The hit TV series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has officially fallen from the top spot. In its place is Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral, a new sci-fi series led by Chloë Grace Moretz.
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There seem to be some mixed opinions flying around about the new Amazon Prime Video series The Peripheral and whether sci-fans should take the time and dive head first into this virtual reality adventure. We are here, and happy, to report that audiences should take the leap into the deep end with this virtual reality, come time travel, near-futuristic, science fiction adventure. If you don’t want to take my word for it, I’ve got some reviews and ratings that you should 100% take a look at, and see if the testimony of critics and other audience members will sway your opinion.
This article doesn’t contain any spoilers, and only discusses what can be ascertained from The Peripheral trailers and the Prime Video teaser, so don’t worry too much about that.
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What is Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral about?
“The Peripheral centres around Flynne Fisher, her Marine veteran brother Burton, and their dying mother. The family lives in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the year 2032. As their mother’s health deteriorates and the medical bills add up, Flynne and Burton make extra money playing simulations, also known as Sims. The two siblings share Burton’s avatar, “jockeying” for high-paying customers to beat challenging game levels.
When Burton is offered a chance to beta test a new Sim, it’s Flynne who ends up playing and pretending to be her brother. The Sim takes place in London and it tasks Flynne with breaking into a corporation known as the Research Institute to steal a valuable secret. When the assignment goes badly wrong, Flynne begins to realize that the Sim is more real than she ever could have imagined. The London she’s exploring exists in the future, year 2099. And what Flynne has uncovered in the Research Institute has put her and her family in grave peril.
There are people from the future who want to use Flynne for the information she’s stolen, and there are others who want her dead. Flynne meets Wilf in Future London, a man who may be the key to unlocking the mystery. But first, in her present, she and Burton, along with his former military unit, have to rally to save themselves from forces sent from the future who want to kill them, and reclaim the secret Flynne stole.”
Although nothing quite sums it up the way the synopsis for The Peripheral does, it seems like Chloe Grace Moretz’s character lives a relatively simple life working at a 3D printing shop in ‘tomorrow’s America’ in the near future. To make money on the side to try and help her ill mother, Flynne Fisher and her brother, Burton Fisher, play virtual reality simulation games for high-paying individuals who want to see them beat the high score. Suddenly, Burton gets a mysterious new piece of virtual reality technology which he is meant to beta test for them. Flynne, who takes turns playing with Burton’s avatar, thinks she is playing a simulation as a part of virtual reality video games where she has to follow a simple plan to pull off a heist, the young woman is somehow going through time travel to a futuristic London. Her reality is a lie as she has to come face to face with this new alternate reality.
“Set in a 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,” reads the IMDb series description of Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral. This short and sweet description sums up the darkness that is lurking underneath every moment of the series, as Flynne makes the mind-bending realization that she is technically travelling through time, when she plays the game, she carries her injuries into the real world with her, and the sickening realization that what she has done has effectively put her family in danger as people start to hunt her for her secrets.
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William Ford Gibson
Nicknamed one of the “godfathers” of the science fiction genre, William Gibson is an American Canadian ‘speculative fiction’ writer and essayist who is highly credited for pioneering the sci-fi subgenre of cyberpunk with some of his most well-known works, and even coined the term “cyberspace”, used to describe “widespread, interconnected digital technology” in his short story, Burning Chrome (1982). He loved to explore the effects that technology, cybernetics, and computer networks would have on humans over time, and often depicts dystopian, run-down worlds, where capitalism thrives and the rich get richer by trampling on the poor. A lot of his “cyberpunk” works involve the true depiction of lowlife and high tech, and what happens when the two come together.
Some of his other famous works include Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988), Pattern Recognition (2003), Spook Country (2007), and Zero History (2010). While games like Cyberpunk 2077 have accredited much of their inspiration to Neuromancer, one of his more recent releases, The Peripheral (2014) hasn’t been explored in the same fashion, until now.
Neuromancy and The Peripheral explore very different versions of future technology, with both having the elements of virtual reality in common while focusing on how technology will eventually change the world in different ways. While neither the previously mentioned game nor this series, have stayed completely true to the source material, it is amazing to see Gibson getting the recognition that he deserves for his ideas, as they have been misappropriated throughout the years, stolen and taken credit for by other creators.
