The Feed

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Ugh. Screens.

We talk about screens all the time at Plugged In, and we rarely say we wish we could sure spend more time with them. We stare at them all the time already, it seems: to watch movies, television and YouTube, to interact with friends and strangers on social media, to check the weather, read our email and do 17 quintillion things besides. You’re staring at one right now.

And that’s all great. But when more of our lives are spent staring at screens instead of interacting with one another, isn’t that unhealthy? Couldn’t that cause problems?

Maybe that’s what Lawrence Hatfield was thinking one day in the not-terribly-distant future. Why do we turn over so much of ourselves to our screens? Perhaps he asked. What if we could get rid of screens altogether?

Hey, he further thought. What if we fed all that information we use screens for directly into our brains?

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Insta-man

Fast-forward a few more years, and Lawrence Hatfield is perhaps the richest, most powerful man in the world. His brainchild, the Feed, has become ubiquitous for most: Countless people have undergone surgery to have an always-on internet feed piped directly into their cerebrums, complete with an optical interface that allows you to communicate with your besties as if they were right there in the same room.

Want to hold onto some precious memories? The Feed can see that they’re uploaded to the cloud. Have a hankering to listen to some ska or watch porn during a boring business meeting? The Feed’s got you covered there, too. So what if Lawrence and his inner circle have access to, literally, your every thought? A small price to pay for the ability to watch the latest baseball game on your eye.

But not everyone’s on board with Lawrence’s little brainchild. A group called the Resistors is dead set against folks plugging their brains into the Feed’s worldwide network, and they make trouble when and where they can. Others run detox centers, encouraging people to unplug for at least a little while. Why, Lawrence’s own son, Tom, is a psychologist who specializes in Feed-related issues.

“I understand the fundamentals of self-regulation,” he tells a patient. “You, you’re on Feed acid.”

Moderation is the key, Tom believes. He and his wife, Kate, are hooked up to the Feed, but they use it sparingly. It’s a tool, that’s all, and all tools have their downsides.

But when the Feed is apparently hacked by nefarious forces, turning users frantic and forcing them to kill—well, that’s not an issue that Lawrence and his team ever addressed in those boilerplate licensing agreements (that none of us ever read anyway).

One thing’s for sure, though: With the Feed in almost everybody’s noggin, and with the Feed now being compromised, everyone’s a potential killer.

Everyone.

Scream Time

The Feed originally aired in Britain on Virgin TV Ultra HD in September 2019 and made its way to Amazon Prime worldwide a few months later. The show is clearly designed to be both a sci-fi mystery thriller and a cautionary tale. The charms and pitfalls of the Feed (the internet tool, not the show) seem just a half- step removed from those of Facebook or Instagram or the internet itself. And while it’s unlikely that Facebook would outright murder somebody, its unsavory influence on everything from politics to our own states of mind has been well documented.

’Course, the unsavory influence of sex, violence and language on some has been well-documented, too, and that doesn’t stop entertainment creators from stuffing their shows full of those elements.

While explicit nudity isn’t an issue here, sexual content certainly is. The Feed comments on how the internet has already changed, and is changing, sex—and it sometimes makes that point in bothersomely graphic ways. Also graphic: the violence we see. And we should note that those whose feeds have gone awry have a disturbing habit of trying to pluck one of their eyeballs out of their heads.

And, of course, problematic language is still very much a part of our futuristic template. No matter how advanced we get, it seems, we can’t shake our fascination with the f-word.

The Feed is a compelling, if a somewhat predictable slog through a future world that, in some ways, looks disturbingly like our own. And while I appreciate what this Amazon Prime series has to say, I’d take issue with how it says it.

Episode Reviews

Nov. 22, 2019: “Episode 1”

Lawrence Hatfield asks his son, Tom, to investigate the disappearance of the head of the Feed’s Russian division. Tom interviews the man’s 15-year-old son and learns, to both his and the boy’s horror, that the kid killed his father with a pitchfork. He complains of a “darkness” in his head—a refrain that sounds very much like what a would-be murderous chef said when she tried to kill Tom’s brother, Ben. When the Feed gets hacked, and when Tom’s wife, Kate, says she also feels something at work in her head—then forgets she said so soon after—Tom realizes there’s something seriously amiss.

We see the bloody tine marks the pitchfork leaves in its victim. Later, Tom and others dig up the corpse, revealing a gray, decaying face. And the boy tried to gouge his own eye out after the murder, and we see what’s left when the teen lifts up the bandage. The chef, who’s still in prison, sports a similarly grotesque injury, and a couple of bystanders wonder whether they should kill her to remove and examine her feed. When the Feed is hacked, countless uncontrollable images flash before users’ eyes, including violent news footage and depictions of starving children. One man collapses due to a heart attack.

Tom and Kate first meet at Ben’s wedding. We see them make out and have sex in a back room (Kate takes off Tom’s shirt; he pushes her dress both down and up, but everything critical is covered). Two years later, the two are married and Kate is pregnant: When Kate jokes about how Tom now sleeps on lavender sheets, he quips, “The things I do for sex.” Their friends, Max and Evie, celebrate Max’s birthday, and Evie tells Max that she bought herself an “upgrade,” a chip that (through the Feed) seemingly can turn her into anyone that Max wants to have sex with. (He enjoys the larger breasts that she seems to grow, and he says that it’s like having sex “with a whole new person.” We see the two of them in a car, apparently after sex, with Evie wearing nothing but a bra on her topside.) A feed user watches scantily clad women. Kate goes into labor, and her water breaks.

Several characters drink (wine, beer, champagne and sake), and one says that she’s not drunk enough (yet) to regurgitate any secrets. (A friend overfills her glass with wine in a joking attempt to loosen her lips.) A pregnant Kate talks about her more frequent need to urinate. Characters say the f-word about a dozen times. We also hear the s-word three times, along with “d–n,’ “p-ss,” “pr–k” and the British profanity “bloody.” God’s name is misused at least twice.

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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