With “Killjoys,” “Dark Matter” and “The Expanse” — not to mention “Wynonna Earp” and “The Magicians” — Syfy’s clearly on a renewed quest for greatness in genre entertainment — and its latest original scripted series, “Incorporated,” will do nothing but help push the channel further into must-see TV territory.
With Wednesday’s (Nov. 30) series premiere, “Vertical Mobility,” we’re introduced to a future world almost completely decimated by climate change. With global governments bankrupt and poverty and famine running rampant, huge corporations rose up to take control of the world. And with that aim for global domination, the multiple corporations in play fight to stay on top while the earth’s resources continue depleting. To put it bluntly: In the future, corporations are the worst kind of people.
Welcome to the year 2074.
Within this world, we’re introduced to two class systems: Those of privilege who live in Green Zones and the rest of the poverty-stricken population that fight constantly to survive in the Red Zones. With that separation firmly in place, a whole powderkeg fueled by class warfare waits patiently — or not so patiently — to explode.
At the center of this world lies Spiga, one of the few corporations vying for absolute power. And much like many governments in the world today, not all of them operate with transparency — or humane tactics. Making this even more intriguing is the show’s central character Ben (Sean Teale): An executive on the quick path to the company’s upper echelon.
But while he and his wife Laura (Allison Miller) have lofty goals for their future, Ben harbors a very big secret: His real name is Aaron, and he’s on a covert mission to find a missing woman named Elena (Denyse Tontz) who links us to a darker, more mysterious past.
That detail in the scripted thriller may sound familiar to fans of the genre, and it should. The whole time we were watching the episode, we couldn’t help but continually think back to Ethan Hawke’s performance as Vincent in the 1997 film “Gattaca.” He too bore a deep secret, pretending to be someone he wasn’t, to achieve one very epic goal.
But the lore in “Incorporated” feels like it’ll go much deeper than just one man’s shot at space travel. And with family ties to Spiga CEO Elizabeth Krauss (Julia Ormond), things will only get more complicated for Ben as he continues on his journey.
We’re unsure, as yet, of what his ultimate plan entails. But we have an inkling that his search for Elena is just the tip of a much more dangerous iceberg. It’s a notion that rings true when witnessing security officer Julian (Dennis Haysbert) prepare for a gruesome torture session with an employee caught smuggling secrets out of the building.
Like we said: These corporations — or government replacements, if you will — take part in some very inhumane practices.
The concept of a future world destroyed by climate change and ruled by corporate greed is nothing new in sci-fi entertainment. We’ve seen many class-focused, dystopian stories play out in the movie world — some examples may include “Dredd,” “District 9,” “Snowpiercer” and “The Hunger Games” — but to tell such a sweeping story on the small screen feels like a much bigger challenge. Thankfully, “Incorporated” is off to a strong start and it may set the precedent for those that come after it.
“Incorporated” — for all its worldbuilding and character development — does not break new ground in the genre, but it doesn’t have to. What the program does well is put in place a handful of formulaic components that have worked in the overall science fiction space for many years.
To put it bluntly, “Incorporated” is a Philip K. Dick fan’s dream fulfilled. Just how that dream will end, though, is anyone’s guess.
“Incorporated” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.