It seems to be a rare feat for any form of streaming service-based series to make it passed a dreaded second season these days. Beloved shows with fiery fan bases can be cancelled in an instant, causing volatile uproar in the Twitter-sphere (or is it X-sphere now?). However, a show that seemingly has slipped past the guarded gates of streaming cancellation is Prime Video’s sci-fi comedy, Upload, which is now entering is third season.
Proving to be a sleeper hit for Prime Video, the Greg Daniel’s created series (best known for his work developing the US version of The Office) returns to the digital afterlife of Lakeview, a utopian resort for deceased rich people! The second season left audiences with the computer conscious of tech mogul Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) being successfully downloaded into a lab-grown version of his body – a procedure that has led to rather mind-blowing (literally) results when attempted on previous subjects.
Now back in the real-world, and finally united with Lakeview tech-Angel turned eat the rich software vigilante, Nora (Andy Allo), the duo begins their mission to finally take down those responsible for Nathan’s initial murder and stop tech conglomerate Horizen from launching a botched version of Nathan’s digital after-life design that will trap the consciousness of the unsuspecting public in a digital purgatory.
Season three of Upload is a timely release as it’s the first time this show has felt not too distant from the current real-life discourse around A.I. and augmented reality technology like the Metaverse. Even though the previous two seasons of this show were ultimately using these elements for purely comedic purposes to serve a ‘murder-mystery’ narrative, they felt so infantile just 3 years ago compared to the impending reality they have become today. And Upload is completely aware of that as it leans into a truly satirical take on how too rich and too powerful people want to use this technology to control people. The silliness of how it’s portrayed in moments of this show is funny. But when it gets real, it hits oddly close to home and feels quite dark and macabre.
That dark feeling is also exacerbated by the fact that a lot of the story is no longer taking place in the idyllic setting of Lakeview. The blue skies, green grass and immaculate resort sets are replaced with a drab and down-trodden Los Angeles while the narrative follows Nathan and Nora as they help the less fortunate and well-off members of the public who wish to enter the digital afterlife realise that the utopia is not all it seems.
One of the major comedic draws in the first two seasons was Nathan’s interactions with the various and eccentric characters of Lakeview. And while there are still many continue story and character arcs that continue in Lakeview, such as Nathan’s army veteran best friend Luke and his ongoing juvenile antics. However, even Luke’s story becomes depressing as he regresses into childhood memories to find happiness now his best friend has gone. The comedic standout, and continuing with a variety of insane characters, is AI Guy, Lakeview’s singular faced concierge how most often gets himself into trouble, rather than helping the guests. Owen Daniels commitment to the silliness of this character, but also the Labrador-like glee of his demeanour provides the majority of the shows comedy.
Another strength to this season is the growing chemistry between Nathan and Nora, who much to fans delight, actually get to interact with each other, rather than have the digital distance between them, which created a painful longing both in and out of the TV screen. Amell and Allo are brilliant together on-screen, and their natural chemistry makes the couple easy to root for. But, it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows for the couple, as a ticking time bomb awaits Nathan and his newly downloaded body, as was alluded to in the finale of season 2.
It’s great that Upload returned for a third season, but there is concern that it’s shift from entertaining comedy with an insightful look into technology, to a frankly depressing and satirical look at the effects of this technology may no win newcomers or existing fans over. While it seems like a natural progression for the overall narrative, sadly the comedy does feel a little more forced this time around.
The first two episodes of Upload Season 3 will premiere on Prime Video on Friday, October 20, with two episodes dropping every week until the finale on November 10.
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