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‘The Peripheral’ Review: Latest misguided attempt at a sci-fi franchise

The drama could be written by a bot fed enough mediocre sci-fi action scripts.

For the TV viewer burned by Westworld and burned out by Marvel, Star Wars and Epic Fantasy, Prime Video has an offer.

Unfortunately, The Peripheral, based on William Gibson’s 2014 novel, doesn’t quite compare to any of the tight, gripping genre series it seeks to emulate. It has time travel, gaming, and the allure of a post-apocalyptic setting, but manages to suck the thrill out of those promising elements and deliver something decidedly mundane.

Created by Scott Smith, who serves as head writer, the series is set in an approximation of our present, with slightly advanced technology that Flynne Fischer (Chloë Grace-Moretz) uses to cling to a virtual reality “game” procured by her brother Burton. simulation” (Jack Reynor). Shockingly, the simulation turns out to be the very real future, and suddenly the salvation of both realities falls on Flynne’s charming Southern shoulders. Westworld’s Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are executive producers, along with Smith, Athena Wickham, Steve Hoban, Vincenzo Natali and Greg Plageman.

The Peripheral has a lot of groundwork to do in its first few episodes, mostly failing in favor of predictable action (the superficial gunfight in Episode 2 amounts to nothing but noise) and a bloated roster of barely introduced characters. The plot may be straight forward but suffers from sloppy execution and a lack of meaningful relationships. Flynne focuses solely on her ailing mother (Melinda Page Hamilton), but she and we spend far more time in the deteriorating company of the Sims than at dear mama’s bedside. Like so many sci-fi heroes before her, Flynne emerges as the most important ordinary person alive, for reasons that The Peripheral doesn’t seek to explain or illustrate in any way, but rather the viewers and this manic pixie gamer girl ins You will be amazed by any assignments and stories.

It doesn’t help that the exhibition load is doubled by splitting the show between Flynne’s world and the dystopian future of 2099; two timelines in which to build environment, character, rules and risks. Flynne’s present is filled with two-dimensional supporting actors and cheesy, emotional beats, while the future boasts clunky performances or flowery substitutes. When your avatar asks someone, “What is this place?” The actual literal answer is, “Infinity in the palm of your hand. Eternity in an hour.” It could be written by a bot that’s fed enough sci-fi action and mediocre television drama scripts (Peripheral” itself is not defined until Episode 2).

Two persons are seated in ornate gold high-backed chairs in a glass room with French doors;  still from "The Periphery."

Gary Carr and Chloe Grace Moretz in The Peripheral

Sophie Mutevelian/Prime Video

Though in the hands of director Vincenzo Natali and cinematographers Stuart Howell and Roberto Schaefer, The Peripheral fails to rise above the rising bar for genre storytelling on television. It cannot compete with the popular fantasy of House of the Dragon, the masterful screenplay of Andor; It comes right on the heels of the subversive She-Hulk and Prime Video’s own rich mythical world in The Rings of Power. All of these shows also happen to build on well-known commodities and established cinematic universes, a luxury The Peripheral doesn’t have and could sorely use. Building a world from scratch requires…actually building a world, which the show doesn’t seem interested in doing, even with Gibson’s source material.

Moretz has the old college attempt to make Flynne anything remotely likeable or interesting, but she works with sparse material. The premiere episode misses an opportunity to propel her to the forefront of the storyline by making Burton the face of the game’s hero; Reynor does a pretty good job directing the sequence, but it ultimately fits into any Bond-like white man’s secret mission that turned into a car chase committed to filming. Gary Carr manages to inject future-London charisma into his character, although nothing is clear about his purpose and connection to Flynne after the first two episodes.

The Peripheral offers nothing new to its target demo for sci-fi, action and drama fans, but if more of the same is an itch to be scratched, it will satiate the adventurous viewer. It’s hard to find an audience in a television climate dominated by the aforementioned Goliaths, but it’s a rewarding challenge, or at least one that requires effort. “The Peripheral” is a lazy attempt to achieve what it sets out to do – that is, if it had a heroic quest from the start.

Grade: C-

The Peripheral Episodes 1 and 2 are now streaming on Prime Video, with new episodes added weekly.

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