Dimension 404 feels like The Twilight Zone for Disney Channel
“Dimension 404” is a new Hulu show produced by Rocketjump. A sci-fi anthology, it follows in the steps of Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone. It takes a lighter, comedic approach to different social topics, carving out it’s own piece of this ecosystem.
All three episodes are self-contained stories. The introduction for all the episodes, narrated by Mark Hamill, has this song that reminds me of “Men In Black.” Similar to MIB, “Dimension 404” toes the line between sci-fi and comedy. It’s a promising start, although it falls short in some categories.
Episode 1, “MatchMaker,” follows a man, Adam, as he attempts to navigate the modern dating world. He meets Amanda via a dating app. She is such a good match, she even has a tattoo Adam told his roommate his perfect girl should have. The cracks in his world begin to appear when he confesses his love. From here, we enter spoiler territory.
I thought it took a while to reach this twist, which really is the crux of the episode. I felt they tried really hard to emphasize the comedic back and forth between Adam and his roommate, at the expense of the plot. At this point “New Girl” came to mind. Unlike “New Girl,” which is all about relationships, “MatchMaker” has to add the sci-fi element. The ideas of identity, independence and social worth are all interesting. The blanc approach, with high key lighting and comedic performances, maybe undercuts the gravitas of these ideas but don’t ultimately undermine them. I think the episode would have benefited from being shorter, as it had trouble keeping my attention in the beginning.
Episode 2, “Cinethrax,” has my favorite performance. Patton Oswalt carries the story in this one, as Uncle Dusty. A middle aged nerd, Dusty brings his niece Chloe, played by Sarah Hyland, to the movie theater. They have great on-screen chemistry. There is a similar scene to that of Adam and his roommate, where Dusty and Chloe sit in a car making cracks at each other. It plays much better. It’s hard to tell what order the episodes were written and shot, but it did feel like the writers were taking lessons from each episode. This lesson was adding some useful exposition into the banter.
When they get to the theater, Chloe forces Dusty to go to the new Cinethrax experience, a step above 3D. Dusty, a film traditionalist, brings his own glasses, that make 3D into 2D. His glasses turn out to do more than that, revealing a sinister element to this new film format. While I really like the performance by the two leads, the big bad in the episode is poorly designed. Overall, it felt like a Disney Channel movie, which is fine. It was at this episode I thought maybe the target demographic was the same as Disney.
I couldn’t fully appreciate the message at the end of “Cinethrax.” It felt like a confused message and makes the episode sort of fizzle out.
Episode 3, “Chronos,” only seemed to confirm my Disney Channel theory, at first. In “Chronos,” Sue is a television obsessed college student with a bunch of potential if she could only stop watching ‘Time Ryder’ (a fictional show not to be confused with the 1982 “Timerider”). The meta aspect actually works well, as the titular character in ‘Time Ryder’ turns out to be very real. The plot is fun, the first I thought that carried for the entire 44 minutes. Also the concept of time travel in this episode is really well fleshed out. It does end on a button that feels incredibly after-school-special, and that would be okay, if there wasn’t a decent amount of cursing. Now, I personally don’t really care if a child hears words they probably already know, but it still sort of undermines my theory.
I think there is potential with “Dimension 404.” It’s still trying to find itself, but the improvement episode to episode is promising. It isn’t quite on the level of “Black Mirror” yet, whether you talk about production values or writing, but it is much easier to consume. We’ll see where the show goes, but for now I’m willing to give it a chance.