“The box contains us. The box contains everything. And inside the box, is another box.”
Oh man. I usually write these little posts straight after I finish a film or TV show but life has been a little strange of late so I hadn’t had the chance. Therefore my memory of the comings and going of this show are a little hazy but here goes…
This show centres around a high tech department (DEVs) of a company called Amaya, run by Nick Offerman’s character named Forest. Forest has various ‘disciples’ who, it would appear, would do almost anything to protect Forest and the company, and you quickly learn that Amaya seems to operate ‘above the law’ helped by a close relationship with the government. Though he won’t admit it, much of the impetus behind Forest’s vision for Amaya is to turn back time and absolve himself of a terrible tragedy which took the lives of his wife and child.
There are going to be big SPOILERS from now on so look awayyyy.
Okay, so with that in mind, the story begins with a character called Sergei who is a bright coder with great potential. He is dating a woman called Lily who is a fellow engineer at the same company. Sergei is invited to progress to the DEVs department but on his first day attempts to steal information, which triggers a MASSIVE chain of events starting with his death and affecting a great many people. Lily attempts to uncover the truth with the help, weirdly, of her jilted ex-partner, all while being pursued by Kenton – Forest’s very own version of Odd Job – trained in cleaning up aka murdering problematic people.
There’s also a sub-plot in there involving Russian spies, a very cute worker-friendship between Stewart and Langdon, a tense romantic energy between Forest and Katie (his chief engineer) and as the story goes we uncover more and more about what this extraordinary machine in their department can do… which as it turns out is a mix between televising (to an nth degree of certainty) the past or potentially representing a multi-verse of potential outcomes… it’s not entirely clear, but it is clear that it is extraordinary!
I was also super excited to see a character I perceived as trans or potentially non binary in the show through character Langdon, only to find out that this was not the intention. In addition, the actor was in fact a cis women so was a little confusing about this choice but apparently Garland just wanted to cast a cis gendered woman in that role and it’s as simple as that. Very happy to see Janet Mock playing the senator in this show though <3
What’s so intriguing to me about this show is how it is largely about death. There’s something hopeful about the way that the Amaya engineers are looking to this machine and it’s possibilities but the series starts with death and ends with death, and death is peppered throughout. It’s in both super violent, brutal and dark ways, in schrodinger’s cat take-a-chance sort of ways and then also more matter-of-factly (like here is a dead mouse… it is dead…) scientific representation of death. But even though it is dark, I never came away from watching it feeling put off by the amount of death there was. And I think that is a testiment to how exciting and novel the show turned out to be. Also, having recently read the book ‘The Space Between Worlds’ by Micaiah Johnson which also explores multiverses and the infinitesimal choices in our lives that make massive impacts on the people we turn out to be, it was super interesting to see an alternative viewpoint on this theme so soon after. It’s kind of mindblowing when you think how your life could have changed if you took a different bus one day, or if your parents had not met or things like that. I have been thinking about this quite a lot lately since reading Kindred by Octavia E Butler as well, in light of my own families struggle for survival on both the maternal and paternal side. What if my maternal ancestors had been slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire and not made it to safety on my mum’s side? What if my Chinese grandad never made it on the boat to the Caribbean? What if my great great grandad was murdered by his enslaver or died on the boat over from Africa, or my great great grandmothers line had been wiped out when the English and French colonists murdered her tribe. It boggles my mind how precious life is, and how rare and lucky we all are to be here today and read these silly words about some TV show! haha
Anyways, enough of the deep stuff.
I know Garland has a reputation for being a bit pretentious and I can see some thinking it’s a bit too slow or a bit much or a bit flat or monochrome, but I really enjoyed this show. It was heartbreaking, captivating and at times really beautiful. Not to mention the soundtrack. I joke about the making of the soundscape on my insta/tiktok, but there is something to be said about having a film director produce a TV show, and the results are similar to that of The Mandalorian which had the same dealio, in that it creates epic, cinematic TV shows. Not saying I liked it as much as Mando tho. haha
So in all, really enjoyable show. Well done. Exciting. Very sexy lighting and look to the show. Really confused about the comments from viewers calling it an indulgent show tbh. ALL OF FILM AND TV IS INDULGENT. IT’S A CHEEKY BONUS! IT’S NOT NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL, OF COURSE IT IS INDULGENT! IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO CONTINUE WATCHING APART FROM YOURSELFFFFFF. Unless there is a ‘Clockwork Orange’ thing going on here… in which case I’m sorry, but there’s worse shows to be forced to watch. I can think of a few at least (**COUGH** Replicas **COUGH**) Anyways, well worth a watch.