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As any good series requires, The Peripheral boasts a star-studded cast that brings the series to life. Some of the actors are well-known, and some are breakout stars, but all of them are shining brightly in this new science fiction masterpiece.
The series stars Adam Dunnells as Tut, Adelind Horan as Billy Ann Baker, Alex Hernandez as Tommy Constantine, Alexandra Billings, Amanda Drew as Mrs. West, Amber Rose Revah as Grace, Andy Mackenzie as CJ, Anil Mohindra as Beatrice, Austin Rising as Leon, Ben Dickey as Sheriff Jackman, Charlotte Riley as Aelita West, Chloë Grace Moretz as Flynne Fisher, Chris Coy as Jasper Baker, Christina Ellinas as Carmen, Chuku Modu as Carlos, Claire Cooper as Dominika, David Hoflin as Daniel, Duke Davis Roberts as Cash, Eli Goree as Conner Penske, Eric Tiede, Gary Carr as Wilf Netherton, Gary Oliver as Kyrill, Gavin Dunn as Edward, Grant Masters as Artyom, Hannah Arterton as Dee Dee, Hannah D. Scott as Abigail, Harrison Gilbert as Atticus, India Mullen as Mary Pickett, Jack Reynor as Burton Fisher, Jason Bankens as Buddy, JJ Feild as Lev Zubov, Julian Moore-Cook as Ossian, Katie Leung as Ash, Kyle Bolton as Carter, Lilian Wouters as Rose, Louis Herthum as Corbell Pickett, Melinda Page Hamilton as Ella Fisher, Miles Barrow as Macon, Moe Bar-El as Reece, Ned Dennehy as Bob, Poppy Corby-Tuech as Mariel Raphael, Rene Vravel as Duval, Stephen Murphy as Murph, Teal Wicks as Bridget, T’Nia Miller as Cherise Nuland, and Zeh Prado as Manuel.
It seems that Amazon has already filmed eight episodes of the first season of The Peripheral (according to IMDb where you can see which of the episodes each cast member has been a part of), and we are excitedly awaiting confirmation for a second season for the show, although we might have to see how the series fairs first before we are bound to be blessed with any more seasons.
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The show’s creators
The series originated as a visionary science fiction novel by William Gibson and has been turned into this mind-bending series by Scott Smith, who also executive produces the series.
For the two episodes of The Peripheral that have been released so far, we can see that Vincenzo Natali, also an executive producer, and Alrick Riley have directed the show, and it sports other executive producers like Athena Wickham, Greg Plageman, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and Steven Hoban. Now, you might recognise two of these names in particular as Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are famously known for their creative work on HBO’s Westworld, another mind-bending sci-fi that is famous for how it plays with futuristic concepts.
Showrunner and creator of the series, Scott B. Smith is an American author and screenwriter who is known for his novels, A Simple Plan and The Ruins which were both adapted into films based on his own screenplays. He has also written screenplays for films like Siberia and The Burnt Orange Heresy. Now, branching off into the world of serialized production as opposed to film, Smith seems to have needed no time to adapt as his series is taking off.
Executive producing the show, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are famously known for their contributions to the fantastic series Westworld. Also set in a bit of a futuristic world that plays with a different sense of virtual reality, Westworld is a sci-fi series that had captivated many sci-fans throughout its run. Working more with programmed reality than virtual reality games, Westworld taught its fans to question what was real and what wasn’t from the very beginning and sucked their audience in from the very first episode. It seems that Nolan and Joy have carried this into The Peripheral, as fans report being hooked from the start.
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Why sci-fans need to watch it
Before we drag personal opinion into the matter, let’s take a look at what critics and audiences are saying about the new hit sci-fi series. When looking for public opinion on some form of series or movie, one of the best places to look is, of course, Rotten Tomatoes. The Peripheral currently has received some mediocre and some raving reviews such as:
“Instantly captivating, utterly relatable, and unlike any other sci-fi on TV right now, The Peripheral is a cyberpunk show that basically reinvents the genre.” – review by Ryan Britt from Inverse.
“The concept of VR games [virtual reality video games] taking someone to another world isn’t new, but The Peripheral adds [a] layer of stakes and makes for a great entry in the sci-fi subgenre.” – review by Michael T Stack from TV Fanatic.
