‘The Peripheral’ Review: Why It’s a Cautionary Tale About Technology

When T’Nia Miller was a child, she was faced with a troubling but intriguing thought: “What if we were just in a box in a lab somewhere?” she told STYLECASTER, recalling her father saying. “You know, we could just be ants in a box.” Miller’s father is certainly not the first, nor will he be the last human being to question the nature of human existence. The simulation hypothesis, attributed to Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, theorizes that the world we think of as real is just a digital fiction, simulated like a video game.

To take a more modern approach, the creators of rick and morty Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland suggest that there are infinite realities with infinite versions of ourselves, so our reality as we know it doesn’t matter. There is a point to all of this. The reason we talk about existentialism is that it’s a theme explored in Prime Video’s latest sci-fi thriller, The ringroadin which Miller (The Haunting of Bly Manor, Foundation) stars. Kind of like William Gibson’s 2014 dystopian novel
of the same name, the show is a cautionary tale about human existence and its increasingly complicated relationship with technology.

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The ringroad

Courtesy of Prime Video

The ringroad is set in the year 2032. Because it depicts civilization at just 10 years old, the themes presented in the series are particularly close to home when it comes to how humans interact with technological advancements. Miller stars alongside Chloë Grace Moretz, who plays central character Flynne Fisher. Struggling to pay her mother’s mounting medical bills, Flynne plays virtual reality video games on behalf of wealthy clients who pay her to improve their character, using an avatar she and her brother Burton (Jack Reynor) share. (this kind of thing already exists for online games like World of Warcraft; this is called Paid Level Up). When Burton is offered the chance to test beta VR technology, Flynne plays in her place and she’s tasked with stealing a valuable secret from the mysterious Research Institute. But the mission goes awry and Flynne realizes it’s unlike any game she’s ever played. Using a simple helmet, someone managed to open the door to Flynne’s consciousness and she wakes up in London nearly 70 years in the future. Everything she sees and feels is real. As alluring as London is, it also carries risks to Flynne’s life and those close to her. If multiple deadlines, philosophical questions, and the pitfalls of technology sound familiar, it’s because The ringroad is brought to you by Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy as executive producers.

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London in 2099 is where we meet Miller’s character, Cherise, as the cold and calculated leader of this secret organization who will do anything to get back what was stolen from her. She has “Facebook power,” meaning the ability to wield more power than a person should, as Miller explains: “I’ve always been drawn to bad guys and bad guys. mean because they’re considered a bit more fun,” she says, delivering her Cherise dialogue in a particularly menacing but dignified way throughout her scenes.

Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

The show made Miller echoes that sentiment. “I am a troglodyte, I kind of live in my little bubble,” she says. “I think I’ve worn a VR set once in my life, which is great fun and moving society forward is a good thing… But what’s so smart about The ringroad it’s that a lot of sci-fi shows are worlds away and have nothing to do with our reality. But this? It could happen in the blink of an eye. It’s not even 70 years in the future. It’s like 10 years in the future. Look how far technology has already come and gone, and if we don’t pay attention, it will be our reality.

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If you are familiar with Westworld, you will understand the feeling of watching a few episodes full of details you tend to ignore, only to realize how important they were after reflection or rewatch. Expect similar storytelling in The ringroad, so be careful; it’s not a show you want to watch while mindlessly scrolling through your phone – in fact, that would actually be a little ironic.

The suburbst is available to stream on Prime Video, with new episodes released on Fridays. Here’s how to watch it for free.

Image: Courtesy of Penguin Publishing Group.

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