Amazon’s newest original show, Upload features an endearing cast, strong humor, and creates an interesting world. Unfortunately, the outlandish, terrible story and character decisions in the last episode end up souring the series’ entire first season as a whole.
The show is set in the near future, where the human consciousness can be uploaded to a digital world, and the comfort of these spaces depends on financial status. Before dying of his injuries from a car crash, Nathan (Robbie Amell) is uploaded to the virtual afterlife locale Lakeview, and must adjust to his new surroundings.
The entire cast is excellent, giving a heavy helping of charm to the vast majority of Lakeview’s denizens, along with a few people in the “real world.” Amell effortlessly sells his dramatic moments, has terrific comedic timing, and great chemistry with his co-stars. Andy Allo makes almost every moment she’s on screen a delight, particularly when her character, Nora is screwing with Amell’s Nathan. Kevin Bigley and Zainab Johnson shine brightly too, being both emotional and comedic foils to Amell and Allo respectively, as well as each other. There’s a particular moment between Bigley and Johnson that is probably my highlight of the season.
It’s also worth noting how incredible Upload’s pacing is. I honestly thought that the first five episodes were all over forty-five minutes, but was stunned when I realized that most of them weren’t even thirty (the pilot is the only one that passes forty). The amount of ground that gets covered, the speed that the story progresses, and how fluid and natural it feels is honestly shocking. For the first nine episodes, Upload is constantly building its characters or exploring its worlds in fun, interesting ways.
Then there’s episode ten, which is one of the most bizarre, frustrating, and disappointing TV episodes I’ve seen in quite a long time. In order to avoid spoilers I won’t delve into the details, but the decisions that certain characters make feel so unnatural and out of left field, and the show almost feels like it’s planning on shifting genres down the road. Oh, and it resolves absolutely nothing story-wise, forgoing any real closure to end on one of the show’s few gags that don’t land, and a terrible, awful cliffhanger instead. As the final credits rolled, I thought to myself “maybe it wouldn’t have been as upsetting if the previous episodes weren’t so much fun?”
I really, truly want to be able to recommend Upload to you, my dear reader, but I just can’t. As much as I liked most of it, the horrendous ending of the season – and the direction it appears to be headed towards in the possible second outing – kind of ruin the experience as a whole. Who knows though, maybe the writers for season two will make some equally bizarre decisions to get it back on track? I sure hope so.