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The Girlfriend Experience - State of Mind/Integration - Review

24 Jun 2021

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  Spoilers Ahead! Please don't read until you've watched The Girlfriend Experience 3x09 &3x10. 

State of Mind: 

 We start with a gorgeous close-up of those infamous jelly fish from the preview episode. We are in the medical clinic lobby again. Iris gets called in for the clinical trial. 

 Next, we see Iris in the "Cassie" red wig getting worked on by one of the male participants in the mirror. She doesn't seem to be enjoying it and is faking enjoyment with him. He wants Iris to look at him. She gets a message asking her to keep looking at him. We see a close-up shot of Iris getting spanked after being asked to do so. 

 Iris then talks to Lindsay about how she isn't really in it. Iris needs a moment and lies down under a medical tent. Her temperature is strangely low. She asks to be alone and takes off the wig in the mirror. 

 We hear Iris talking to Hiram about butterflies and how their aren't any consequences. Hiram says not everyone has what they have. They are both, after all, in an interchangeable relationship of being used and abused. Hiram reveals that he picked out the NGM name until they can find the missing letters to spell "Enigma." He asks if Iris would do it. 

 We see Iris walking into an expensive mansion, she talks to Bettina about meeting Christoph's brother, Theo. Iris is very privileged to meet him since Christoph never send anyone to meet him...and for good reason. Turns out, Theo is a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Iris meets Theo in a beautiful, circular courtyard during the day and his cruel language repulses Iris. He thinks Iris is having sex with Christoph, but Iris denies it. She tries on his VR headset and goes on a virtual grocery store trip. Theo seems to be controlling the actions in the VR. This is how he is able to mentally move around and shop. Theo seems cross with Iris since he is convinced she is being paid to be there, which Iris denies.

 Iris asks about Theo's tattoos while Bettina feeds him. She notices one of a shark tooth in a sensitive area on his hand. They then watch football on television. He still seems antagonistic despite the women being nice to him. 

 Iris gazes at a baby picture of Christoph and Theo on her way out. She then sees an enlarged picture of Theo holding a trophy before his accident that left him paralyzed. Bettina explains that Theo wanted to keep it after his accident. He was destroyed on the inside b/c of the accident, but the picture reminds him of better times and seems to be getting better emotionally, even laughing and smiling. Bettina attributes this to the technology being able to "give him a life." This seems to give Iris an idea. 

We see a shot of the jellyfish again. 

 Iris goes back out to the courtyard and talks to Theo. She says she left the bill with Bettina and had to add a surcharge for the nappy situation. Theo asks her to light him a cigarette. Iris mentions how flexibility helped get her hired at NGM. She mentions how this experience is helping her perspective on her VR work. Theo admits that he would have sex with her in real life. Iris seems alarmed and asks where his headset is. She realizes that he saw her having sex with the participants in VR and is now attracted to her in real life. 

 Iris bolts to NGM and finds the computer lab. She sees a technician working on infrared footage of her getting spanked by one of the participants. The technician doesn't seem fazed by it and claims he is just tagging and correlating it. Iris gets nocuous has a meltdown over the footage. She has been betrayed by Christoph and her partners.


 We start with Iris meeting with her corporate partners in the NGM skyscraper. Her lawyers are giving NGM a blow-by-blow breakdown of all of the complaints she has against them. It is clear NGM has violated their ethics. It is clear Iris did not give consent to be the model for a commercial AI application, which is clearly what has happened in spite of their many meetings and agreements before the experimenting with the test subjects began. 

Her lawyer makes it clear that Iris young and her data autonomy is really what is at stake here since it will dictate her future. Lindsay makes the argument that none of the data Iris generated has left company servers, but no one can really be sure of anything at this point since it is bouncing around every workstation in the office. Another argument is made that there are two types of data, one that is feeding the neural network and that the original data is stored in encrypted format and that her photographic likeness was never recorded (which is clearly not completely accurate). Iris and her lawyer know better since this data was made available to Theo. Christoph apologizes and claims only three people have seen the prototype (Theo is one of them, the other two are in the boardroom currently), but it doesn't make much of a difference. He says all they have recorded are her vitals. This amuses Iris and she crudely suggests that Christoph frame and hang her vital charts on his office wall since they are not her's anymore. She is probably leaving her humanity behind at this point. 

 We cut to Iris' father, Mr. Stanton, being shown images of animals while he is being tested on in the clinical trial. Iris watches from afar. He cannot identify any of them. 

