It's Christmas in April.

With all of its emphasis on Christmas, "Bob" seems tonally off airing in April. Maybe Dimension 404 was intended to premiere in December but got held back.

Other than that, though, "Bob" is the best Dimension 404 episode so far. And probably one of the best Christmas-specific episodes I've seen in quite a while.

The plot is that Army captain and therapist Jane Lee (Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat) is whisked away to a black site a few days before Christmas. The government needs her to find out why their top analyst, Bob, is having what amounts to a mental breakdown and can't find a (homegrown, white, American) terrorist who has demonstrated that he's willing to blow things up on Christmas.

Jane meets with Director Stevens (Megan Mullally) and Chris (Malcolm Barrett, Better Off Ted and Timeless), and then Bob. And discovers that Bob (voice of Tom Noonan, Cain in RoboCop 2, the Pallid Man on 12 Monkeys, the main bad guy in one of my favorites episodes of Tales From the Darkside, and many more) is an enormous block of nutrient-fed meat with a human brain planted in the center. And one large blinking computer eye planted in its "face". Bob can't "see" the terrorist anymore, and considers humans the intellectual equivalent of earthworms. So he's not to thrilled with an "earthworm" psychoanalyzing him. Initially he uses some tactics to try and drive Jane off.

It doesn't work, and after one session, Jane gets results. She realizes that Bob's problem is that he cares too much. The government decides to turn Bob off, but Jane convinces Chris to turn Bob back on so that he can have his Christmas wish: that Santa is real for one night. Bob then takes control of... well, everything. He sends presents out via drones to everyone, pays off loans, and stabilizes the U.S. economy. It's a Cwhistmas Mwiracle! He's an American computer, so screw all those other countries I guess. Although there's a shot of a mother and son (?) getting tennis shoes and a soccer ball that could be from a foreign country.

Stevens is none too thrilled about the situation. But Bob also controls the nuclear arsenal, and negotiates Presidential pardons for Jane and Chris. There's a final Christmas party, and Stevens points out that Bob is still going to get shut down. Bob is satisfied with one night of Christmas cheer, and sends Jane home to be with her wife and daughter. The end.

Basically, "Bob" is the flipside of Person of Interest. It's hardly as involved as that show, but it explores in one 41-minute episode--in shorthand--many of the same issues of AIs, sentience, surveillance, and emotions. And tosses in the holiday spirit. Bob isn't technically a computer, but the combination of Noonan's voice and the one blinking "eye" make it human.

Malcolm Barrett is good in pretty much everything, although he doesn't really have much to do until the back half of the episode when Jane convinces him to help her turn Bob back on.

Mullally gets most of the humor, mostly from her deadpan portrayal of a government bureaucrat. She turns on a dime from deadpan to threatening to mildly bemused to just a hint of sympathy & regret at the end as she asks a jauntily Christmas-hatted Bob if it was worth it.

Wu is... okay.

"Bob" hits all the current notes of political correctness: Jane is a lesbian with a wife and daughter, the terrorist is a white guy, the government is for the most part a nasty piece of work .

There's a lot of Christmas music playing in the background.

You really can't go wrong with a Christmas inspirational episode. Toss in the fact that the mean ole government is going to shut down Bob, and there's probably not a dry nose in the house.

It also seemed to be the first episode since "Matchmaker" to fulfill the promoted promise of the show: to explore advances in technology, science fiction, and some comedy. "Cinethrax" had an alien invasion, "Chronos" was weird time-wimey stuff, and "Polybius" had 80s video games. None of which really tie into those themes. And like they've said, the twist is just the beginning. The creative team plays cute with what Bob exactly is. When that twist comes at the end of the act, then they move on to what the story is after we find out who Bob really is.

Overall, I'd say that "Bob" is the best of the bunch, and a decent 41 minutes to spend watching. And hey, I wouldn't mind seeing Bob and The Machine meet up sometime.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Comments (3)
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Jun 19, 2017
An I can't be the only one to image that it was Trump that Bill was negotiating with.

Jun 19, 2017
enjoyed this episode. An I thought it great that santa could be real for one night only! and those amazone drones with lasers! well that way to stop people from shooting them down.
Apr 22, 2017
I actually liked the first episode more, just cause it felt a bit more original, even though the ending fell apart.

But this was a close second. I still think this show doesn't know exactly what's it trying to be. Is it Black Mirror style show showing potential possibilities of future technology on humanity?

Or is trying to be semi random horror show?

It almost feels like there is nothing cohesive in the episodes.
That is something that shows like Black Mirror, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone actually did very well.
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