Title: The Peripheral ( Season 1 – Prime Video – 2022)
Creator: Scott Smith
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Gary Carr, Jack Reynor, Eli Goree, Charlotte Riley, JJ Feild, Adelind Horan, T’Nia Miller, Alex Hernandez, Lois Herthum
In the near future, gaming technology has become so advanced that players can put on virtual reality headsets to enter photo-realistic action games to blow each other up. But there is a deeper truth to this technology, and when a headset is found that transports the player to London some 70 years into the future, a conspiracy is slowly unmasked.
This is The Peripheral, a new series based on the 2014 novel by cyberpunk legend William Gibson. By all accounts, this should be science fiction gold. But based on the three episodes I had available for this review, it clearly isn’t.
Meet Flynne (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), who lives in the rural American South with her blind mother and ex-military brother. Running a small 3D printing show, Flynne is by no means rich, so she earns some much-needed extra cash playing Virtual Reality (VR) games for the rich players. But when her brother Burton (played by Jack Raynor) asks her to put on a new high-tech headset, she is transported to a future London with a skyline dominated by massive statues and mustache-twirling bad guys.
Flynne meets Wilf Netherton (played by Gary Carr), who is looking for his missing sister, and she soon realizes that this future version of London is real. She is, in fact, remotely controlling a human-looking android, using the headset to “quantum tunnel” her way into the future. Meanwhile, back in the past, hitmen using invisible cars are coming for her and her family.
You’d be right if you think this sounds a bit derivative of other science fiction stories. It’s like science fiction bingo! Cross off other (and better) science fiction films, series and novels that uses the exact same ideas to win. The Peripheral borrows heavily from classics such as The Matrix, Blade Runner, Ready Player One and many more, just with time travel added into the mix. The result is a series that feels very much like a derivative – a meager copy of better stories.
Of course, much could have been forgiven if the acting would hold up to any sort of scrutiny. But sadly, based on the three episodes I had access to for this review, there is little depth to be found in any of the characters, safe for perhaps Gary Carr’s mysterious Brit Wilf Netherton. The Periphery resorts to near-caricatures, the beforementioned mustache-twirling and a lot of f-bombs. It’s almost like the American characters in the present were written by someone in England who had been given instructions to use as many cliches as possible, and the Brits in the future were written by an American who has watched too many Bond-films. I’m almost tempted to write that the most interesting character is Flynne’s mistreated Roomba. Almost.
Created by Academy Award nominee Scott Smith and produced by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan of Westworld fame, The Peripheral should have everything going for it. So it is incredibly baffling to see the result. I can only hope that the three episodes I’ve watched this far didn’t do the rest of the series justice. I’m eager to find out, and I’ll be sure to watch the rest of the episodes once they are released to find out if there is more to this series and if I might rethink my critique.