Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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Flynne’s brother is hired by a shady company out of Columbia to beta-test the most real sim videogame ever played. Flynne subs for him, and can hardly believe what she is playing. As her suspicion towards the simulation grows and she pushes to speak to their ostensibly Colombian employers, she learns that this is no mere simulation. This starts a process that will rock Flynne’s perception of the world she lives in to her core.

This review relates to season 1

While I enjoyed watching The Peripheral, this is another tough review to write because I felt there is a big quality difference between the different elements that came together to make the show.

As I wrote in my review of the Gibson novel that The Peripheral is based on, the novel’s universe is an interesting synthesis of several science fiction ideas, though the plot is perhaps a bit thin. In this case, I think it makes a lot of sense that show creator and writer Scott Smith took the novel’s storyline as inspiration rather than gospel.

Unfortunately, the additions and embellishments to Gibson’s story are hit and miss. Some additions add a lot to the story – particularly, the expansion of Flynne’s world and the attention given to Netherton’s childhood. But others appear to be included mostly to create opportunities for action scenes, or to fit into the pattern of the Game-of-Thronesifying of television: the need to have ‘complex’ politics, betrayals, subversions, alliances, etc. I think that element of the rewrite is overambitious, and I have trouble buying into the villain Smith introduced.

This paragraph might contain a couple of slight spoilers – but I think the biggest ‘miss’ in the television adaptation of The Peripheral is how the rewrite changes the ‘power dynamic’ between the ‘real world’ and the stub, and the perception of the stub of the main characters. In the book, the ‘future’ characters – including the ‘good guys’ – happily rewrite the entire history of the stub because of a criminal investigation in their own world. In the series however, the stub and characters in it are taken much more seriously, treated like ‘real people’ in a way that the book simply doesn’t. I think that is an element of social commentary that made the novel fascinating that simply got lost in translation.

But like I hinted at, while the story and sci fi are decent, this adaptation of The Peripheral is very much about the visuals and action sequences. The visuals are good – I love the merger of near future technologies with a very grounded background, and the production value is great. I don’t generally watch TV for the action sequences, but the fight scenes in The Peripheral really pop. I’m sure Chloe Moretz did a lot of training to get all the choreography down.

I think I am mostly a little disappointed because the novel has a lot of potential that didn’t make it onto the screen. Some of the adaptational choices show that Smith recognised that potential, but I feel like he unfortunately failed to tap into it. Overall, a relatively weak three star rating – I didn’t mind watching, but if you can stomach a bit of 18+ television, I would recommend something like Altered Carbon instead.

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