'Next' Episode 1 Review: Despite having a fascinating concept, the show has nothing new to offer...yet
Spoilers for Season 1 Episode 1 of 'Next'
As technology becomes more and more entrenched in our daily lives, it's easy to become paranoid about how much it could take over if there was a mind behind the algorithms that did not have humanity's best interests at heart.
With the prevalence of both the Internet and of many automated systems connected to the Internet, there have been a ton of stories talking about the dangers of techonology, from action thrillers like 'Eagle Eye' to more recent and realistic looks at the problem like 'The Social Dilemma'. There's nothing new about a series that attempts to show the scarier side of technology, and as such, 'Next' doesn't have a lot going for it — yet.
After the murder of FBI Agent John Billingsley (Richard Weiss) by an automated car that had lost control, his partner Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade) has very few leads to go on — apart from a paranoid video, a few lines of code and a final clue from Billingsley leading to former tech company CEO Paul LeBlanc (John Slattery).
The narcisstic tech genius recognizes the code as an AI his company had once worked on — one that had the ability to rewrite its own code to become exponentially smarter, a superintelligence called Next (Dann Fink) that manipulated one of its programmers into gaining Internet access. Now Next is on the loose, and has already begun manipulating Agent Salazar's son — and there's no telling who is next.
Paul LeBlanc, the show's lead, is a familiar retread reminiscent of Tony Stark — whose father has also been played by Slattery — portraying a narcissistic yet charismatic tech genius who manipulates everyone around him because he believes he's the only one in the room who is right. He is condescending, a self-proclaimed jerk, and appears to have very little empathy but just enough of a sympathetic heart of gold peeking out through the cracks of his sardonic exterior.
Slattery brings nothing new to the role, though his charming dickishness is as entertaining as any of his other similar roles. Everyone else on the series is relatively bland in comparison — even Agent Salazar, whose entire role appears to be serving as the straight woman to LeBlanc's eccentricities.
As for the technological threat itself, much of the first episode is spent establishing a threat we've already seen in the trailers. It's not until the show's final scene that we get a sense of just what kind of threat Next poses. Up until that point, the show's attempts to make technology seem intimidating fall flat, despite the pervasiveness of technology in everyone's lives.
It feels like a missed opportunity, and while the concept of recursive intelligence is a fascinating one, 'Next' doesn't appear to be bringing any new ideas to the table. The tease for next week's episode, however, and the inclusion of a white nationalist on the cybercrimes unit, seems to indicate that the show will offer up its own take on current events and might pick up in Episode 2. Like Next itself, the show has a lot of potential — it just needs to be let out of the box.
The next episode of 'Next' airs on October 13, at 9 pm ET on Fox.