“The world-building in The Peripheral is brilliant. The show itself, which has been adapted by screenwriter Scott B. Smith and executive produced by Westworld‘s Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, is merely pretty good.” – review by Reuben Baron from Paste Magazine.
“The Peripheral does a good job of setting up two future worlds that are relatable to a wide audience, and Moretz is great as Flynne.” – review by Joel Keller from Decider.
“The story is interesting, the tech is cool and Chloe Moretz is stellar here. No, perhaps it’s not as much of an instant hook as Westworld was, but even with two episodes totalling over two hours, I enjoyed my time and will be tuning in Fridays for more.” – review by Paul Tassi from Forbes.
“A deftly constructed sci-fi series with an engaging mystery wrapped up in an intriguing bit of world(s)building spanning two disparate futures…” – review by James Dyer from Empire Magazine.
“Despite the changes made to the original [source material], the story remains, if not convoluted, at least one with an enormous number of interconnected and moving parts. And a comparable number of provocative thrills.” – review by John Anderson from Wall Street Journal.
One of the top reviews for the series on IMDb was posted on the 22nd of October, and found useful by many other IMDb users, and reads as follows:
“Didn’t take long to get interesting. In an era of new shows taking 3 or 4 episodes to get things going, I’m happy to report that this show gets going from the very first [episode]. What may have been another story with [a] well-worn VR sim premise turns out to be a lot more. This is not some moody, slow-burn suspense thriller – there’s plenty of action and fast-paced story development. And it’s a Nolan/Joy adaptation of a William Gibson story, so I’m sure it’s going to get intricately deep like the early seasons of Westworld. I did expect a bit more cyberpunk CGI for starters, but there’s still time to introduce them. The story begins in 2032, so there’s something to be said about not overdoing it. But you do get to see a glimpse of where the story is headed in the opening scene. Maybe there’s some significance to choosing what seems like a rural town in Kentucky or Appalachia, but I found the rural accents annoying and unnecessary. It works in Ozark, but I don’t see the point here. Aside from this nit, [the] acting is good, with [an] interesting cast of characters. I’m looking forward to more episodes. We need more good sci-fi!”
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According to critics who have given the Amazon Prime series a look over, it earned a 65% rating. Fans seem to be eating up The Peripheral with an 88% audience rating. Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the only trusted source when it comes to ratings and reviews, as the show has earned itself an 8.5/10 rating on IMDb, a score which seems to be rising, despite the show only having two episodes so far.
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The Peripheral is Sitting At Number One on Amazon Prime Video
Lord of The Rings: Rings of Power and House of the Dragon have been steadily competing against one another as the ‘it’ fantasy series at the moment, having premiered at similar times, and enjoying a similar genre of period fantasy. Shockingly, this dicing race to the top for the two series has come to an abrupt end.
The Peripheral only premiered on the 21st of October and has already broken multiple records across Prime Video, having done so just one day after its initial premiere. Despite only having two episodes available at the moment, and having to wait until the 28th of October for the next one, The Peripheral is currently sitting at number one on Amazon Prime Video. Yes, this does mean that the six-week reign of Lord of The Rings: Rings of Power has sadly come to an end, dethroned by the epic new sci-fi series based on William Gibson’s book. In fact, until this week, The Peripheral was even beating HBO’s House of the Dragon, which might come as a bit of a shock because the prequel series has most of the Game of Thrones audience bolstering their numbers with their unimaginably big army.
It isn’t often that a brand-new series jumps all the way to spot number one, beating some of the most-watched series on streaming platforms at the moment, but it might be that the near-futuristic nature of the sci-fi series is a little easier for fans to get on board with than the high-fantasy nature of Rings of Power and House of the Dragon.
The world loves to see what the future is going to look like, and for some artists and creators the future is bright, colourful and utopian. For others, the future is dark, critical, and dystopian. Either is possible depending on the choices that humanity makes, and Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral shows us a little bit of both, an action-packed dystopic storyline set in the utopia of Future London. If you aren’t already convinced, watch the official trailer and that might be the last straw that changes your mind. As for the rest of us, see you next Friday for the next episode!
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