Readers Write In #203: “Upload” on Prime: great premise and characterization, one of the best watches in recent years

Posted on June 7, 2020


(by Aparna Namboodiripad, who comments here as tonks)

Only a very few times in my life have I experienced a world and characters so convincing and attractive that I hated it when the series ended and I could no longer be a part of that universe. This happened for the first time in my childhood with the various stories by Enid Blyton. Later in life, it happened with the Harry Potter books, and The game of thrones series (well, at least as far as they were true to the Song of Ice and fire). And now, I have experienced that same level of “wanting to exist in the same fictional plane as the characters” with the May 2020 Amazon Prime offering called Upload.

It should come as no surprise that the series is so good, because Upload is created by Gregory Martin Danielswho has several award winning television series to his credit, including The OfficeSaturday Night LiveThe SimpsonsParks and Recreation, and King of the Hill, four of which were named among James Poniewozik‘s “All Time 100 TV Shows” list in 2007.

Upload is a science fiction series that is in the near future, where human beings have advanced so far as to be able to store their consciousness in a drive, which is then uploaded onto a virtual reality heaven. This ensures that their thinking, feeling consciousness which is what we probably call the soul, continues to exist after death. The series is about what happens when one such person’s ‘upload’ interacts with others in this ‘heaven’, especially his relationship with his “angel”, and what happens when the two of them slowly learn that things are not as straight forward with his death, as was earlier thought.

What I liked best about the series was the premise: it is exciting to imagine this happening, and it does not seem totally implausible in the future, considering the giant strides in science in the last century, that eclipse all the progress made by humanity in the previous many million years.The actors do a very good job of getting into the skin of the characters, so that they seem very believable. My favourite amongst the characters are the attractive leads. Robbie Amell plays Nathan Brown, a 27-year-old computer engineering graduate, who combines cockiness, with an endearing sincerity and vulnerability. One of my favourite scenes was when he attends his own funeral, and is downcast when he learns that none of the people he considered important in his life even show up. Andy Allo gives a great performance as Nora Antony, a woman who works as an angel putting together the uploads into their VR bodies, and looking after their needs in VR heaven afterwards. The two of them hit it off very well from the beginning but each are at first wary of the attraction. Nathan is cautious because his upload is sponsored by his girlfriend, and if he dumped her, she would most likely delete him out of existence forever. Nora is rightly worried because the guy she is drawn to, is actually dead. There is great chemistry between the leads that make their slowly strengthening feelings for each other convincing. The VR universe is created withbeautiful detailing, and even the minor characters are convincing.Nathan’s rich and beautiful, but shallow girlfriend is played by Allegra Edwards, and some of the other uploads Nathan befriends whom I loved are William B. Davis as the wealthy, smug David Choak, and Rhys Slack who plays Dylan, who dies after falling into the Grand Canyon (hilariously, while checking out if the glass floor is strong enough), and is trapped in the form of a 12-year-old though he was uploaded six years back. He feels bad about being stuck in pre-puberty, when he sees his kid brother going on dates.

Even though the plot has mystery and suspense, and is primarily about the relationship between the main protagonists, it is so laced with humour that one is at a loss to label it: suspense, mystery, romance, comedy, science fiction, all of these of these come together to make an experience so enjoyable that I binge watched (in two days flat) all 10 episodes of the first season back to back, whenever I had any time free. Each episode (and the end of the first season) ends on a slightly dramatic note, that added to the difficulty in keeping away. I found myself slightly grieving when it ended, and had withdrawal symptoms from having to come out of that world. I hear that it has been given the go- ahead for a second season, and I am eagerly counting the days until then to once again download Upload.