davis (the app, not the TV show, since we know the answer to that question)? Why?

Finally, for those who have seen it, you will love this (spoiler-free) detail. On the Peacock website it has the main characters listed. Under Jay it says “Jay runs a falafel shop and is in a relationship with Simone.”

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