The Peripheral review: Chloë Grace Moretz faces a strange future

A bleak, bleak future; the opportunity to escape it by immersing yourself in an exciting parallel world full of dangers and distractions; the emergence of real dangers from this game. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

After their disappointing fourth season of HBO’s Westworld, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy return as executive producers of Amazon’s The Peripheral. Created by Scott Smith, the drama tells the story of Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) living in near-future North Carolina bleached of hope and spirit. Flynne searches for medicine to help her ailing mother; On her quest, she helps her brother (Jack Reynor) by taking his place and testing a simulated virtual world that feels eerily real. She is in London in the year 2099, in a body she controls as a “peripheral” force, guided by a benevolent new friend (Gary Carr), and confronting a powerful malevolent force (a very powerful T’Nia Miller). Before long, Flynne is actually being threatened after being hit with a multi-million dollar hit in the real world.

The series, based on a novel by cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, offers competently directed action that clashes uncomfortably with deeply indulgent running times; No matter how good the chase scenes are, we need a break when individual episodes hit the hour mark. This insistence on keeping the audience hooked does not always offer insight; Despite the amount of time we spend with her, and despite Moretz’s best efforts, Flynne is little more than an archetype. Reynor, with an oversized Southern accent, fares little better, although both Carr and Miller, denizens of the virtual world, get more notes played – suggesting how much more interest this show has in its gameplay than in Flynne’s lived reality when not connected.

There seems to be a taste issue throughout here, a shame for a show that’s clearly the beneficiary of serious effort and money to impress us. It’s as if the way this series is meant to differentiate itself from other, similar stories is to go further, or the way to keep us from tuning out Flynne’s grim life is to add surreality to it strengthen. The violence is often grotesque when a mercenary sees an opponent’s arm blown off and then runs him over with a car; The victim cowers in fear and pleads, though unable to move. I’d hesitate to meet anyone who thinks this is effective storytelling, just as I think I’d be silly bored with anyone who finds Episode 6’s title “Fuck You and Eat Shit” more than teenage pretense.

The ambition here seems to be to rub humanity’s brutality in our faces. That’s one of the disappointments of Westworld, a one-of-a-kind exploration of the potential of artificial intelligence that has lost its soul and nerves over time. The moment I felt most connected to Flynne, a character whose traversal of two realities was hardly ever perceived as real to me, was a scene where she is given a prophecy in virtual reality about what will happen to her and humanity imminent. It is bad news of all kinds, so much so that the mind is confused; Like the rest of The Peripheral, it exists more as information than narrative. And it’s exemplified by a technically impressive shape-shifting orb that emits smoke that darkens everything. “Make it stop!” Flynne yells. I knew exactly how she felt.

The first two episodes of The Peripheral will premiere on Friday, October 21 on Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes coming weekly. The Peripheral review: Chloë Grace Moretz faces a strange future

Charles Jones

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