Command Z Episode 1 Recap: “The Room” with a Wormhole in a Dryer

Kerning's head appears on a screen in Command Z
Command Z/Screenshot

The following recap contains spoilers for Command Z Episode 1, “The Room” (written by Larry Doyle & Kurt Andersen and directed by Steven Soderbergh)

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Steven Soderbergh’s new sci-fi series, Command Z, seems to have come out of nowhere. The director attended a screening at the Metrograph in New York on Sunday night, where he apparently did not want to talk about the show, and it’s now available to view through his website,, released on July 17, 2023.

That date will be of some significance to the narrative of Command Z, which consists of a total of eight short episodes. The first, “The Room,” is right around eight minutes long, but I am nonetheless going to limit this recap to the exposition it gives us as it sets the stakes for what’s to come.

From behind: Samuel and Jamie sit in office chairs looking at a screen that features someone in a gas mask and a note in the corner that the NRA and police union have combined
Command Z/Screenshot

The opening moments of the series are incredibly efficient in introducing us to its world. Jamie (JJ Maley) and Samuel (Roy Wood Jr.) sit in front of a screen that shows a mix of news and ads (it being hard to distinguish, which I think is part of the point) for things like Coke with more sugar and a person running for office noting how surprisingly young they are. Emma (Chloe Radcliffe) soon joins them, taking off a hazmat suit as she enters the room complaining about chaotic traffic.

We don’t know exactly how far into the future Command Z purports to take us in this scene, but 2023 is characterized as being a long time ago. And in the margins of the conversation that takes up Episode 1, we get various little bits of information that paint a picture of the dystopia the world has become while providing some dark humor. For example, at some point all of the birds died except for the black ones. Oh, and don’t forget to note the hazmat suits, though they aren’t commented upon. They are just a banal thing in this future.

Jamie, Samuel and Emma sit in chairs in a bunker
Command Z/Screenshot

Kerning (Michael Cera) appears on the screen and asks for feedback from the trio on his intro sounds. Are they too vibey? But, he does not wait for actual feedback, instead jumping into an overly excited spiel about why these three are there. I think it would be a mistake to read this character as a stand-in for any particular tech billionaire we’re familiar with; he’s more of an apotheosis of the form.

And we should note that this is an AI version of Kerning that is speaking to Jamie, Emma, and Samuel, which doesn’t stop him from continuing to run the company and be their boss. The flesh and blood Kerning apparently blew himself up trying to go to Mars. Emma in particular doesn’t trust him, because he (the AI version) put the wrong chemicals in the water supply of places including her hometown, which he doesn’t deny. He also admits of his own accord that he (while alive) went to prison for insider trading because of his own tweets and accidentally killed a President, but that doesn’t keep him from being chipper. He insists that he’s super awesome now and you should not worry about it.

A stainless steel dryer sits on concrete
Command Z/Screenshot

The plan is for Jamie, Emma, and Samuel to use a wormhole inside of a dryer to psychically transport back to 2023, which Kerning describes as America’s last inflection point before the coming doom. But it’s worth noting that he also says they can’t go further back in time because the wormhole can only take them back as far as the point of its genesis, so we’d be right to be suspicious that there’s something he’s not telling us, as Emma is.

Kerning’s response to her cynicism is to point out that he will absolutely be telling everyone that they saved the world and taking the credit for it himself, but we still have to wonder about his interest in all of this. He’s definitely interested in the PR aspect, as he discourages the team from using words like ‘change’, ‘hack’, and ‘radical’, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if he has something up his virtual sleeve.

The process for time travel the team is to undertake is properly absurd. Besides pushing a button on a dryer, it involves ingesting a psychedelic substance and playing the music from movie Mahogany. I’m presuming Kerning means the 1975 film starring Diana Ross, though there is also a film called Mahogany that was released in 2022.

Equations on the screen in Command Z
Command Z/Screenshot

Pushed on the details of how the wormhole works by Jamie, Kerning offers a barrage of technobabble as complex equations appear on the screen. I would be curious to learn if any of this is coherent from a scientific point of view, and/or if there are hidden jokes in here.

As Episode 1 comes to a close, a title card suggests that for more information on time travel, one should watch The Terminator, Brother Future, and Run Lola Run. I have to admit that I have not seen one of those movies, so perhaps I should remedy that.

A title card reads "for more information on time travel, watch The Terminator, Brother Future, Run Lola Run"
Command Z/Screenshot

Overall, through Episode 1 Command Z is delightful. Soderbergh is grappling with important stakes, but the way the series strikes an outlandish tone while presenting a future that feels all too plausible may be its biggest selling point. There’s also a nice meta element in the series releasing on July 17, 2023 with this also being the date mentioned within it.

If you haven’t already, you can purchase Command Z for $7.99 at, according to which all proceeds will be donated to Children’s Aid and Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

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