'Incorporated': TV Review
Syfy's latest drama seems content to be a good-enough diversion, and sometimes that's not a bad thing.
The base aim for any decent science-fiction or paranormal series should be to have some good, creative ideas and tell an interesting story around them. The risk of trying for more is that the whole mythology becomes a pointless time suck; in much rarer circumstances, you get something truly astounding.
Therefore it's always best to find a likeable sci-fi show and let it develop, let it find itself and be entertained along the way. It's a good, efficient deal and asking for more and better generally leads to disappointment.
Incorporated, Syfy's latest drama, has a lot of the mid-expectation DNA that allows you to like it without worrying about whether or not it's going to end up being a show you dissect every week, which, after Game of Thrones or Westworld, can get a little tiring. What's so bad about good enough?
Incorporated does have some predictable pratfalls, like being too heavy-handed at times, and a central conceit (one man hunting for a lost love) that's not nearly as enticing as, say, futuristic espionage and cool gadgets.
But all told, Incorporated makes for a nice distraction with a dollop of real potential in its storytelling. It has a high profile already with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as executive producers, and was created, written and directed by brothers Alex and David Pastor, the Spanish duo who wrote Carriers and Self/less (directing the former).
Incorporated tells the story of multinational corporations rising to world power in 2074 after climate changes have ravaged the world and created famine and chaos and left collapsed countries in their wake. Populations are now divided into Green Zones (those who work for gigantic corporations and, for total fealty, get to reap the nice life with real food and other luxuries) and the Red Zone, which is basically somebody's idea of making the world of Blade Runner seem sunny.
Ben Larson (Sean Teale) is a rising middle manager at Spiga, the enormous multinational corporation headed by Elizabeth (Julia Ormond, doing her best to act to seem evil) and Julian (Dennis Haysbert), who basically keeps every employee and all the company secrets in check by being your worst nightmare if you dare do something stupid (and end up out in the Red Zone on your ass). In the first couple of episodes, Ormond and Haysbert aren't as compelling as they normally are, but that has a lot to do with establishing them (at least for now) as bad and dangerous people that Ben must maneuver around in his fight for justice or, you know, finding that lost love mentioned above.
It's not very twisty that Ben is basically an outsider trying to make the world a better place, secretly, from within. But Teale makes him compelling enough to root for. The best part of Ben's backstory is that he was recruited and trained by Hendrick, played by none other than the wonderful Damon Herriman (better known to Justified fans as Dewey Crowe), who gets to play a rangier, less crazy Southern part, which is a nice change.
Other elements of Incorporated are less interesting but at least the story is trying hard, and every time it misses a beat (bloody cage fighting on overdrive out in the Red Zone) it does something cool like dream up a service where you pay someone on a loud dirt bike to drive you up 18 flights of stairs in a sketchy Red Zone apartment.
Incorporated is a series best left out of the race to create the most interesting mythology and instead fit into that slot of good-enough post-work entertainment. Maybe it will develop greater ambitions, but sometimes a show just needs to be a decently cool diversion instead of one-upping Blade Runner.
Cast: Sean Teale, Julia Ormond, Dennis Haysbert, Allison Miller, Eddie Ramos
Creator-writers-directors: Alex and David Pastor
Executive producers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Premieres: Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET/PT (Syfy)