The Peripheral on Amazon Prime TV.
Set in the future when technology has subtly altered society, a woman discovers a secret connection to an alternate reality as well as a dark future of her own.
First episode date: October 21, 2022
Science fiction, Drama, Thriller
The Peripheral is based on a novel by legendary science fiction author William Gibson. Widely considered the author who shaped the cyberpunk subgenre into what it is today, including the first use of the term “cyberspace,” Gibson has written numerous novels and short stories, including the classic Neuromancer.
The Peripheral is a near future science fiction story that follows Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman living in Apalachia who is struggling to take care of her ailing mother. Aside from her small town day job at a local electronics store, one way that Flynne earns enough cash for the insanely overpriced pills her mom needs is by helping her retired military brother Burton (Jack Reynor) fulfill “sim” contracts; Flynne is basically a prodigy at immersive videogames, is what that means. This eventually leads to her brother getting noticed by a company with shady connections. The company sends the Fisher family a state-of-the-art headset that immerses Flynne in a more realistic-feeling sim.
It soon becomes apparent that there’s much more to Flynne’s new sim than she first realizes. We won’t get into the details for the sake of spoilers, but suffice it to say that one of The Peripheral’s strengths is that it’s amazing at keeping the viewer guessing, constantly introducing new mysteries as it solves old ones. The show quickly moves beyond its initial Ready Player One-style concept into much higher stakes and more thought-provoking territory.
The result is thrilling as well as thought-provoking. And as many technological and reality-altering twists and turns the show throws at you, it never feels confusing or convoluted.
Part of the reason it all works so well is the one-two punch of sharp writing and impressive acting. The script and direction have an incredibly natural feel to them, and the characters come off like real people with complex relationships. Moretz, Reynor, and the rest of the cast all turn in excellent performances. Moretz in particular really shines.
Then there’s Wilf Netherton (Gary Carr), a man who claims to both need Flynne’s help and holds the key to solving her problems. Carr is riveting when he’s onscreen. And don’t get me started on Corbell Pickett, a local drug lord played by Westworld veteran Louis Herthum. Herthum had one of the breakout performances in Westworld season 1, so it’s a pleasure to see him back in another sci-fi series in a role that allows him to go all in on despicably charming villainy.
If there’s one thing that could hang viewers up a bit, it’s that The Peripheral is a methodically paced series. It doesn’t jump the gun for the sake of action, instead taking its time with lots of scenes devoted to character development. This is a strength, but I have heard others say that the slower pace makes the show harder to get into. The episodes are also surprisingly long; some running in at over 70+ minutes. I’ve enjoyed the longer run times, but it’s worth knowing going in that The Peripheral is a decent time commitment.
The Peripheral has striking visuals, fleshed out characters, great acting and razor sharp writing. We’re only three episodes into its eight-episode first season, but if it keeps up at this rate it’ll end up being one of the stronger science fiction shows of the year. I’m very much looking forward to watching more.
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