The Peripheral

‘The Peripheral,’ Amazon’s ‘Rings of Power’ Replacement, Is Worth Your Time

Rings of Power has ended, with a Sauron-laden note last week. Amazon is committed to the show for the long term, so it will return eventually, but in the meanwhile, they are seeking to fill the hole. If Rings of Power was Amazon’s attempt to imitate a highly popular fantasy series like Game of Thrones, The Peripheral is their attempt to replicate HBO’s Westworld to some extent, employing many of the same actors. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, who are the series’ producers.

Furthermore, The Peripheral is based on a novel by William H. Gibson, author of Neuromancer and a driving force behind the current “metaverse” obsession in technology. And, while The Peripheral appears to be working on hyper-realistic digital environments, that’s actually…not the case.

Flynne, a kid who lives with her mother and brother Burton, is played by Chloe Grace Moretz of Kick Ass and Let The Right One In fame (Jack Reynor). The two supplement their income by performing paid carry in VR video games, with Flynne being the better gamer but frequently compelled to use her brother’s avatar because others online don’t take her seriously as a girl. I suppose not much has changed by 2032.

While the vision of technological progress here by 2032 is…ambitious, totally realistic VR, and subdermal bionic implants, this is only half the tale. The “twist” will be revealed in episode two, which also airs today, and it’s kind of necessary to comprehend the breadth of the series and where things are headed.

There are spoilers ahead.

After being asked to test a new type of screenless, brain-controlled VR (like The Matrix) that transfers her to a bizarre, hyper-futuristic version of London, Flynne begins to wonder what kind of corporation she’s gotten into bed with, despite the fact that the money is fantastic. The surprise, as it turns out, is that this is not VR, but rather, 70 years in the future, technology has advanced to the point that human mind itself can time travel, conveyed as “data” via quantum tunnelling. So, when Flynne appears in the “game,” it’s actually London in the year 2100, and she’s “piloting” a hyper-realistic robot designed to look precisely like her.

Whatever Flynne is up to attracts the notice of dangerous people, resulting in assassins being hired back in her own timeline to kill her entire family. Fortunately, her brother and his pals are all military veterans, so a furious shootout erupts.

I’ve just seen the first two episodes, but the broader narrative of what’s going on here is as hazy as any Westworld season. There’s mention about broken timelines and saving the planet, but not much else is known.

So far, I’m enjoying the show quite a bit. It’s not doing well in the reviews, but the story is intriguing, the technology is impressive, and Chloe Moretz is fantastic here, and it’s lovely to see her onscreen again. No, it’s not as instantly engrossing as Westworld, but even with two episodes totaling over two hours, I loved my time and will be tuning in on Fridays for more. Amazon has a checkered past with science fiction, having saved The Expanse yet terminating it before it could conclude. It has made investments in extremely strange productions such as Outer Range and Night Sky. Here, it’s definitely aiming for Westworld, and while it may not quite make it, I’d say that it’s worth checking out compared to most other current Prime shows. We’ll see what happens.

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