If our political climate has you feeling apocalyptic, Incorporated may or may not be the show for you: It’s a triggering dystopian thriller and wannabe allegory-for-now about… well, apocalyptic climate change. From executive producers Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Ted Humphrey, and Jennifer Todd, the series is set in 2074. America is a disaster due to environmental catastrophe and mismanagement. The government has ceded control to massive multinational conglomerates that have reorganized society into corporate-controlled city-states. Kleptocracy reigns, paranoia rules, and the marketplace determines human worth. Only the most obedient, cunning, and technologically adept can flourish. Question authority? You’re fired! And maybe worse.
Ben (Sean Teale) is an upwardly mobile nerd-world Mad Man, living a lie and playing a dangerous double-agent game. The former slumdog hustler has changed his identity and married well: Laura, his troubled plastic-surgeon wife (Allison Miller), is the daughter of his company’s chief exec (Julia Ormand). Secretly, though, he strives to find his lost love, Elena (Denyse Tontz), who, like him, has traded away her identity and morality to survive and save her family. But — and this is criticism by way of great praise — the most impressive performance and character in Incorporated is its deeply imagined world. Throwaway ideas, like a grieving widow who hires Laura to remake a poor immigrant in the image of her dead husband, could seed whole episodes of Black Mirror. James Bond would kill for the arsenal of gadgets Aaron deploys in his soulstaining subversions.
Besides the sharp yet paper-thin portrayals, the biggest problem with the show is timing. You look to Incorporated for dystopian fiction that expresses our current anxieties; what you get is fitful resonance that makes you realize it might be too soon for any show to meet that challenge. B