Amazon Prime’s Upload takes a 21st Century approach towards the afterlife. The series focuses on Nathan, a tech entrepreneur who dies in a self-driving car accident. At the hospital, he can have surgery or get uploaded. His girlfriend’s family foots the bill to upload him to a digital afterlife called Lakeview. There he meets his real-life “angel” who is always on call to care for him. The story turns when Nathan and his angel, Nora, become suspicious he may have been murdered for trying to create a free afterlife upload system. The detective work not only reveals the shady side of the business but also bring Nathan and Nora together.
A Good Place
Upload envisions a less than fantastic version of heaven with class and wealth from real-life dictating the quality of your afterlife. Pop-up ads, in-app purchases, and digital glitches are all part of an upload’s everyday life. Trouble is, this is not The Good Place. The often silly comedy overshadows the existential crisis. The Good Place offered a study on the afterlife as a means to discuss philosophy and morality. Upload tries to create a larger narrative about poverty and technological barriers but meanders to other stories too quickly that have far less substance.
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The show’s relationship between Nora and Nathan drives the narrative of the first season. Nora works to justify her interest in a digital person while he works to connect as best he can, despite having a real-world girlfriend paying for his new lifestyle. The conflicts of their relationship serve as a guide to the quirks and challenges of this world while also sharing its benefits.
The humor of the show comes from the absurdity of the situation. An 18-year-old trapped in a 12-year-old body makes for a few good laughs. The ever-present helpers have their own drama with an annoying boss in the real world making Nora’s experience relatable. The show functions well as an alt-reality of present-day as it sounds almost believable that Amazon, Apple, or even Disney are steps away from offering you a digital life upgrade. It’s fun to watch but moves quickly from a utopian illusion into a dystopian reality.
The show almost finds a sweet spot between the larger dramatic narrative and its comedic personality. The have’s vs. have not’s story needs more time to flourish as we only began to see how the other half lives towards the end of the season. The story of season one is mostly focused on setting up the world just to get to season two. The finale ends at a cliff-hanger, but nothing had been resolved for any characters.
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