Now Available on Amazon Prime
The year is 2033 and technology has advanced to a level that when you die, your consciousness can be ‘uploaded’ into a virtual world to live out your days through your avatar. Tech company Horizen (no doubt a nod to US company Verizon), is the largest VR company in the market, offering luxury resorts for uploads to live in. Nora is a customer service agent, known as an “angel”, who works for Horizen and is tasked with on-boarding new uploads as well as managing their daily needs throughout her shift. When she on-boards 27yr old app developer Nathan Brown into the Lakeside resort, she notices that some of his memories have been corrupted during the upload, something which rarely, if ever, happens. With Brown having died in a self-driving car crash, again something that never usually happens, Nora begins to suspect that her latest client may have actually been murdered and that the app that he was developing may hold the key to unlocking the truth about his death.
UPLOAD is the hilarious and innovative new series from Amazon Originals, taking tech we know and supercharging it to a frightening future, fresh from the mind of Parks and Recreation creator, King of the Hill co-creator and writer/developer of the US version of The Office, Greg Daniels.
Robbie Ammell plays Nathan Brown, the handsome-and-he-knows-it developer who is one step away from making it big with his app, Beyond. Stuck in a relationship with beauty-obsessed Ingrid (a tremendous Allegra Edwards), who he isn’t really interested in except for being sexually attracted to her, Nathan doesn’t really appreciate his living, breathing life until he’s lost it. Waking up in a digital afterlife isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be and, despite it offering the life of luxury, it pales in comparison to the imperfections of real life. Though he initially comes across as a bit of a cocky smart-arse who likes to look at himself in the mirror a lot, it’s plain to see he cares a lot about his family, in particular his young niece who adores playtime with her uncle. Nathan’s new life at Lakeside really humbles him as he begins to realise how much he took his life for granted and you begin to see his true identity reveal itself as he learns to properly live his life in the afterlife.
Helping Nathan into his new home is Nora played exquisitely by Andy Allo. Nora’s upbeat personality makes her an instantly likeable character as we see her relationships with her father Dave (Chris Williams) and with skitty workmate Aleesha (Zainab Johnson). A bit of a loner who resorts to using Nightly, a Tinder-like hookup app for one night stands, Nora really seems to thrive at her job despite quotas to meet, rating approvals to maintain and pressures from management. Her life changes when new upload Nathan struggles to accept his life at Lakeside. Helping him through this initial rejection, she realises he’s not the vain jackass that he initially comes across as in his memories. Her openess and personal touch allows Nathan to come out of his shell and get to grips with his new life and through this, Nora begins to forge a friendship with him, one that could unwittingly put her life at risk as she begins to investigate further into his missing memories…
A blend between cyber, corporate, sci-fi thriller and laugh-out-loud, satirical comedy, UPLOAD isn’t short of humour and has plenty to offer, whether it’s Nathan’s afterlife friend Luke (Kevin Bigley) causing commotion around Lakeside, hitting up Ingrid’s 100+ year old grandmother and verbally sparring with his Angel, Aleesha, or the AI concierge at Lakeside providing some awkward exchanges with its guests. Everything about this series appears to have been thought out and tech heads will no doubt enjoy the humour involved with the creation of Lakeside itself, from the in-app purchases for luxuries, such as the food in the mini-fridge or a choice of golf clubs, all of which aren’t available on the standard vanilla Lakeside plan, to the lag in the lake due to a number of avatars bathing in it at the same time. It feels like the writers have completely gone through the story’s premise with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that every detail that could be included, that ties in with modern and future technology, computers and AI, has been.
What is also interesting about the series is that it provokes a reaction from its viewer on their opinion on uploading and whether something like that would ever be acceptable (I’m sure Elon Musk is preparing something like this right now). In the series, we see those individuals who can’t afford unlimited data to stay in Lakeside and so have to make do with an empty white room instead, where they’re unable to move much otherwise they’ll use up their data, and are limited to reading book samples if they’re not able to fork out for the full publication. The series also shows other afterlife/heaven worlds run by other companies to show not all are of that same calibre. Where it really hits home is the relationship between Nora and her father, with Nora wanting her sick father to upload to Lakeside when he dies whilst he prefers to die naturally and join his wife in whatever natural afterlife may or may not exist. It seems that not everyone is prescribed to the idea of a digital afterlife and that even when you’re dead, social structures and class systems still exist and if you haven’t got the living finances to support your digital afterlife, you’re screwed.
Though the luxurious digital reality of Lakeside is without a doubt an impressive hotel and resort to virtually stay in, its existence is never glamorised and it shows it for the bug-ridden, profiteering, imperfect virtual world that it is. As Nathan describes, it’s nowhere near as good as living and it’s during these times that he begins to appreciate what he had and took for granted when he was alive.
Like most series, there’s a romance angle that is played throughout the episodes as Nora begins to warm to Nathan who himself is struggling to cope with his relationship with his narcissistic girlfriend Ingrid who practically owns him, being the account holder for his stay at Lakeside. Realising his relationship with her was nothing more than sexual attraction and that he’s beginning to have truer feelings for someone else thrusts a love triangle dynamic into the mix, but can romance grow and sustain between two different realities?
UPLOAD is fresh, exciting, fun and emotional. It’s 30 minute episodes are bite-size and comprehensive without resorting to filler like many other television programmes with longer running times do. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’d love it if UPLOAD consisted of 45 minute episodes instead, as it never fails to leave you wanting more, but as it stands it’s perfectly packaged and is easy to consume. A dark undertone running throughout, implying a threat to Nathan’s existence, gives the series the hook that binds all the clever satire together and it’s nice to see how all the different characters develop throughout the series, some in some very surprising ways that suggests not to trust a book by its cover.
With UPLOAD having already been greenlit for another season, I can’t wait to dive back into the goings-on of Lakeside and Horizen to see how further this rabbit hole really goes!