Science fiction has always existed to warn humans about the ramifications of their actions. But it seems like we are just getting a barrage of sci-fi shows while humanity and the planet continue to find new ways to destroy themselves. This year alone, we’ve come across “Exception,” “Glitch,” “Andor,” “Quantum Leap,” “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners,” “Pantheon,” “Resident Evil,” “Spriggan,” “Paper Girls,” “Night Sky,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” “Interstellar Ranger Commence,” “Halo,” “Shining Girls,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Severance,” “All of Us Are Dead,” “The Orbital Children,” and there are many more on the way. In addition to all this, we have “The Peripheral” – which comes from the minds behind “Westworld,” Jonathan Nolan, and Lisa Joy – which combines pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenarios with a pretty wild form of time travel. The first two episodes have debuted on Prime Video. So, let’s talk about it.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘The Peripheral’ Episode 1: Recap And Ending
The show opens in London, 2099, where an adult Wilf Netherton has a cryptic conversation with a young Aelita West about saving the world and keeping vows. Aelita concludes it by literally checking out of the body of that girl. Later on, we are going to learn that these are androids known as Peripherals which can be controlled by their user. We also see a diorama of a cottage, a trailer, a group of toy soldiers, and several pickup trucks. As the narrative shifts to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2032, it becomes clear that that’s a diorama of Flynne and Burton Fisher’s home. They live with their ailing mother, Ella Fisher, and while Flynne works at a 3D printing shop to pay the bills, Burton does the same by playing V.R. games. Before going to her workplace, Flynne not only accuses Burton of stealing their mother’s pills but also does a better job of playing the FPS multiplayer that Burton is apparently proficient at.
On the way to her job, she runs into police officer Tommy Constantine, who apparently has the hots for her. But, as revealed during her conversation with her best friend, Billy Ann, Flynne isn’t all that interested in him. They start talking about how Flynne is wasting away in this place, and she should play that game from earlier while pretending to be a guy to earn some extra cash so that she could get out of there. Billy Ann touches on an important problem that plagues the world of gaming to this day, and that is the lack of inclusivity. Don’t get me wrong, more and more women are getting into games and making good money off of them. However, the level of misogyny they face for turning their hobby into a full-time job just because men think video gaming is for men only is astounding. If you aren’t aware of Gamergate, look it up on Google and enlighten yourself.
Anyway, Flynne laments about how she has this one life and this one world, and she has to deal with it. That’s proven wrong when Burton receives an experimental V.R. headset from a Colombian company, and she gets to play in what she thinks is a “sim.” But in reality, she is inhabiting the body of a Peripheral that’s modeled after Burton and exists in the early 22nd century in London. She learns about that later. At the moment, she thinks she is playing a very realistic and immersive game where the game’s A.I. is directing her to seduce a character named Mariel, drug her while they are in the car, and take her to an undisclosed location. Flynne executes all these tasks properly and delivers Mariel to the adult Aelita West (the voice who has been guiding her all this while). When Flynne starts to inquire about the motive behind this whole mission, Aelita shuts the Peripheral down, and Flynne wakes up.
The trip to the future (which Flynne isn’t aware of yet) has some adverse effects on Flynne. So, she takes a trip to the bar and gets some fresh air. That’s where we find out that the town is run by Corbell Pickett and his minions (who are in charge of delivering medicines that aren’t readily available). Flynne picks up a fight with the three of them. But just when things are about to get violent, Connor (who is a triple amputee and a colleague of Burton’s from their Marine Corps days) drops in and threatens to kill all of them if they don’t give Flynne the medicine that she needs. Flynne returns home to see Burton coping with the aftereffects of the cybernetic implants in his body. The following day, she learns from her mother that Burton hasn’t been stealing the meds. In fact, he has been giving Ella her medicines as well as the ones he should be taking so that she can cope with her pain. This is essentially a commentary on both the financial crisis and the healthcare crisis we are currently facing in real life, which is something that’s only going to increase as we go forward if we don’t take important steps to correct it.
After apologizing to Burton for falsely accusing him of stealing meds, Flynne jumps back into his Peripheral and finds herself on an operating table where one of his eyes is being replaced with that of Mariel’s. Why? Because according to Aelita, her eye can give them access to an inverted pyramid with a green cone at the bottom, which is located in a secure facility, obviously. So, after getting there, Aelita forces Flynne to scan the eye that belongs to Burton’s Peripheral even though it hurts him a lot. Why? All I can say is that since time travel in “The Peripheral” is described as “data transfer,” with one’s consciousness from the past being transferred to an android in the future, I am assuming that Aelita is forcing Flynne to take some data back with her to the past. Again, why? Well, going by how they are attacked by a highly capable security guard named Daniel (David Hoffin), who wounds Burton’s Peripheral, Aelita can’t hide whatever information is in that green cone in the future. And since those in the future can’t access the past yet, it can serve as a better hiding spot. Or is it?
During the concluding moments of episode 1 of “The Peripheral,” we not only see Wilf (from the future) telling Flynne that she and her family are in great danger but also find out that someone from the future has hired a bunch of mercenaries to attack Flynne’s home. Luckily, on the night of the attack, Burton was having a little party with his marine friends. And when Flynne tells them all about the warning from the future and whatnot, they initially laugh it off because it sounds preposterous. However, just to be sure, when Reece fires up a drone to check their surroundings, he sees the truth: a group of armed mercenaries heading their way to kill them.
