The new series from Prime Video The Periphery is really dark and mind-bending sci-fi – and it’s bending my mind a bit trying to figure out what to say about it. On the one hand, it’s a visually stunning, intelligently executed story that begins with an extraordinary pilot (premiering this Friday). On the other hand, the next two episodes I watched were a disappointment that became more and more meandering and confusing as time went on. So do I recommend it, hoping it finds a groove later, or do I warn you despite all the fun sci-fi flourishes?
We begin in 2032, in which Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Flynne, a small-town girl with an ailing mother who makes a quick buck with her military veteran brother Burton (midsummers Jack Reynor) as highly skilled virtual players in shoot ’em up war games. Burton then asks her to beta test a futuristic gaming headset with strange metal pins, and when Flynne puts it on, she’s suddenly riding a motorbike through futuristic London, piloting it with her mind as if in a dream. It’s an exhilarating experience, and the money is life-changing, but soon the game gets spooky – and then, a hundred years in the future, Flynne gets a call from a man warning her that what she’s “playing” isn’t just a game is .
The Periphery builds a mesmerizing world with shimmering visual effects and sophisticated high-tech gizmos in its premiere. The “game” Flynne is playing is just hilariously cool, complete with invisible cars and deadly stun guns. (During her first mission, she gets into a hand-to-hand combat with a robotic chauffeur.) Writer Scott B. Smith hasn’t had much of a hit since the 1998 film A simple planbut western world Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are on board as executive producers – although that might be more of a warning to disgruntled fans of this series than anything else – and it’s based on a novel by science fiction pioneer William Gibson and is therefore peppered with Food for thought Philosophical questions. (This is one of those shows that makes us think, “What’s even real, man?” at every turn.)
The cast also brings some much-needed humanity to all the futuristic action. Moretz always seemed wise beyond her years (I loved watching her trade barbs with Jack Donaghy 30 rocks), and she brings real courage and fire to Flynne’s quest. Reynor has the looks of Stephen Amell and a stretched Tim Riggins as Flynne’s protective brother Burton. western world‘s Louis Hertham makes a solid villain as sadistic crime boss Corbell Pickett – but the scripts let him twirl a bit too much mustache and rule Flynne’s dusty small town like the villain street house.
After the breakneck pace of the premiere, however, the whole story slows to a crawl in the next two episodes, trading all that action for ponderous and confusing conversation. (I caught myself writing in my notes, “Don’t get off track, please,” but it wasn’t listening.) During the premiere, I felt confident that I understood 80 percent of what was going on… but that number began to decline precipitously thereafter. The further Flynne delves into the mysteries behind the game, the less interesting it all becomes. Will we ever get the answers we’re looking for? If you know the history of science fiction television, probably not. The Periphery is definitely a cut above everyday sci-fi, with intriguing concepts and sharp effects; Like the title device, its potential is huge. But do we really want to play the game long enough to see if that potential is ever unlocked?
THE RESULT OF TVLINE: The Periphery is a little better than everyday sci-fi with cool futuristic effects, but it starts to meander for an outstanding pilot.
https://tvline.com/2022/10/20/the-peripheral-review-amazon-sci-fi-william-gibson/ The Peripheral Review: Amazon Sci-Fi Series, William Gibson