'Next' Episode 2: Sci-fi thriller delivers a lukewarm chapter as Paul races against time to stop the rogue AI
Spoilers for 'Next' Season 1 Episode 2 'File #2'
Picking up from the events of the previous episode, Fox's 'Next' returns with Episode 2 that is equal parts curious and a drag. The exponentially intelligent AI called Next, an abandoned project by Paul LeBlanc (John Slattery), has gone rogue. And now as Paul and special agent Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade) continue hunting down Next, they are confronted with surprisingly life-threatening, unbelievable challenges.
True to the sci-fi trope, no one outside of the immediately affected circle is willing to believe that an AI could have possibly done this. And in doing so, the episode packs a frustrating amount of said exchanges and slows itself down.
Elsewhere, Salazar's son Ethan (Evan Whitten) continues to suffer at the hands of the bullies in school. In an attempt to get rid of Salazar, the AI goes via Ethan — something it was building up to since the premiere. After a long, rather draggy sequence of will-he-won't-he, he doesn't do what he was expected to do. Most of the episode focused on the bullying angle with the first-half making audiences nervous about Ethan's possible actions and, in the second-half, rooting for him.
Meanwhile, Paul wanted to reconnect with his estranged daughter Abby (Elizabeth Cappuccino) and makes plans for dinner. But given the sudden rampant takeover by the AI he created, it seems like he cannot give Abby the time — even if he really wanted to. If there is anything on 'Next' that doesn't disappoint, it is Slattery's performance of a bumbling old man who is eager to make amends with his past.
Slattery's portrayal of the degeneration of a once-great mind is a sad reminder of mortality that sits perfectly in this techno-thriller. After a solid suspenseful season premiere, 'Next' loses sight of its cause and falls victim to tropes.
The episode uses Ethan as bait to get through to the AI, eventually succeeding as things simply happen to work out. On the bright side though, even if the episode spent a good deal of time coding and decoding, at least it wasn't riddled with industrial jargon. We don't want to jump the gun just yet, but episode 2 might be proof that 'Next' took upon a mammoth of a subject and might not see it to fulfilment.
At the same time, maybe its emotional angles will be enough to keep its audience intact if not growing. 'Next' airs on Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT.