Picking up where we left off with Nathan (Robbie Amell) and his predicament, the fourth episode of Upload (Prime Video) titled “Download Doctor” darts right out of the gate with Neveah (Chloe Coleman) coming through in a pinch with a tampon to stanch the flow- a smart pump of the brakes so as not to redline it so soon with the nosebleed. We do get a fun glimpse into their vision of the future when Nora (Andy Allo) and Nathan hitch a drone to San Fran to visit the doctor fired from Oscar Mayar Intel for his botched public download. The dramatic setup in this cold open is great because Nora promises to keep mum about Nathan’s condition. A promise portrayed in media seldom ends well.
The B plot of this episode gives us the obligatory ‘office retreat’ with Lucy (Andrea Rosen) and Aleesha (Zainab Johnson). Yes, this is a series from the person who gave us what arguably is a rarified adaptation that surpasses its source material in his U.S. version of The Office, and this is a part of office culture, so don’t think when I say ‘obligatory’, I’m not necessarily being reductive. Keeping the tension between Aleesha and Nora bubbling is a steady move. Lack of transparency is frustrating for anybody, especially when it comes to a close relationship, so this was a good scenario to put in as we keep the group (mostly) separated to let them grow as individuals. Plus, actual retreats on their best day(s) are just a reason to get sloppy drunk and make an epic mistake, so leggo!
The cessation of veteran funding keeps the message flowing while putting Luke (Kevin Bigley) in an even tighter spot all in a matter of maybe a minute, ending on physical comedy. Moments like that, the ones that deliver so much in so little are what this series does very well, I’ll give them that, and with the chemical taste of “CyberDiscountDay” waning on my palette, I’m praying this uptick in good moments isn’t a fluke.
Since Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) is off for the day, she and Nathan 2.0 going on a bit of a field trip themselves, serving as a nice juxtaposition to the business retreat. Nathan’s explanation for a hack to get to the first-floor beta build gave me the fucking willies. Ironically, elevators have never represented anything good in a well-written beat. But a free bar with a drunk setting? What are we, effin’ teetotalers? Let’s go!
This causes Nathan to fall off the grid once again with Tinsley (Mackenzie Cardwell) subsequently replicating him yet again. It isn’t making any sense to me at the moment. I like her, but she seems to just exist as a foil, the entre for more wacky shit to happen, which is getting a little limp to me. Sure, she lusts after Nathan, but ostensibly so does everybody else in this series, so I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of growth in her. She is, after all, an actual living human being. Give her a bit more to work with.
Oppositely, Luke and Yang (Phoebe Miu) give me life. I wouldn’t mind the two as a romantic possibility, and keeping the 2 Gig Yang in a mid-question stasis opens the space for even more emotional throughlines that can both complicate and enrich the world of Lakeview even more (if executed just right). She does hook him up with a job, so he at the very least owes her an answer to the question she didn’t even have enough memory left to ask. I will say, this as a device is great, however, I believe they ought to be thought of as time outs in any sports game; limit yourself and use them wisely.
Nora and Nathan find their way into the home of Dr. Kappor (Ravi Kapoor). I’m not sure if this was by design, but this scene nicely shifts emotional dynamics through dialogue between Nora and Nathan by misdirection. We’re used to caring about the bigger picture (Dr. Kapoor), so we may have missed what happens in a matter of seconds; Nora breaks a promise to her love and Nathan’s been lying to his. The gravity of this cannot be ignored, and yet, all some may come away with is that Nathan scored some magical pills to stave off impending death. It all seems a bit fishy to me, but Dr. Kapoor isn’t the true star of this scene, a shift in demeanor is. Also, was the pizza order joke something more than a simple joke, since the person on the other end of the line was listening?
