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Welcome to Upload
Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network asked us to question the ethical conundrums behind starting a social media giant like Facebook. From the privacy legislations it circumvented (and continues to circumvent) to crashing Harvard University’s computer network. While we saw the formation of a global organisation that has changed the world forever. We haven’t seen what the after effects would be.
Upload is a light hearted satirical afterthought with sporadic highlights of science fiction that keeps the viewer engaged from the pilot episode right through to the existential dilemma (in the last episode) of freezing one’s afterlife.
Starring Robbie Ammell (The Flash/Code 8/The Babysitter) as Nathan Brown. An idealistic programmer who has the rich hot girlfriend, a loving family and an idea for a socialist friendly online afterlife. Although, his business partner might not exactly agree with it.
The Pilot episode, Welcome to Upload, introduces us to this almost picturesque lifestyle that Nathan leads. With the highlight being his hot girlfriend who takes the word “clingy” to a whole new level.
Ingrid (the Girlfriend), played by Allegra Edwards, does everything to Nathan’s benefit from her own perspective. As you’ll soon find out, is only a few rungs down the ladder of Swimfan crazy.
This picturesque world Nathan lives in is quickly uprooted when the most terrifying accident involving a driverless car happens. The driverless car is hacked and taken over, causing a headon crash into semi-trailer truck. This results in Nathan being taken to hospital and with the Girlfriend convincing him to take the “Upload” route rather than a simple operation which would’ve saved his life in the longrun. It’s all about relationship control with her.
Nathan is taken to the “Upload” operating room where his head proceeds to be scanned and then zapped off his body in a horrific experiment of Frankenstein like proportions. Thereby, absorbing his consciousness into the Upload mainframe. This introduces us to Nora Antony (played by Andy Allo), Nathan’s handler in the Upload digital afterlife. The handlers, who are often referred to as “Angels.”
Bring on the Digital Romance
Nathan Brown, although he seems to be the protagonist at the start, is the audience surrogate who explores the Upload world in all its fallacies and all its glory. For better or worse, it’s an interactive environment where the privileged get to live on their lives in an unending virtual afterlife. As long as your bank account has money in it.
This money factor is an ongoing plot point brought up numerous times by Ingrid and lends into the modern commentary of Apple charging endlessly for their services. In short, Ingrid owns Nathan’s afterlife and will exploit this to the Nth degree during all of their arguments to keep him under her thumb.
Nathan, feeling like there is no other way heads for the dreaded “torrent stream.” A barrier of sorts that we soon learn can also cause real death should an Upload avatar jump head on into it.
Nora intercepts Nathan’s headstrong attempts to kill himself as it’s her job to do so. A start of a comforting friendship for Nathan that over the course of this season will head towards a possible relationship for Nora. But as the season unfolds and as damaged memory files are repaired. We soon learn that Nora falls for the idealistic man versus the real man himself. Despite all this, it’s a charming forbidden love story where real life and digital life is the ultimate barrier keeping them apart.
A Wonderful Satire on Where We’re Headed
For those who have already dived headlong into the first season of Upload, it would come as no surprise that the showrunner is one Greg Daniels, of Parks and Rec and The Office fame. His social network satire combined with slapstick humour and certain degrees of existential dread are evident throughout the entire series.
Upload is highly relatable (unless you’ve been off the grid for the last 20 years). What works for me in and around the various circumstances that Nathan Brown gets himself into is how he reacts to the easter eggs in front of him.
There’s the floating advertisements that pop up throughout the world of Upload which, as the series progresses, results in Robbie Amell’s character swatting away as he walks down the beaten path. This is further amped up when Nora’s boss orders all the “Angels” to pitch the sale of a fictional mexican fastfood. The unforgiving capitalism is forever present throughout the season providing a neat little commentary of the pitfalls we’re faced with digital consumerism.
Too Many Red Herrings
The degree of red herrings in this season and, consequently this series so far, are troublesome at points. We are met with scenarios that misdirect the viewer on purpose to proactively assume the worst from each character.
The scene where we discover Ingrid could have tampered with Nathan’s car resulting in his life threatening injury and subsequent upload. The scene where Ingrid and her father argue over how Nathan should’ve been dealt with leading us to assume Ingrid was the sole reason for Nathan’s loss of real life.
At best, it’s a cluster f*** that throws you off the scent of where the real ending will land. Because of this and many other situations I won’t spoil, is why the show will land with fans of The Good Place or maybe even Silicon Valley.
Where to From Here
Upload is a successful satire on the modern day consumption of digital products. It’s depiction of a glamorous digital afterlife taps into the many convenient products that can be purchased by a simple tap or swipe of your finger. At the same time it touches into the fantastical futures and predictions that authors like Phillip K Dick asked us at the turn of the bicentennial.
Does a utopia exist? Yes it does. But at a cost. A cost that only the rich and privileged can afford. Apparently humans are the ones that dream of electric sheep.
This season landed for me. Whether the second season is as successful as the first is another story. That second season hump seems to be a hard one for the streaming services to get over. Thankfully this isn’t a Netflix or a Syfy production, so a second season seems guaranteed.
Binge Upload – Season One on Amazon Prime Video.