The digital afterlife and class division

Season 2 of Amazon Studio’s sci-fi comedy series To download has been the number one-watched show all week since its release on Prime Video on March 11. According to whipped media, To downloadcreated by Emmy-winning writer Greg Daniels (Office, Parks and recreation) and starring Robbie Amell, Andy Allo and Allegra Edwards, was the most-watched show in the US and UK in its first week of release, surpassing that of Netflix. The Last Kingdomwith its final season released on the same day. To download remains in Prime Video’s Top 10 this weekend.

To download Season 2 focuses more on the class divide than the love story that made Season 1 so gripping. Season 1 saw young app developer Nathan (Robbie Amell) upload into a virtual afterlife after a self-driving car accident. Spurred on by his doting girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), Nathan found himself at Horizen’s Lakeview, a large digital hotel, where he bonded with his customer service “angel”, Nora (Andy Allo), as they investigated his murder together. Season 2 begins with Nathan stuck in 2-Gig, a data-limited lower floor in Lakeview. Even in the digital afterlife, it takes money to have the illusion of being alive. Nora runs away with her father to retire from the grid and join an anti-tech rebel group named “The Ludds”. Nestled in a forest, the commune, with its own anti-technological pastor, grows its own vegetables, the real uncoded ones.

This second season of 7 episodes differs in many ways from the first ten episodes, which established this near future where it is possible to download in a virtual afterlife. Much of the first season focused on the love triangle between Nathan, his wealthy girlfriend Ingrid, and Nora. The obvious chemistry between Amell and Allo made the series gripping, gripping viewers with the question of how Nathan is going to break up with Ingrid, the person who paid to download him, and thus keep him practically alive.

With Nathan and Nora separated for much of Season 2, the series focuses more on the politics of having a place like Horizen’s Lakeview, the introduction of new built-in programs, such as the Ridiculous Baby App, and the development other characters, like the character of Aleesha which comes into its own this season, as she stops being just Nora’s sidekick friend.

Class division in the virtual afterlife takes center stage this season. Ingrid removes Nathan from 2 Gig, after telling him that she also downloaded for him. Having experienced 2 Gig and meeting an acquaintance there, Yang (Phoebe Miu), Nathan becomes aware of the discrepancies between those in the luxurious Lakeview apartments and those stuck in 2 Gig. Nathan becomes something of a Robin Hood this season, while Nora begins working as an undercover agent for The Ludds, who want to tackle the inequality that a place like Lakeview sets up for the afterlife, mirroring the same inequalities that already exist in real life. society. It’s unclear why The Ludds targets Horizen and the other afterlife programs, instead of attacking the financial inequalities already at play in society.

The politics surrounding the class divide in the virtual afterlife is interesting enough to hold attention, but it distracts from what really made Season 1 so engrossing: the impossible romance between Nathan and Nora. Although To download has often been compared to The right place (mainly because of its creator Michael Schur), Greg Daniels’ series had the potential to look more like a series like grow daisies, with its story of star-crossed lovers. The tension created with Ned not being able to touch his childhood crush Chuck, which would kill her, is what made grow daisies such a great series. There are already many other films that explore this kind of impossible relationship, like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Heaven can wait (1978), or like paradise (2005), of ghosts falling in love with a living person. The build-up of tension between Nathan and Nora in To downloadhowever, is running out of steam in this new season.

Season 2 seems less interested in exploring what it really means to live in this digital world, and therefore the consequences involved in a relationship between a living person and a person who is a virtual “consciousness” without a sentient body. The most important question raised by this series remains unexplored in this second season: what does it mean to no longer have a body? Instead, the episodes continue to show the people of Lakeview eating – with a running gag of the billionaire eating endangered species – when they no longer need to eat at all. Even Yang takes some of the food served at the dinner that Nathan invites him to with his return to 2 Gig (why?). Ingrid’s character this season slightly explores the downsides of using the costume to be in Lakeview, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that.

Globally, To download continues to be an entertaining series, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next season.