The latest series by Amazon Prime Video, The Peripheral is a sci-fi thriller meant as a reflection of our times. You’ve got the financial powerhouse of Amazon, who’d recently spent 1 billion on adapting The Rings of Power, the creators of Westworld in Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and most importantly, a story adapted from one of the more recent novels by William Gibson, who, for those that don’t recognize it, had written the science fiction novel Neuromancer… Which is often considered to be akin to The Godfather of cyber punk fiction.
Suffice to say, The Peripheral seems like its great hands. The pilot is endearing and visually breathtaking, absolutely well-executed in that it’s a balanced introduction of this world. The story kicks off with Flynn (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her ex-marine brother, Burton (Jack Reynor) in 2032. Who are two sibling adults struggling to make enough to support their dying mother.
In this present, though technology has progressed to include Roomba robots, drones, and perfectly balance Motorcycles in even in the most rural of areas, what’s truly big is this special VR gaming technology known as ‘Sim’. Which is more-or-less Ready Player One’s Oasis but with an even more complicated, slightly convoluted, history.
Achievement points and prestige are very much a thing in this reality, and so Burton’s avatar reputation, secretly piloted by Flynn and her skills, kind of kicks off the pro-gamer ready to become the fish out of water chosen one just like Neo from the Matrix. But when a mystery headset from Colombia arrives for Burton, without spoilers, Flynn’s usage leads to a brand new world in a futuristic London.
While the first episodes missions of The Peripheral feel very cyberpunk-like in that it’s often perform a task mission to get some money… not everything is as it seems. And something is deeply wrong in the ‘Sim’ world. Thus, Flynn takes the lead on a journey to discover the mystery of the device, its usage, and just who exactly it is that she’s apparently upset in the world.
As for the effects and cinematography, so much of what you see pays homage to old science fiction films and tropes such as the divorce of mind and body. New London is smog-filled yet sleek and techno-futuristic in terms of its worship, like something straight out of Bladerunner. Populating this dreamlike yet ethereal alternate world, are futuristic-looking sim people with state-of-the-art fashions, along with their sim cyborgs. Who really do elicit a Terminator/Matrix/Cyberpunk 2077 kind of vibe. I’ll also give kudos to the sendoff song in episode one.
The pacing in the pilot is solid and really does a good job layering the science fiction of the new world. The energy is also pretty high for an episode one, and the first two, are actually filled with a lot more gun fights than I was expecting. The tech in the modern world is also about where I’d imagine we’d be with wireless networking and camera technology, making the pilot feel as close to the near-future without losing itself too much in the VR.
I also really love the homage to marine skills revealed by episode 2, though complaints could be had regarding the long monologues about the ins-and-outs of the science behind what’s happening. Not that it’s difficult to follow for anyone familiar with science fiction, but rather, the timing is terrible given we’ve gone through so much multiverse products and timeline talks these past several years that I genuinely believe audiences are sick of it.
Finally, the acting in this is actually really well. The southern drawl and overall, sense the world is ending, are not easy to pull off especially given the geolocation shifts between the two places.
Some kudos of note.
I really like Charlotte Riley from Peaky Blinders who plays a memorable character on the screen when she’s around. There’s just something about her control of the moment that intrigues me.
Likewise, the star of the show, Chloe Grace Moretz is just spot-on perfect in terms of her emotional range in the series, though I still get weirded out that she’s an adult now. I will say, her southern accent comes and goes a bit, but is strangely, the most grounded performance on the show in that you feel for her character almost immediately.
Jack Reynor is pretty badass. His dialogue with Moretz feels pretty spot on with all of the cussin’ and swearing bouncing off each other, just like genuine siblings. Though the one most will probably talk about is the character of Conner, played by Eli Goree, who’s a badass, yet also, coming from a place you’d least expect which I am omitting for the sake of spoilers.
The Peripheral shows some really good promise if viewers can stick around to let it build-up week to week. It’s complex enough where it’s intriguing to figure without feeling drawn out, but also, grounded in that everything feels sort of artificial – which is surprisingly, a great thing.
Note: I’ll be reviewing the first six episodes of the series.