'Next' Episode 5 Review: AI targets Paul LeBlanc and Shea Salazar at the most vulnerable point - their families
As the core team splits up, NEXT manages to target them all, and goes after John and Shea's resentful family members in particular
Spoilers for 'Next' Season 1 Episode 5
The bomb at the end of the last episode may not have killed our core team, but it's certainly scattered them to the winds. The paranoid Paul LeBlanc (John Slattery) takes his daughter Abby (Elizabeth Cappuccino) and the hard drive away from everyone else, Gina (Eve Harlow) watches over CM (Michael Mosley) at the hospital, and the caretaker of the Salazar's house turns out to be a lot more than meets the eye — and NEXT has found a brand new ally.
The show splitting into four separate storylines works well in its favor. Its greatest strength has not been in humanizing its characters, in the chemistry of its protagonists, or even the plot, no, where 'Next' excels is at being a thriller. Flashing between storylines before any of them have a chance to settle is a great way to keep an audience on the edge of its seat, especially when focusing on a villain whose most dangerous aspect is its omnipresence and its ability to multitask.
Apart from the vague tease of a line at the start of this episode, we haven't really heard directly from NEXT in a while but its effects are felt everywhere, especially as pieces it set up weeks ago are just coming into play now.
This concise storytelling of this episode has given a few underappreciated characters a quick moment in the sun. Paul shares a few touching moments with his daughter, even as his (admittedly justified) paranoia worsens. Gina and CM build on their conversation from the last episode, although Gina's protectiveness works a lot better than a shoehorned conversation about tolerance and open-mindedness did the last episode.
Ted LeBlanc (Jason Butler Harner) just giving in to his villainous side is a bit of a joy to see — after five episodes of being afraid of the invisible mind behind every camera and microphone, it's nice to put an actual face to a villain.
It's Nacio Flores (David Zayas), however, who steals the show. David Zayas is a wonderfully charismatic actor, managing to balance sharing a heartwarming family moment with Ethan, and then turn the tables around to be an absolutely intimidating presence once his daughter enters the room, and he can let his mask slip. His switch from friendly to dangerous is slow but sharp, and the soap opera of it is a lot more gripping than NEXT's manipulation of anonymous crowds.
'Next' has tried to be a relevant commentary on society, but its attempts to do so fall flat. Where it works best is when it leans into its sensationalism, into dangers, visible threats, greedy, self-serving villains and secret family members who are out for revenge.
With its singular season, 'Next' will be gone before it ever has the chance to say something significant about the dangerous prevalence of technology in our lives — but in the meantime, it's having a lot of fun simply saying all it can about just danger.
The next episode of 'Next' airs on December 1 at 9 pm ET on FOX.