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REVIEW: Tom Hanks' Electric City

REVIEW: Tom Hanks' Electric City

By Beth Mishler

Hey, Masterminds! Have you ever liked a TV show or movie that you knew wasn’t particularly great, but because the highs were higher than the lows were low, and the quirks worked, so you liked it anyway? Well, Tom Hanks has a new noir-ish online series, Electric City, and it’s kinda like that. Hanks, who wrote and created the series, also voices the main character. So far, opinions have been varied, but we caught the first 20 episodes, and we found more to dig than bury. Here’s the scoop:

THE GIST:

In yet another take on dystopia, Electric City, is set in the remaining settlements after a series of human-caused catastrophies leaves the world without power or much else. Electric City is a place where electricity is strictly monitored by an organization called AMP, where those who commit crimes are relegated to generating electricity via exercise bike as punishment, and citizens are required to get “family extension licenses” in order to have children. Oh, and anyone caught trying to start up a wireless form of communication, or do anything off the grid gets killed by a sewing circle full of old ladies who work separate from AMP. For serious!

Cleveland Carr, (who looks like Sterling Archer’s cousin and is voice by Hanks) is a “grid operative” with an affinity for upside-down ceiling sit-ups and blonde news anchors. He’s also a hired hitman who takes his orders from Ruth, a member of the sewing circle. One concern we had was whether Forrest Gump could provide the voice of a cold-blooded animated killer. But for the most part, Hanks pulls it off—he’s more Road to Perdition than Woody from Toy Story here.

Throughout the 20 episodes, we follow Cleveland, the grannies, the rebels, and several other players in their quests to fight the power and to fight to keep power.

WHAT WORKED:

The grannies!

Essentially a sewing circle hardened and bonded by the loss of their babies due to lack of heat and other amenities after the apocalypse, these geriatric ladies are not to be crossed! In flashbacks, it’s revealed that several of them used to use knitting needles as deadly weapons, taking care of the electric offenders AMP has missed. Seeing older women kick so much ass was a cool change-up of the status quo.

The music was fun and catchy.

Each episode closed with snazzy or appropriate numbers, and the usage of music throughout was near-perfect. Ali Noori and Leo Z, who we could find very little info on, will likely be heard from again. These dudes know how to incorporate some sounds!

There are no clear cut ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’.

Whether it’s Hanks’ hitman, whose actions start to sit heavy on his conscience, or one of his victims, fellow grid operative Dick, who wants to leave the group because he’s expecting a child, the motivations of most characters are relatable, and we feel their conflict throughout. We don’t really love anybody, but no one is totally hateable, either.

NOT SO MUCH:

The Obvious Monster shows up a little too often.

For example, Carr’s boss, one of the sewing circle posse, is named Ruth Orwell, and the rules and regs of Electric City scream Big Brother all over the place, which was a little too on-the-nose. Inferences to Orwell were going to be made by the audience anyway—references to him were overkill. We’re also treated to the scene where Cleveland rigs a building to explode and walks away just as it does, it’s flaming contents tumbling behind him in the background. Haven’t seen that before, a million times!

The writing.

There aren’t many lines in Electric City we haven’t heard before. Whether it’s the series’ tagline “It’s best to ask no questions and be told no lies,” or the grizzled old hitman saying: “I’ve killed enough people,” the dialogue left some originality to be desired. Using the word ‘expletive’ as a curse word just felt like a rip-off of the way BSG used frak. If there are more episodes released, we hope they shoot for more originality in this department.

Too many characters, not enough time!

Each episode is approximately 4–6 minutes in length, and there are at least 20 characters! Perhaps one thing that kept Electric City from being great was that it had too many characters, and too little time to develop them. Again, this is something that can be fixed should the series continue.

You can view episodes of Electric City here.

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Tags: sci fi, tom hanks, dystopian fiction, videos, web series

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About the Author
Beth Mishler

Beth Mishler is a writer, producer, and pop culture connoisseur who has a weakness for the Whedonverse and all things sci-fi. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Beth currently lives in The Plains, Ohio, where she freelances, makes documentaries, and watches a kazillion hours of TV per week while anxiously awaiting the release of George R.R. Martin's next novel.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.