A young woman struggling to hold it together in small-town America finds herself witness to what may or may not be a murder in the first teaser for The Peripheral, a new Prime Video series based on William Gibson’s 2014 novel of the same name.
(Spoilers for the novel below.)
The novel is in many ways vintage Gibson: a bleak, dystopian future world chock-full of big thematic ideas, visionary technology, and its own slang terminology. The reader is plunged into this setting and must acclimate accordingly; Gibson isn’t interested in presenting everything to us on a silver platter. But that initial effort pays off as the novel evolves into an action-packed cyberpunk thriller.
There are two plot lines that eventually begin to converge. The first arc takes place in our near-term future and is centered on a young woman named Flynne. Flynne works at the local 3D printing shop in a small town; the store is the sole source of goods for the population, along with Walmart’s fictional future offspring, Hefty Mart. Flynne’s brother Burton is a veteran of the US Marine Corps’s elite Haptic Recon force and suffers from brain trauma resulting from his cybernetic implants.
Burton works security for a video game/virtual world maintained by a company called Milagros Coldiron. When Flynne agrees to substitute for Burton one day on the job, she witnesses a woman being gruesomely killed by a swarm of nanobots. But is it an actual murder, or is it merely part of the game? (This is a Gibson novel, so the boundaries can get a bit fuzzy.)
The second arc takes place in a futuristic and desolate London in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event dubbed “the Jackpot,” which wiped out 80 percent of the population. This world is essentially ruled by Russian oligarchs (“klepts”). Here, our main protagonist is a corporate PR guy named Wilf Netherton, who sets up a publicity stunt for Daedra West, this world’s version of an influencer. The stunt goes horribly wrong, and Wilf is fired.
The link between the two timelines is the titular black market technology, “peripherals,” which are favored by hobbyists known as “continua enthusiasts.” Running on “quantum servers,” the peripherals digitally link the users to the past, and the moment they make direct contact, the past splits off into an alternate timeline called a “stub.” Wilf is introduced to the tech and the existence of stubs by his rich buddy Lev. We eventually learn that Flynne’s world is one such stub. The increasingly convoluted and interconnected plot involves a hunt for Daedra’s missing sister Aelita, corporate espionage, political corruption, timeline shenanigans, and multiple attempts on Flynne’s life since she is the sole witness to Aelita’s murder.
Prime Video greenlit the TV adaptation in November 2019, and the show was developed by Westworld showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy as part of their overall deal with the streaming platform. They serve as executive producers, along with series creator and showrunner Scott B. Smith. Per Deadline Hollywood, The Peripheral is meant to be a “dazzling, hallucinatory glimpse into the fate of mankind—and what lies beyond.”
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Flynne Fisher, with Jack Reynor (Midsommar) co-starring as her brother Burton and Eli Goree playing Burton’s triple amputee comrade-in-arms Conner. Gary Carr plays Wilf, and Charlotte Riley plays Aelita. (Curiously, there is no cast listing for Daedra, who plays a pivotal role in the novel.) The cast also includes J.J. Feild as Lev, Adeline Horan as Billy Ann Baker, T’Nia Miller as Cherise, Alex Hernandez as Tommy Constantine, Austin Rising as Leon, Louis Herthum as local drug baron Corbell Pickett, Chris Coy as Jasper, Melinda Page Hamilton as Ella, Katie Leung as Ash, Hannah Arterton as Dee Dee, and Alexandra Billings as Detective Ainsley Lowbeer.
Will the series be any good? It’s tough to tell from this extended teaser, which focuses on introducing the basic premise and is set to oddly retro electronic music reminiscent of Stranger Things or TRON. But the visuals are certainly striking, and we’ll clearly be getting plenty of action. We get glimpses of the novel’s movable tattoos, a possible nanobot swarm, and what looks like a cloaking technology for a car that might be akin to the invisibility “squidsuits” favored by assassins in the novel’s future world.
The Peripheral premieres on Prime Video on October 21, 2022. A second season is purportedly already in active development. The first season’s eight hour-long episodes should cover the entire 2014 novel, raising the question of where the series will go for its sophomore season. One possibility: Gibson published a “sequel and a prequel” novel in 2020 called Agency. That book features the same futuristic technology and is set in an alternative 2017 (in which Hillary Clinton was elected US president) and—what else?—a “post-apocalyptic” time period in the 22nd century with people engaging in more timeline shenanigans.
Listing image by Prime Video