My life has been missing this series about death, so I was very glad to see the second season of Upload finally arrive. Although it’s only seven episodes, there’s still plenty to love as our friends scramble around the near-future digital beyond, trying to save themselves and humanity from nefarious, power-hungry dealers while also building communities and, of course, falling in love. There’s a lot of what you’d expect from a sophomore season—romance deferred, humor drawn from dark places, and much racing around with little outcome—which mostly left me needing a third season to be insta-printed à la some middle class Upload food.
Side note: there are a bunch of reviews complaining about how this season is suddenly “woke,” and stating that they had to give up ten minutes into the first episode because of references to the “evil patriarchy.” I adore reviews like this because, like, how did they watch the entire first season and miss the overt politics of the show, which are the same politics as the second season? My one-star review friends, I promise it’s not the show, it’s you.
Anyway! Onward! After she nearly gets killed, Nora (Andy Allo) decides to spend some quiet time upstate with the Ludds (wise choice), where she meets the creepy and sexist Pastor Rob (Peter Bryant) who asks that his followers to reject technology and “all its empty promises” in order to “receive the dirt.” Men stand to do this while women kneel. Ew. Enter the Evil Patriarchy. However, she also meets the charming and uncreepy Mateo (Paulo Costanzo), who shows her the wonders of unprinted vegetables grown from heirloom seeds, convinces her to join the Ludds in their attempts to take down Lake View, and, obviously, serves as a (temporary, at least) love interest. By the way, the Ludds live in tents in the woods where the ground seems to always be squelchy, but they are somehow squeaky clean, well-groomed, and not covered in mosquito bites? There might be some romanticizing of the great outdoors going on here.
Meanwhile, ever since Ingrid (Allegra Edward) shocked the data out of him by sharing the news that she uploaded so they could be together for eternity, Nathan has been frozen on the 2 Gig floor at Lake View. Ingrid says she didn’t pay to unfreeze him right away because she needed the time to redecorate their suite, with things like a custom bed that’s as wide as a king but the length of a queen. If you thought Ingrid was annoying last season, well, gird your bits because she has gotten deliciously worse. Take, for example, when she is explaining jobs in the gig economy to Nathan’s mother, who is flat broke. “Errand Hamsters or Job Gerbils make two percent on orders, plus tips, sometimes,” she explains. When Nathan counters that they make tips all the time, she furrows her brow, smiles, and responds, “No. Yeah, of course.” Before adding from the side of her mouth, “For exceptional service.” Moments like these are contrasted with Ingrid when she’s vulnerable, still haughty and privileged, mind you, but somehow also an empathetic character. I mean, to a point.
Nathan is weighted by guilt that Ingrid gave up everything to be with him (but did she, really? dun, dun, dun!), so he tries to make the relationship work, but he is also desperate to find Nora and tell her how he really feels, so they can almost, kind of, virtually be together. While he’s waiting for her return, he and Luke (Kevin Bigley), who was absolutely lost while Nathan was frozen, get into some good trouble with redistributing Lake View wealth. Thankfully, Nathan continues to be slightly conceited and self-centered this season, which just works for his character, even as he continues to evolve in other areas of his thinking.
Confused when yet another woman is developing a huge crush on him, Aleesha (Zainab Johnson) describes Nathan as a “human bowl of oatmeal,” which I wholeheartedly agree with. Oh, and by the way, while Aleesha and Nora do not have the spin-off series I specifically requested, they do spend some time together this season when Nora returns to Horizen, first as a plant for the Ludds and then to help Nathan continue to unravel the mystery of his murder and Freeyond. Aleesha also keeps getting promoted at Horizen at a rate that she should find deeply concerning, but she’s too busy being grateful she doesn’t have to work graveyard shifts at a falafel place and live in a shipping container to make ends meet anymore to care. Which, fair enough.
What Upload continues to do best is draw comedy out of the bleak dystopian near future it has created, wryly poke at the limitations and dilemmas of technology, and explore human connections and relationships. At a dinner party where Ingrid invites the discerning friends she made in line for the Complaints desk, one of them points out that society needs poor people like Nathan’s friend Yang, who he invited up from 2 Gig, so they don’t lose sight of just how wealthy they are. In another scene the horrible Mr. Choak (William B. Davis) muses about how it’s okay to eat an octopus, which is as smart as a six-year-old, yet it’s not okay to eat a child. When Luke is reminiscing about how mean children could be to him when he was young and chunky, Mr. Choak is seen in the background ordering a penguin for lunch, simply because he’s run out of varieties of peacocks to eat. The juxtaposition of cruelty is pretty poetic. Of the entire season, watching Luke and Nathan Robin Hooding around Lake View was one of my favorite parts. It was also an opportunity to explore Luke’s character a bit more and, his sex dreams about Aleesha aside, he’s turning into a more interesting dead person than I expected.
What I remain confused and frustrated by is the ongoing mystery of why Nathan Brown got murdered and the whole Freeyond launch. I swear that every time they explain it more, it becomes slightly less clear, which seems like some trick that the Horizen company would perfect and then charge you an Unclouding Fee. I can’t decide if the writers know exactly where it’s all going and they’re very cleverly stringing us along, or if they’re flying by the seat of their pants and that’s why it feels like we’re putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle with the assistance of a kitten, a toddler, and none of the edge pieces. Also, and this is unrelated to mysteries, I’m just exhausted by sex doll and sex robot jokes. The fatigue of it is overwhelming. In one scene David Choak shows up with a prefera—a companion programmed to anticipate all of his likes—and the AI guy refers to her as a “sex doll,” which seems just unnecessary, especially in a show that has given that same AI guy more and more emotions and depth. In another part there’s a whole thing about Ivan (Josh Banday) upgrading his Roomba to a sex bot that wears lacy thong underwear and later has a thing for Mateo.
And another thing? Nora’s new boss is clearly wearing a fat in some scenes. The character is much thinner in his avatar form and heavier in real life. Just, no fat suits, okay? It’s been discussed. It’s been written about. It’s done. I know these are small things, but it’s also the small things that often undermine the most, you know? They make the foundation unsound without you even realizing it.
But my biggest complaint about the second season of Upload? I watched it all. (This season really was more like half a season.) It goes down smooth and easy, but it is packed with thoughtful content that takes time to fully digest. This show really hits a sweet spot: it’s a combination of Sci-Fi, dystopian, social-commentary, rom-com, and comedy with heart that’s just what my life was missing.