Founders Grove, the largely geriatric and Caucasian boy’s club, looks like any luxurious retreat with a bit of an Eyes Wide Shut feel. Miro Mansour (Bassem Youssef) does acknowledge and welcome the new presence of women and the gender diverse. At least it’s a progressive evil society. So long as you’re good at what you do, what you identify as should have no bearing, so for the moment, I’m not rolling my eyes. Aleesha finds a kindred soul in Karina (Jeanine Mason) when they share a cute moment in understanding that Lucy’s gone to the sky with diamonds. When your time is limited at a retreat, the seemingly innocuous becomes heightened. Every second should have a purpose and Aleesha is fully aware when she’s summarily put on the spot by Miro to pitch an idea. I love a good underdog story, so let’s keep Aleesha on the incline and not do what we’re doing to my girl Ingrid’s redemptive angle, alright?
David Choak (William B. Davis) and Oliver Kannerman (Barclay Hope). Choak growing increasingly angrier seems like the real ‘Ticking Clock’ because I’m sure there’s nothing more annoying than ageism when you’re that age… so when the ‘Ghoul Busters’ joke came into play, an immediate belly laugh wasn’t unearned.
At Founders Grove cocktail hour, Karina gets a chance to formally introduce herself. Aleesha needs saving so Karina offers herself as the one being saved, a move which couldn’t be smoother if it was made out of silk. Aleesha is aware of this woman’s status and from the get-go, we know that Karina’s a go-getter who seems to value Aleesha’s mind among other attributes.
I would be very remiss in saying, from the Burton-esque elevator ride to the Kubrick-ian First Floor, complete with jump scares complements of the very first A.I. Guy (Owen Daniels) to the Brutalist architecture of the Grey Area’s Sex & Cheese Shop, the production design truly spice up the side plots of this episode that could have been real throwaways. Thankfully, the writers kept a character like Luke, currently without any massively compelling story a good sense of purpose. We already know that I think there are a few more characters that could benefit from that magic. His new gig as a telemarketer isn’t fully Orwellian, which is good because you don’t want to pile on too much, especially since Guy With No Eyelids has that part covered in the creepy liminal space of the First Floor, which nicely takes its inspiration from the creep factor of ‘dead rooms’. Hell, even the sybaritic look of Founders Grove was a very nice departure from anything we’ve seen before.
Nora and Nathan deciding to stay and deliver more drives is also a great departure from LA, NYC, and Lakeview. This episode marks enough of a clear shift, and with us being exactly halfway through the season, adding Nathan’s ex, Holden (Kristine Cofsky) not only stirs the pot but also enhances the spice, and having her non-profit now able to go after Freeyond in something landmark: a class action.
This is huge and would be a good beat to end the mid-season on… but just in case something that will set up the rest of the season isn’t ‘good enough’ for you, we end on a few scrumptious bits concerning Tinsley and Aleesha separately. Still, the biggest reveal is also the biggest letdown concerning Ivan (Josh Banday). I’m not going to spoil it, but all I’m going to say is, it doesn’t seem earned.
Overall, this was better than the last episode. It was slightly experimental, brought in new locations, dialed Ingrid back a bit, threw a wrench in Nathan and Nora’s relationship, and gave Aleesha and Luke something to talk about down the line. That would have been enough, but Ivan’s ‘heroic act’ is too little, too late for me. I do believe his character is the most underwritten from the standpoint of him being with us from day one but handing him redemption on a silver platter when all he’s been this entire time is a personification of all that’s wrong with the internet just didn’t feel rewarding. And don’t get me started on Tinsley’s fuck up at the end. She and Ivan, are both characters that exist as mere effigies.
Ivan’s joined the fucking circus as far as I’m concerned. Do you really want to give Tinsley character? You give her Nathan 3.0 and have her interact with it. You have her really care about something, if only for the episode, and then you wrest it from her when backup Nathan comes back into the fold the next episode. You give an underwritten character life-changing consequence, not just a threat of getting fired.
Despite not knowing exactly what was axed in the shooting script, the only thing I am assured of is that the end of this is choppy as fuck.