Incorporated: Season 1
Ever since ‘Battlestar Galactica’ established the SyFy channel is a major contender and original television programming, there track record is demonstrated mixed results but in general, they have become a source with some of the more interesting new series in an ever-expanding market. Where the latest endeavors came from a team of quality, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck. The latest project was a promising series called ‘Incorporated’ another in a never-ending line of dystopian futures. But I first read the synopsis in the pre-premier press release by the first impression was once again we will be visiting a future where corporations have supplanted governments. Thematically this is one of the most popular premises when considering a bleak, dehumanizing future. This has been such a popular foundation force dystopian stories at they have been a significant number that you retain the lauded position cinematically akin to a literary classic. Films such as ‘Rollerball,' ‘The Island’ and the entire ‘Resident Evil’ franchise extrapolates on the true to life scenario where corporations have exerted increasing influence over the established government. Coincidentally, resulting from the 2016 presidential election, the chief executive of the United States is a man known as businessman/reality TV personality with no prior political experience. From the perspective of the requisite context this genre must establish to draw the audience into a frighteningly believable set of circumstances. With current events fully supporting the possibility, arguably the inevitability of government by corporation. At the core of every exploration of this theme is the extreme polarization of economically defined castes. Ascending the corporate hierarchy become crucial for personal survival than the quest for corner office on the Olympian executive in the main headquarters. Power now encompasses the very lives of millions of people not merely a corporate division. ‘Incorporated’ brings the audience on a journey through the quagmire of office politics, class prejudice, and blackmail as a recognized means to attain personal and professional objectives.
From reference made in this series, the rise of the plutocracy began with wealthy and powerful corporations contributing to political parties in return for preferred treatment. Over time the corporations rose to a stature beyond the law. This is the world that Ben Larson (Sean Teal) was born into albeit as a child of poverty. There is virtual no proscribe path to move from the common throng to the elite. There is no middle class, just the senior management of the corporations and those doom to live and die in squalor. The series begins in the year 2074 and Ben have finally achieved a position to execute a plan that he has been that have been festering since he was a child. He lived in the Red Zone, the slum containing the downtrodden masses. Most people hopeless crushed by debt are forced to face the brutal reality of defaulting; Failure to pay is tantamount to a death sentence. Ben loves a girl in his neighborhood, Elena (Denyse Tontz), an especially beautiful young woman but her family was about to lose everything has her father was obligated to pay off a staggering amount immediately. With no other option, Elena sells herself to the Corporation. Within the context of this dysfunctional society that entails entering into a formal, legally binding contract. In exchange for assigning bonus sufficient to erase her father’s debts, Elena becomes the property of the corporation’s Executive Entertainment Division. They will pimp her out to the powerful and influential. Her meager compensation is dispensed to her father as per a clause in the contract. Ben has been meticulously maneuvering to obtain a position in the corporation hierarchy conducive to extricating Elana from her carnal enslavement.
Ben now has a beautiful, well-connected wife, Laura (Allison Miller), with practice as a plastic surgeon. In the Green Zone, the superficiality of appearance is crucial. Laura could attain an education and professional standing largely because her mother is Elizabeth Krauss (Julia Ormond), the head of Spiga Corporation’s US Operations. In this corporate hive, Elizabeth is the undisputed queen bee. The critical element for the requisite advancement is a promotion that will bring him to the Holy of Holies, and office on the top floor of the corporate headquarters. Ben has one co-worker that is a realistic rival, Roger Caplan (Douglas Nyback). Ben obtains some extremely illegal computer hardware that provides an untraceable backdoor into the corporate servers. Roger is passed over, and Ben moves into his new office. There is another reason Elizabeth is prone to help Ben. He and Laura are trying to have a baby. The corporation controls procreation and in part involves a complete DNA assay. It revealed Ben’s exposure to lead and malaria as a result of his childhood in the Red zone.
The timeline of the series alternates between the present and past back when Ben, the rising star still labored under the restricted prospects afforded to his identity. Although the fundamental premise of the story is overly familiar, it works due to the expert utilization of the substantial talent present on both sides of the camera. The co-creators, brothers Dan and Alex Pastor, are using this series to consolidate their migration from Barcelona to the American-made product. Previously they had written and directed several films in a range of genres encompassing an eclectic spectrum of mystery, horror and science fiction. One of the movies they provided the screenplay for was ‘Self/less,' about a dying mogul purchasing the transfer of his consciousness into a healthy young body. Many themes explored in that movie provides a solid foundation developed in the context of this story. The complete disregard for the life of the donor, little more than a new suit of clothes to replace a worn outfit. That dehumanization has taken to an extreme that demonstrates how any form of oligarchy inevitably reduces the lower class to a sub-human status. This has been de rigueur whenever a privileged few hold absolute power. Ben by shedding his lowly birth identity to reinvent himself as a person of considerable power.
The story cleverly avoids several pitfalls most dystopian stories are unable to side step. There is a head of security, Julian Morse (Damon Herriman) whose suspicious nature has him cast his inquisitive eye on Ben. Rather than overly depending on this thread to bind the dramatic motivation together. That would have drastically altered the intrinsic drive of the story. Such a focus would unavoidably have corrupted the true intensity of the series. The show was crafted to expose another dark aspect of the human condition. Absolute power always corrupts absolutely, but the primary focus was collapsed to a microcosm presented through the trials and tribulations of individuals trapped by the immutable roles assigned by the system. Such a nuanced story requires an expert touch by the performers bringing the characters and circumstances to life. Sean Teale has the unenviable task of playing two diametrically opposite characters. The Red Zone Ben, is determined to take down the draconian rule of the corporate overlords. The Green Zone Ben may unstably have appeared to have the same goal but the necessity of rising through the hierarchy to gain access the necessary knowledge and power. On some level, he enjoys the perks of the 1%. He no longer must scam to survive, at least not in the overt fashion required by the streets of the Red Zone. Ben has leveraged his street smarts into what amounts to an unfair advantage over his homogenized adversaries. They all had the same privileged upbringing, the same elite schools, and exclusive associations. Ben learned to use anything to obtain his objective. What he couldn’t completely prepare for was their home court advantage. Denyse Tontz does an excellent job as the disparate young woman forced to sell her only commodity, youthful beauty, and sexual appeal, becoming a sex slave to save her family. Once again, a familiar, mundane plot contrivance made interesting by a tightly woven script and the abilities of the performers to present the essence of their characters to the viewers. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after a mere ten episodes by the primary distributor, the CBS Television Distribution, even though I am reasonably certain that another season on the SyFy Channel would have allowed the series to find its narrative voice and secure a loyal fan base.