As for the productions of the Nolan brothers, “The Peripheral”, “Tenet” and the fourth season of “Westworld” seem to be made for people who think that they were not complicated enough. Adapting William Gibson’s sci-fi novel, this Amazon series revisits themes like virtual reality and time travel, but in a way that should push it to the periphery of one’s “watchable” list, if not outright.
Supervised by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (the team behind “Westworld” and a frequent collaborator of Christopher Nolan, director of the aforementioned “Tenet”), the series takes place in two future time periods: 2032 in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is when and where Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) lives; and 2099 London, where his consciousness goes through a simulation that feels too fast.
Flynne and her brother Burton (Jack Reynor), an ex-Marine with a kick-ass attitude, help cover their ailing mother’s medical bills by playing simulations (or The Sims), but stumble into a dystopian future. Flynne’s alter ego who is tasked with dealing with a shadowy corporation known as the Research Institute.
Spanning both time periods, Flynne is at least partially filled in by her future incarnation’s manager, Wilf (Gary Carr); however, it initially omits key details, such as what happened at the Jackpot, the ironic moniker for the series of disasters that created a power struggle that has depopulated and pawned much of the world.
Because of Flynn’s role as threats from the future continue to invade his present, that’s as confusing as it sounds. But the real problem is that the scenes written by Scott B. Smith (who created the show while working with Nolan and Joy) are long and wordy, which may explain why the first three episodes are over an hour long.
While there’s plenty of violent action and cool futuristic weaponry, “The Peripheral” feels like a mish-mash of sci-fi ideas put to better use elsewhere, from “Avatar” to “Free Guy,” with plenty in between. For the most part, aside from the sometimes eye-catching set design, there’s nothing distinctive about the villains or the settings, which are more complicated than engaging. (Props, though, for using Clash’s “London Calling” in the closing credits of their debut.)
Amazon has made several big bets in its streaming efforts, striking gold with “The Boys” and most recently delivering a more mixed response to “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”
“The Peripheral” does not represent a bet of this magnitude, but considering the auspices and the genre, the series nevertheless seems a rather obvious failure. Granted, the criteria for success in streaming are often hard to read, but for a show that explores two separate futures, it doesn’t feel like much at all.
“The Peripheral” premieres October 21 on Amazon Prime. Warner Bros. Television has produced, like CNN, Warner Bros. A unit of Discovery.