Amazon Prime’s “Upload” is a Fun Series with Social Commentary

On May 1st, Amazon premiered the new Prime series Upload. A ten-episode season with most episodes ranging from 20-30 minutes aside from the 45-minute pilot. The show centers on a unique idea about the afterlife and what technology can provide to guarantee humanity eternal happiness after death.

The series focuses on the process of being “uploaded” and a specific company “Upload by Horizon…” a digital afterlife for people who pay to have their consciousness digitized when they die. Built with a heavy commercialized atmosphere, the residents of Lakeview spend their afterlives with a specific amount of data, or an unlimited amount if wealthy enough, which they can use to make purchases for digital amenities, akin to the in-app purchases we all come across when downloading certain apps on our phones. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in this digital heaven, especially for those unable to maintain such a highly monetized lifestyle.

Our main character, Nathan Brown, dies unexpectedly in a self-driving car accident, at the age of 27, and thanks to his rich girlfriend he is uploaded to Lakeview–a digital fancy lake-side resort–before he dies from his injuries. And yes, you read that correctly a self-driving car, as this show takes place over a decade in the future, in the year 2033. Self-driving cars are supposed to be completely safe, but this one clearly was not.

The show also reveals some other cool futuristic technologies, such as phones worn on the wrist that project screens out from your hand. If you imagine holding your hand up with your palm facing out and your thumb out, forming an L, the screen appears within that L extending out several inches in a rectangle shape. You also have super-advanced VR, where the living can have normal video calls with their deceased relatives, and even wear full-body VR suits to “hug” their deceased loved ones. Hug is in quotations there because they are not just used for hugging, if you get my drift. My personal favorite is a 3D printer that prints food! For those future nights when you feel too lazy to cook, or in the case of the show when you can’t afford real food and all you have is printed food.

Mohonk Mountain House

Another fun thing this show throws out there are the famous and well-known brand names and franchises that have consolidated into one another in the future. Things like AT&TTNT, Facebook Aeon(the social media company’s own digital afterlife), and I’m fairly certain Amazon and Disney were also mentioned in some capacity and combo. Oh and another fun fact, all of the exterior shots for Lakeview were shot on location at Mohonk, the lakeside resort in New York. My boyfriend immediately recognized it and I also thought it looked familiar, given that his parents have vacationed there and I have seen brochures at their house.

I am not going to give away any major plot points, stating that Nathan dies and goes to Lakeview is fine, given it’s in the trailer, but there are so many great things that should be experienced by watching this highly entertaining series. I was hooked from the first few minutes of the pilot and was excited to watch the rest. Due to some other shows we were currently in the middle of watching, my boyfriend and I hadn’t binged the entire series. In fact, we were about halfway through the series as I started to write this. Given that this is a spoiler-free review, there is no need to have seen the end, but I was dying to finish it (pun intended) and have since watched all 10 episodes. Given the length of the episodes, you’re looking at just over 5 hours worth of content, which is hardly a task to binge.

The show offers some interesting thoughts on society and the economical separation of the classes. Despite advances in technology, there is a lot that remains the same, and the writing of the show takes care to make it the underlying focus. Even in death, the lower class is still at a disadvantage to the upper class. A place like Lakeview is completely out of reach without an employee discount for an upload, or being part of a third-generation Horizon family with unlimited data. Even in the future, where life should be made easier, there is still the continued struggle for equal rights only now it concerns the afterlife, where you would think a peaceful existence is a given. There are budget afterlife options, but as you can imagine, what you pay for is what you get.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash – English translation: Only totalitarian states need an Upload filter

One episode features a peaceful protest of people holding signs and chanting about uploading being a basic human right, not something limited to what you can afford. Another episode focuses on the less fortunate residents of Lakeview, known as the “2gigs”, who are cast out of luxury once they run out of money and must survive on 2 gigabytes of data a month. Once they run out, they freeze and sit unmoving in a black and white existence until they get their next ration of gigs. Their only mistake was not being wealthy enough to remain with the rest of the upper class and 1%. In some cases, 2gig residents no longer had family left to take care of them and continue to finance their digital existence, clearly being unable to afford to join their loved one as well. So eerily similar to elderly people who are left alone in care facilities with no remaining relatives left or willing to care for them. It’s a sad fact, and one that I appreciate the show focusing on, and providing a futuristic comparison to something that would absolutely still occur in such a process as Upload, if it were made to be such a commercialized money-making scheme.

Now, I don’t want this to turn into a soapbox post, so I will just wrap up this train of thought by saying this, the show does a great job a pointing out things wrong with our society today, which left to remain as they are, will continue into the future, even with fancy technological advances, and it gives you pause to think.

I mentioned before that this show revolves around the main character of Nathan Brown, played by actor Robbie Amell. But the series is filled out with a great cast who revolve around Nathan, as his friends and family. While a large part of the show is Nathan and his experiences as an upload, the other half of the show follows Nora Antony, the Horizon customer service representative who serves as Nathan’s “angel” at Lakeview, and her struggles as the other main character in the real world. Nora is played by actress Andy Allo, who you get to see as her character interacts with her co-workers, father, and dating app matchups. The rest of the cast is entertaining and they all have great chemistry with each other, in various ways.

This show has so many things to love about it. There is humor, romance, and many other things that elicit a range of emotions. This series has something for everyone to enjoy, but it is rated TV-MA so for adult eyes only. I cannot recommend it enough as an enjoyable way to spend time while stuck indoors, so please go out and enjoy and let me know what you thought!