The Peripheral is an Amazon series based on the 2014 William Gibson science fiction book of the same name. This makes me happy as I really like his work! He’s one of the most innovative science fiction writers out there. I was a bit worried as his work is usually so deep that its adaptation to the big/small screen can be hit an miss. And I think that is, once again, the case here.
The Peripheral is made by Scott B. Smith, with Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and wife Lisa Joy serving as producers. And much like Westworld understanding exactly what is going on is not as simple as it could be. I say this as a seasoned science fiction reader and watcher, so I don’t think I’m that dumb… Well…
Set in 2032 we have our hero Flynne Fisher, played by Chloë Grace Moretz . She’s a kick ass VR gamer who uses her her brother’s avatar to make money. He’s good, but she’s better, and he gets her to stop in on certain missions. Burton Fisher (Jack Reynor) is sent a VR headset that sends its users to the future. To 2099 to be precise. And the future isn’t very nice. Because of course it isn’t, when is it ever!?
Stuff the future
Flynne is asked to do a mission for the future, one that requires her to steal some important data. This data is so important it leads to the main events of season one.
Having the future wage a war using the pawns of the past means there are lots of players. And you never really know who is who because those in the past are using peripherals. Or robot bodies that their minds operate. You also don’t really know who the hell is who in the future, as humans use Peripherals for a variety of reasons too. want to go visit an enemy? Peripheral! Want to kick the shit out of someone? Peripheral! So yeah, the series is called this for a reason. but it’s also called this because of the simultaneous timelines running alongside the main. But I won’t spoil that too much.
I want to point out some of my favourite characters though. JJ Feild as Lev Zubov is superb. He’s an oligarch-type character that is as charming as he is deadly. He sets most of what is happening in motion and has a final scene in the post credits which is very important for season 2 (if we get one). Don’t miss it.
T’Nia Miller as Cherise Nuland (kindda the baddie) is superb. She made me rage at the screen with her arrogance. Superb actor!
Alexandra Billings as as Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer is probably my favourite. She’s a detective who seems to hold almost absolute power in the future. She is a scene stealer who is hella interesting, and important, and I hope we get to see much more of her!
It looks great
The visual effects in the series, in particular with the Peripherals, are excellent. Not too over the top but futuristic enough to make you think wow. Flynne’s brother Burton also happens to be an ex-marine. His unit are all linked up with some sort of haptic connection so that when they are in battle, they can each see what the other sees. They also feel what each other feels, which is explored quite nicely with the character of Connor Penske (Eli Goree). He’s an amputee who escapes his mental and physical pain when he ‘links’ with a fellow soldier. This is a series with a great deal in and it’s easy to forget the cool stuff because there is so much. Too much perhaps.
The peripheral plots
That’s one of the biggest issues though with The Peripheral. It does so much that it loses cohesion. At times they talk about what their mission is, and I got lost. Purely because they’ve mentioned something in a throw away comment, and now it’s important. You need to do quite a bit of heavy lifting to keep up. This isn’t just a complaint from me, but from quite a few other critiques, and we can’t ALL be thick?
When it came to the ending I had to fill quite a lot in because the writers just didn’t seem to want to. There were a few episodes that were quite self contained that I wondered about. One features an admittedly interesting hitman sent to do a mission from the future. And although it is a visually pleasing and violent episode, I was left wondering why the time isn’t better spent elsewhere. I’d rather have learnt more about the vying fractions of the future than spent 40 minutes watching a hit go wrong. The time could have been better spent. It’s all about the time!
it’s about time
You see, the season is 8 episodes long. And my god, there is a lot to cover in that time. Not only do they have the main story, in different timelines, they have world building to do in both. We then need to develop characters so we care about them. Instead, a lot is covered quickly. One main event is explained through moving sculptures which did look cool, but as it was integral to the entire series and the world being developed, it felt almost comically short. And that is my issue with the entire season. It loses cohesion in many places because it’s broadly trying to cover so much.
I hope that a second season is greenlit because there was bugger all resolution at the end of season 1. One thing the series has done, is make me want to read the book. The ideas that are touched on are very cool.
I give The Peripheral a…