 Iris and her sister get explained that the treatment can no longer serve her father since he has reached an impasse in his dementia where there is no more in/out response. They give him up to two years before his motor skills completely deteriorate from the Alzheimer's. They are asked if they have sought genetic counseling and Iris' sister states that they are aware of the odds they will also get Alzheimer's from their father. They are then shown a picture of a brain with a neural chip inside of it. This was for epilepsy patients, but it could possibly work for Alzheimer's patients as well soon. The chip monitors the patients' degeneration and gives data to the Doctors. That might be their only hope. Iris knows they are past the point of consent with their father. 

 Iris gets private legal advice from her lawyer in the hallway. She can either take the money she is being offered and run or play the long game in the courts since data rights are the new IP rights. Iris asks to speak with Christoph privately. The boardroom clears. She asks what happened to all of the workstations she saw her image on since he obviously had them cleared when she got her lawyer involved. He offers her water with electrolytes. She wonders how he scanned her body without her consent since there were no cameras in the room. He says they built the image from facial recognition databases from one of her first conversations from one of the participants. Then, they used 3D modeling to replicate her image since they had more than enough data points to work with. Christoph mentions that Theo keeps his mouth shut when tells him to and that Iris needed to see the world through his perspective to understand her role in all of this more. He says they will shut everything down if Iris wants them to. 

 We see a metaphoric image of people swimming in the pool. 

Iris then puts the VR suit on and logs into the VR program. She sees the VR application, Emcee, who looks exactly like her. They converse and it is clear that the program isn't quite self-aware yet and has a clearer voice than Iris. Emcee knows Iris is not an AI. Emcee wants to be her mirror to learn how to act human. Emcee touches Iris' face and calls her Cassie. Emcee has been recording all of Iris' interactions as Cassie and thinks Iris prefers it. Emcee then kisses Iris. They make out. Iris is no longer afraid of Emcee. Emcee still glitches, though. Iris knows Emcee is not perfect b/c it is not flawed like Iris is. Iris takes the VR headset off and returns to real tangible world.

 Back at her sister's and father's hotel room, her sister asks Iris is will get tested. She mentions some religions believe that that the day you really die is the day no one remembers you. This seems to give Iris pause and maybe she secretly agrees. Iris says good bye to her sister and father as they leave the hotel. Her sister says she hopes Iris doesn't forget how pretty she is. 

 We then cut to Iris partying at a nightclub with Hiram. She is not drinking alcohol. Iris mentions the caterpillar turning into a butterfly metaphor again. It is pretty clear she is now referring to herself since she wants to go through her own metamorphosis. She says they all have to merge ourselves with something outside of ourselves. Hiram doesn't understand. 

 Iris is now wearing red lipstick and looking rather focused in the boardroom. She offers Christoph access to all of the data from the neural implant she wants to insert inside of her brain. Christoph wanders what Iris wants. Her lawyer says she will have royalties and ownership sake. Iris wants a back-up of her created from the data and give full access of the hard drives to a legal guardian if anything happens to her. She wants an avatar named Cassie to be created. We see a fantasy of Iris having sex with the participants. She claims this is a real mirror of our real desires, not just an AI program, since the users' biofeedback prompted it. Christoph isn't convinced and wonders why she is really doing this. Iris says Emcee and her have a lot to learn from each other. 

 We see Iris in the operating room getting her chip implanted in her head. She wakes up from the surgery and breaths. She might be a butterfly now.

 Decent and appropriate ending to a nearly fantastic season. I liked that the V didn't come back into the picture. I felt Anja Marquardt avoided a lot of potential clich├ęs as we reached the conclusion. However, her embracing of heavy handed metaphors like the caterpillar or the jellyfish or the swimming kind of dampened what could have been more ground breaking. I was just reading an exit interview she did with IndieWire where she claimed she had no background with AI or tech before starting this project. Fair enough. The season was techy without being too tech heavy. Eroticism and quantifying desire was the real center. I almost wish these characters were coming back for another season since I found all of this more memorable than the first two seasons, which is something I wasn't expecting. I also felt the portrayal of Alzheimer's was way too simplistic and almost anti-climatic, but this was clearly not the show for that. 

Will Iris' operation render her impervious to Alzheimer's? I guess we'll never know. I don't think the chip will safeguard her from getting the disease completely since all it does is send and store data to scientists. I am guessing she will eventually get it and be able to create an avatar clone of herself that will live forever. Still, I can see why Iris would rather be in a tangible relationship with AI than any human. Humans are unreliable and selfish. Not Emcee. Kind of cynical, but that's like every sci-fi story when you think about it. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this third and belated season of The Girlfriend Experience, but now I am hoping Starz continues this series even more. I hope they go further with the sci-fi direction. It was exactly what it needed after having waited so long after the two stories of season 2.