Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: Effect and Cause

Well, if nothing else, "Effect and Cause" passes the Bechdel Test. The main character, Kate, and her sister have a couple of conversations about the reality of what Kate is experiencing, and their personalities are well delineated: Kate is a carefree, creative artist while her sister is a career woman who wants Kate to grow up.

"Effect and Cause" starts off intriguingly with a neat idea, which it then promptly abandons before collapsing completely in a lot of noise but not much sense. That's the trouble with these reality-bending stories: the rules need to be clear; otherwise the audience will be confused and won't care because anything can happen and nothing really means anything. As Roger Ebert might have said, this episode plays tennis without a net.

Reality, as we define it, tells us that cause precedes effect, but as the title indicates, there's a reversal going on. Kate discovers this when she's at a home with a friend, and then some paramedics show up and ask where the woman who fell down the stairs is. The friend says there must be some mistake, but right at that moment, Kate falls down the stairs and has to go to the hospital. She spends the rest of the episode with a cast on her leg. Later, a grocery clerk shows up with a delivery, even though Kate didn't order anything, but as he reads the list, the items in her fridge vanish before her eyes, almost as if reality didn't want to make the clerk a liar.

Now, that's all interesting, seeing the results of an action before the action occurs. What could be causing that? Does it have something to do with the old pictures Kate has painted over so she can reuse the canvas? Unfortunately, the episode descends into confusion as events that don't really tie into that premise start happening and overwhelming the action until it's all noise and chaos. Items begin vanishing from the house, the telephone ends up in the fridge for some reason, the sink and stove go haywire, and then the house blows up. By that point, I stopped caring.

There's some gobbledygook about how reality is shaped by the thoughts we give to it; without that mental energy, small items vanish easily, and once Kate realizes this truth, her reality crumbles. I guess that's interesting, but it doesn't mesh with the inversion of cause and effect. In the end, this is a rehash of the previous season's Slippage.

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