'Twas the night before Christmas, and all across the nation / The NSA watched us from a secret location." DIMENSION 404's spooky twist on a classic Christmas song brings us directly into "BOB".
The penultimate episode of the season shows an army psychologist prevented from going home to her family by the NSA. They demand she help Bob, an NSA supercomputer suffering from depression.
Constance Wu plays Jane, forcibly transported from Afghanistan to an undisclosed location on the eve of her departure for two weeks of Christmas leave, and is the standout actor in the episode. Through her incredible acting, we feel the pain and heartbreak of a mother who cannot be there for her family over the festive period. Her broken promise isn't all that Jane suffers. Despite her efforts to help Bob, the intricacies of her own obsessive personality are revealed. Jane is a well-rounded, relatable but ultimately flawed person doing her best in a situation she cannot control.
Bob is a snide, invasive supercomputer. A giant human brain with a body of meat - who isn't receptive to Jane's psychological help, until he realises it is working to release the blocks on his memory.
The primary block depicted is Bob's search for a wannabe terrorist named Lucas T. Wade. Though the episode far more heavily focuses on the nature of humanity, and an all-seeing artificial intelligence when it is restrained compared to when it is set free.
"Bob" does ask some serious questions about the use of, secrecy surrounding and potential pros/cons relating to artificial intelligence as a system for collating data and acting upon it. In that way, it's comparable to the hit American TV show Person of Interest (which is my favourite TV show and one I recommend without reservation), and does good work condensing much of Person of Interest's excellent and thoughtful musing into one 40-minute episode.
"Bob" is much more of a light-hearted venture into such a contemporary topic, with some of its supporting characters presented more like caricatures (see Director Stevens).
The visuals in "Bob" are light and inviting (helped by large sets) and the serious tone of the story is inter-cut with some very effective humor. The biggest strength of this episode is its ability to use a machine to tell emotive stories - stories that sadden, stories that gladden and give every character their due.
As Christmas morning arrives, the story of Jane and Bob reaches its ending. To find out if it's a happy or sad one, go ahead and watch. Don't miss the moment in the episode when Bob's eye fades to an image of the world, symbolising the AI's unprecedented control and reach. That was just utterly chilling.
- Aired on Syfy, November 2 2017 at 21:00.