TL;DR – While it expertly builds tension and the world, it ends on a flat note of frustration
Disclosure – I paid for the Prime Video service that viewed this show.
End Credit Scene – The final episode, The Creation of a Thousand Forests, has an end credit scene.
Warning – Some scenes may cause distress.
The Peripheral Review –
It has been a while since I have sat down to a good sci-fi mystery. One that makes you scratch your head and wonder how all the different parts connect. I think the last one that truly captured me like this was Westworld. Which is good timing because you can see those influences in the show we are looking at today.
So to set the scene, we open in London in 2099 as Wolf (Gary Carr) sits on a park bench as holographic galleons recreate a battle on the pond in front of him. As he watches a young girl Aelita (Sophia Ally), approaches the bench without shoes. She wants to save a world, not the one they are in now, that is lost, but another world, one that can still be saved. In the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2032, Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) is helping her sick mother, Ella (Melinda Page Hamilton), when she notices that her medicine is being cut by her no-good brother Burton (Jack Reynor). Confronting him, she instead gets dragged into helping some guys beat a level in a WW2 VR Video Game, something she is very good at. At work, she is given a package for her brother, a new VR machine that she can beta test, and get money for her family. But the immersive VR set in a future London is more real than anyone expected. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Where The Peripheral gets full marks is in its worldbuilding. Because both significant timelines are in the future, it gives the show layers of time that it can use to manipulate and tell stories. For example, we can jump back to the Texan War of Independence, which is in the viewer’s future but the show’s past. It is the situation that makes First Contact work as well as it does, and it does help here. Each episode builds or subverts the worldbuilding that had gone before, creating a layered cake of intrigue. I liked how the show would build up this façade and then crumble it later, like a magic trick. It also helps that while set in the future, a lot of the world and technology are not too dissimilar for it to disassociate the watcher from the processing.
I liked how the time travel mechanics worked in the show. There is a ‘prime future’ that can not be changed in the past because whenever they make a change, it branches a new timeline out that they call a stub. The term ‘stub’ is very evocative of what they are used for, experimentation. Test out a new medical drug or political theory, whatever you want, and when you are done, just incite the jackpot and burn it to the ground without affecting the future you are in. But then they create the technology to get people from the past to meet them in the future. So, while the people in the future cannot affect the past (that would create a paradox), the people from the past can affect the future because that has not happened yet. It is a deft way of getting around paradoxes and a sad indictment that 100% that would be what corporations would do if they got access to time travel.
Another strength of the show is its fascinating and evocative cast. Chloë Grace Moretz and Jack Reynor make a great double act as siblings that are at once frustrated with each other but also need each other’s strengths. A lot of this show would not have worked without the foundation that Chloë Grace Moretz brought to the proceedings, as she is the epicentre of the narrative. As the season went on, these natural lulls started to appear, and whenever they appeared, the show knew to insert a new character to change the game again. The first example of this was Cherise Nuland, captured with all the pathos in the world by T’Nia Miller. She is the main antagonist in the show and knows how to make every scene count. Also, shout out to the costume designers who create wonders to look at each week. Then when you think the show has revealed everything, The Peripheral introduces Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer (Alexandra Billings). She instantly shifts the show’s mood as if a new centre of gravity just popped into the universe.
However, while I liked the worldbuilding and the cast, even the general flow of the narrative, as the ending credits rolled, I could not help but feel flat. There has been a trend recently when adapting books that you can’t use a movie or a single season of television to adequately cover the book’s scope, so you break it up. This can be a great strength. After all, you get to engross yourself in the world because you don’t have to cut all the parts of the story that give contest just to fit the narrative into the time frame. However, shows like The Expanse and Station Eleven have demonstrated that you can do it quite well in one season because you avoid one of the significant dangers of breaking a narrative up, which is getting the transition point wrong. Where do you cut the book up, you need to find the right spot, and on paper, Flynne creating her own stub is the right point. However, this cerebral conclusion does not translate to the visual medium. Supported by a range of story elements that felt significantly like ‘oh, we need to try things up because it was the final episode’ rather than coming to natural conclusions.
In the end, do we recommend The Peripheral’s first season? While I think they dropped the ball in the final episode, everything that led up to that was fascinating. I am not sure it ever did anything unique in the space, but it was a solid story and world that they came back to each week and if nothing else, I am still intrigued to see where they go from here.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen The Peripheral yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review House of the Dragon on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Peripheral
Directed by – Vincenzo Natali & Alrick Riley,
Written by – Scott B. Smith, Bronwyn Garrity, Jamie Chan & Greg Plageman
Created by – Scott B. Smith
Based On – The Peripheral by William Gibson
Production/Distribution Companies – Kilter Films, Amazon Studios, Warner Bros. Television & Prime Video
Starring – Chloë Grace Moretz, Gary Carr, Jack Reynor, JJ Field, T’Nia Miller, Louis Herthum, Katie Leung, Melinda Page Hamilton, Chris Coy, Alex Hernandez, Julian Moore-Cook, Adelind Horan, Austin Rising, Eli Goree, Alexandra Billings & Charlotte Riley with Anjli Mohindra, David Hoflin, Hannah Arterton, India Mullen, Miles Barrow, Gavin Dunn, Harrison Gilbertson, Claire Cooper, Duke Davis Roberts & Stephen Murphy and Sophia Ally, Cal Watson, Jared S. Bankens, Moe Bar-el, Chuku Modu, Amber Rose Revah, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Ned Dennehy, Daniel Cahill, Ben Dickey & Louis Bernard
Episodes Covered – Pilot, Empathy Bonus, Haptic Drift, Jackpot, What About Bob?, Fuck You and Eat Shit, The Doodad & The Creation of a Thousand Forests