‘The Peripheral’ Episode 2: Recap
Episode 2 of “The Peripheral” opens with Cherise Nuland revealing that she’s the one who put a hit on Flynne on the Dark Web via Daniel. Then we see the consequences of that as a brutal firefight between Burton and his friends against the mercenaries who are out to get Flynne ensues. There are drones, and there’s some hacking involved. But here’s where we get to see the purpose of those cybernetics installed on each of the Marines. They not only allow Burton and his friends to connect with each other — thereby allowing them to see through each other’s perspective — but also access the camera in the drone, which gives them a literal bird’s-eye view of the field. However, all those skills and firepower still fall short as the mercenaries hack the Marines back. And just when their ammo is about to come to an end. Connor drops by to help them win the battle.
We see a flashback of a conversation between Wilf (whose original name is Wolf, which is short for Wolfgang) and Aelita, where they argue about the person who has hired him to track her down. She says that Wilf’s employer is either from the Research Institute (R.I.), the Klept (which is synonymous with theft), and the Met (the Metropolitan Police of Greater London). And the conversation concludes with Wilf asking Aelita to come in and meet his employer. In the present, we see this employer, Lev Zubov, telling Wilf about the attack on Flynne and her family and how he needs to talk to her Peripheral when she enters it. As expected, Flynne does go in and get the lowdown from Wilf as he explains the whole-time travel aspect of this exchange. Now, I am not a Quantum Physicist, but as far as I can understand, Flynne and Wilf’s timelines are actually separate. But in order to get to where Wilf’s timeline currently is, a version of the events that have happened in his timeline are about to happen in the year Flynne is in. However, since Wilf is sending back information to the past (Flynne’s timeline), it’s branching out (which is called a stub) and making its own future. So, after a point, Flynne’s future isn’t going to be Wilf’s present.
Yes, it’s confusing, and both Wilf and Flynne put it to the side because there are more pressing issues on their hands, i.e., the validity of Wilf’s claim that he is from the future and that all this “future London” thing isn’t just a simulation. So, in order to gain her confidence, Wilf tells Flynne about her mother’s ailments and even the day she’s going to die. He also says that they’ve come up with an experimental medicine, and they’ve sent the prescription for it to the 3D printing shop where Flynne works. That apparently doesn’t seem like a lot, but Flynne comes back to her present, gets the medicine, and injects it into her mother. Because the best-case scenario is that she’s going to get better, and the worst-case scenario is that she’s going to die (which is better than the situation she’s in). While Constantine discovers one of the invisible cars the mercenaries used, Flynne gets into a big argument with Burton after she lets him know about the medicine from the future.
Flynne hops back into her Peripheral and finds herself in Lev’s backyard with Wilf. After getting a brief introduction to Lev, Ash, and Ossian, she goes in to talk about what Lev wants from her. But before he can state his demands, Flynne says that her topmost priority is her family’s security. She essentially says that Aelita’s betrayal against the Research Institute doesn’t matter to her (which indicates that Aelita did accept Wilf’s request to come work for Lev) until she and her family are safe in her “stub.” She says that, despite the spotty information on Flynne’s timeline, R.I. needs to ensure that they remain alive in her timeline and keep a steady flow of the medicine that Ella needs. And only then is she going to give her any information on Aelita. Talking about Flynne’s timeline, Constantine comes very close to finding out about the firefight and the dead bodies that Burton and his Marine friends have piled up in their backyard. Thankfully, Burton sends him in the wrong direction, and he avoids a catastrophe.
‘The Peripheral’ Episode 2: Ending Explained: How Do Flynne And Burton Realize That Wilf Isn’t Duping Them?
During the concluding moments of the second episode of “The Peripheral,” Flynne tells Burton that Wilf and his folks are going to send them $250,000 for what she’s doing via a complicated lottery situation. And they’re going to keep an eye on the Fishers and notify Flynne if something seems off to them. Since Leon ends up being the one to win the lottery, and that too at Corbell Pickett’s bar (which seems to be the only bar in town), he sends the Fishers a round of beer and a note of congratulations. We know that that’s performative because when Pickett’s minions got out-bullied by Flynne and Connor, he beat one of them up for not upholding his good name. While Leon and Burton respond to this gesture with a fake display of respect, Flynne keeps looking at him without flinching and even spits in the beer he has sent. At Flynne’s request, Burton goes to Connor’s and asks him to join the defense camp they are setting up around the Fisher household in case of any other attacks. Talking about incoming attacks, Daniel pays Pickett a visit in his sim and gives him $2,500,000 to kill Flynne and Burton. Meanwhile, in the Fisher household, Ella shows signs of complete recovery, thereby indicating that the medicines from the future are legitimate.
“The Peripheral” is essentially a mixture of Western and Sci-Fi elements (much like “Westworld”). On one timeline, you have this rural, apparently quaint American town with large expanses of land, a tyrannical villain, a family that wants to live peacefully, and lots of stand-offs and gun fights. On the other timeline, you have a vacant London, which is filled with Gothic (probably Greek) sculptures that are larger than the largest skyscrapers, thereby hinting at the opulence due to the fall in population. And both of these timelines are out to get Flynne because – and this is a massive guess – Aelita did manage to download some vital information into Flynne’s headset via Burton’s peripheral. But all the parties are making the mistake of thinking that Aelita and/or Flynne are the assets, whereas that headset is the key to some earth-shattering revelation. What could that revelation be? Well, going by Ella’s recovery, I am assuming that this piece of data (that’s in the headset) can probably stop Flynne’s timeline from heading into the apocalypse, and Flynne can help them back by staving off something worse that’s about to happen in Wilf’s timeline. However, before all that occurs, they have to win each other’s trust, which is something humans can’t do when they are in the same timeline, and we are talking about interaction over time and space.