The third episode of The Peripheral, entitled Haptic Drift, teaches us quite a bit about the world in this story. Less action and more long and drawn out talks with the occasional gorgeous set piece, this is an episode that focuses in on the complexity of its players. Mostly, on how deep Corbell Pickett’s influence and ambitions are on the show.
Though he’s portrayed as a generically wealthy bad guy, one who isn’t afraid of going to toxically violent ends and to execute his enemies, the episode really sells us just how much control Pickett has. He’s someone does what suits his interests, with much of this episode focusing in on not just his backstory – including his nephew, Jasper, who is husband to Flynne’s best friend and secret sharing Billy Ann – but also, Pickett’s assassination orders against the Fishers and what the family must do in return.
As for the Fisher siblings, Flynne and Burton’s money from Wilf is used to buy them some protection. As Burton armed themselves to the teeth to stop anyone from harming them; all by using the 3D print factory, some friends, and a very cockamamie strategy. Even though it’s the smart move, it’s obvious to the audience that Flynne is not happy about it, acting rather upset that her brother keeps making their decisions without her (and justifiably so, as she’s the smarter of the two).
She travels to the future to keep her obligations to Wilf for both the money and cure for their money paid out to them though soon discovers that someone is trying to hire Pickett to kill her. Burton, of course quick to go on the offensive, finds then threatens Pickett to leave them alone. Even willing to bribe him using Wilf’s money. This just strikes the villain’s ire more as he’s used to owning the town. It’s a series of actions inevitably leading Pickett to ask for Jasper’s assistance in a complex story of secrets becoming layered in secrets.
For the B-Plot, figuring out Wilf’s relationship to Aelita is probably the biggest reveal in this episode. It provides a bit of context to the characters in the series and gives the audience a lot of gorgeous set pieces to look at. We also get more context to the usage of technology in this episode, with more peripheral robots being used to fill in voids left in people’s lives. Whatever happened… exterminated much of society. These machines, are in many ways, a form of keeping that semblance of other people alive.
This episode, particularly focuses in on the idea of ‘haptic drafts’. That a person coming together as one in a machine can get lost in the other person’s desires. It’s explored both in the narrative of this overall plot of the series along with almost intimately in this episode. We also get a nifty recollection regarding Burton’s time during the war. Though it all stresses upon the fact: that it’s never fully you…
Which I think is an important theme for this series.
Ultimately though, none of this so far does much in terms of drawing us in regarding the primary plot as its story still feels as convoluted as ever. I’m uncertain as to where the show is going and I think we’re all still too early to understand what’s happening on this ride. At the same time, this episode does a lot to up the family stakes. Especially, once Wilf’s mother enters the fray to leave a cryptic clue of where to investigate next.
On Wilf and Flynne quest to find Aelita not much gets accomplished. More dead ends get reached, as Flynne stands out to some of the future robot police, showcasing just how advanced the surveillance of behaviors has gone into the future. More importantly, that the relationship between Wilf and Flynne gets explored as chemistry ignites the air, and we discover just how these Peripherals, these Westworld-like cyborgs created for people to transfer conscience into, are sort of the key.
Still, the biggest question in this episode is regarding Aelita’s location. Which is not something Dr. Cherise is happy about. Confronted by the evil doctor, who’s quite literally the ‘queen bee’ in this episode, we see the rise of another complication due to her party’s conflicting interests leading to a tight showdown involving Flynne, Wilf, and a related player.
Overall, Haptic Drift leads us to more questions than answers though keeps continuing to showcase some great science fiction at the least. The episode is significantly slower than the first two upon debut, and the action, which was arguably the best thing about the series, was incredibly scaled down. Still, the slow pacing is worth it if you love how layered the story is showing itself to be.