‘The Peripheral’ Pilot Review

Prime Video’s latest sci-fi-thriller The Peripheral derives directly from the 2014 book of the same name by William Gibson.

Set in a technology-altered future, siblings Flynne (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Burton Fisher (Jack Reynor) find a way to make extra cash through playing sims – highly advanced, hyper-realistic video games. But Flynne begins to realize that these sims have an unsettling connection to reality.

With the minds behind Westworld onboard as executive producers, this eight-part series is bound to be a mind-bending thrill ride. The pilot episode is a minor tease of what viewers are actually in for; there are complications from the word go with alternate timelines, tech-heavy societies, unearthly secrets – really everything to be expected from Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan.

It’s a rather slow start to the episode but questions are already flagging up. A particular highlight is the introduction to the sims; Flynne takes the hot seat as the sequence switches between her and the character she has embedded herself as. It’s a little bit fun, a little bit gimmicky with a somewhat bizarre concept to get your head wrapped around; this isn’t Flynne’s first rodeo though.

And then this productive system Flynne and Burton have crumbles. A job goes disastrously wrong and at this moment, Nolan’s influence is felt. As Flynne transitions into a simulation, an air of discomfort refuses to filter out. There’s something very disconcerting about this world she has entered, right down to the AI policing everyone’s next step.

They don’t necessarily appear frightening, that is until they act on what they are programmed to do and beat someone to a pulp for breaking the rules. And what’s more disturbing is discovering that the world Flynne had entered may not exactly be as artificial as she believed. Now timelines are overlapping. Again, lots of questions dig themselves out from the woodworks.

As a sci-fi thriller, there’s absolutely no expectation for gore or horror, and in fairness, there isn’t any. However, it’s this lack of bloody carnage that makes the pilot all the more alarming. It must be said that one very specific scene deserves applause for its ability to keep all eyes – no pun – glued to the screen out of morbid curiosity whilst simultaneously causing viewers to wince in pain at the mere thought of this procedure. Intensity ramps up from zero to one hundred. If this is what they’re willing to show in the first episode, imagine what everyone will be seeing – again, no pun – by the finale.

The Peripheral sets itself up with a prominent theme of paranoia – much like Nolan’s previous work. It’s an intriguing premise that leaves a lot of promise. Whilst the pilot is plotting groundwork, viewers will likely be engaged with the mystery of the latest sim and how this links into the future; and especially the significance of Flynne’s character. Closing on a cliffhanger, The Peripheral isn’t going to be up to everyone’s standard, but it’s a strong start that looks like it’ll keep audiences on their toes.

The Peripheral is streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, October 21, followed by weekly episodes.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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