The Peripheral Dresses Up Cyberpunk Ideas With a Dusty Rural Coat: Review

Westworld meets Ozark in this slick but convoluted adaptation of the William Gibson novel

The Peripheral Amazon Prime Video Chloe Grace Moretz

The Pitch: In an unnamed rural town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, about a decade into our future, live the Fisher siblings — ex-Marine Burton (Jack Reynor) and his tech-savvy sister, Flynne (Chloe Grace Moretz). Together, they work to scrape together enough money to care for their ailing mother through day jobs at 3D printing shops and playing violent VR video games (called “sims”) for cash.

But their lives get a bit more interesting when Burton is tapped one day to secretly beta test a new piece of VR tech, which seems to be just another game. When Flynne tests it for him, she finds herself in a cyborg version of Burton’s body (the titular “peripheral”), running security for a mysterious woman (Charlotte Riley) in a slick but post-apocalyptic London. A few fisticuffs and some exposition later, the Fisher clan find themselves at the center of a battle for control over the future, bringing down new dangers to their real lives in the past.

Ready Player Done: Based on the 2014 novel by cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, The Peripheral certainly plays on many ideas we associate with the genre. There’s the alchemy of the organic and synthetic, as human beings grow ever more integrated with technology; the ever-encroaching pull of capitalism into every aspect of human existence; the lizard-brain bursts of action with kung fu and bladed weapons.

They’re ideas that feel familiar, but mostly because Gibson popularized those ideas in the first place — and they’ve bled into everything from Blade Runner to The Matrix, all the way to shows like Westworld (whose developers, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, executive produced this series).

The Peripheral occasionally suffers from that sense of familiarity, since the ideas it’s exploring have already been cribbed from Gibson’s more seminal works for the more well-known examples stated above. But taken on its own terms, the show still feels slick, stylish, and thought-provoking, if occasionally hampered by its all-too-heady mix of concepts.

Grey Mirror: Plus, it’s all handsomely presented, Amazon adorning it with a lovely budget that makes room for some incredible feats of production design. Director Vincenzo Natali (Cube) has particular fun with his mysteries in the first two episodes of the series, from Flynne’s extended sojourn to Future London (and a suitably visceral bit of cybernetic eye-surgery) to a nighttime raid on Burton’s old crew from some mercs paid from future folks to take them out in the past.

The Peripheral Amazon Prime Video Chloe Grace Moretz
The Peripheral (Prime Video)

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