Review: ‘Upload Season 3’

The Digital Afterlife Show Continues Brilliant Satire In Its Third Season

A few years back, showrunner Jeff Daniels (of The Office and Parks and Recreation fame) introduced us to the concept of a “Digital Afterlife” in the comedy-drama show Upload on Amazon Prime. The notion of the idea of uploading your digital consciousness to a cloud-based “virtual afterlife” while science-fictiony, is not too unrealistic nowadays with the advancement of AI. The concept was explored in the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back,” but with it being Black Mirror it was dark (of course). But with Upload, it was the perfect way to explore how our technology is changing while also making some fun satire taking a swing at our corporate consumerism culture.

Centering on computer programmer Nathan (Robbie Amell) who died in the first season of the show and joined the “Lakeview” digital afterlife, Upload has brilliantly explored various issues concerning consumerism, but also layered in a great story about relationships. Season two of Upload ended with Nathan finally able to “download” into a new cloned body his former materialistic and obsessive girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) so that he could go back into the real world to be with his now-girlfriend (and former digital afterlife handler or “angel”) Nora (Andy Allo) and further investigate who murdered him because he was on the verge of creating a “free” digital afterlife.

Because there has never been a successful download into a new body (every time it was attempted, the downloaded person’s head exploded), Nathan and Nora are worried the same may happen to him. But now that he’s back in a new body and in the real world, he gets to explore his relationship with Nora to go beyond digital. However, the powers that be at the Lakeview Digital Afterlife company can’t admit that Nathan is gone, so they simply activate a backup copy of Nathan in the digital world. Now with two Nathans running around (who are essentially the same person with a couple of months of experience removed) Upload also gets to explore the concept of what makes you “you” based on experiences vs biology. Real-world Nathan continues to fight for uploaded people (or “uploads”) while digital Natan wants to continue his relationship with Ingrid (who is still faking that she’s dead in Lakeview and not VR-ing into the digital world).

In addition to a strange love quadrangle between the real-world and digital Nathans and their perspective girlfriends and them all trying to stick it to the man, Upload also explored other characters from the previous seasons. Aleesha (Zainab Johnson) is moving up the corporate ladder and going from “Angel” to executive and gets to see some of the dark side of middle management. She also continues to develop her friendship with Luke (Kevin Bigley), who is still dead and in Lakeview. Her friendship (and perhaps something more) with Luke as well as her new relationship with ruthless and cutthroat executive Karina (Jeanine Mason) are further explored.

Upload continues its biting satire of this new world that exists with plenty of fun Easter Eggs. While I don’t want to work for “Oscar Myer Intel,” have my Thanksgiving ham 3D printed, or tune in to Kim Kardashian’s Supreme Court hearing on C-SPAN, I wouldn’t mind voting for Steve Kerr to join the US Senate or go to the Shawn Carter (Jay Z) Memorial Hospital. Upload continues to look at our culture and just pushes it a little bit into the fantastical yet possible future in a clever and hilarious way. Upload also has something to say about the haves and have-nots as the digital afterlife is only for those with enough money for it. In fact, Natan was murdered for trying to buck the system, but in the third season of Upload, Nathan and Nora team up with one of Nathan’s former girlfriends to file a class-action suit against the corporation. Nathan also learns the downside of being “undocumented” because even though he downloaded into a cloned body, he doesn’t have any rights as he is dead. He can’t even get a job outside of cleaning up garbage on the street. Speaking of worker’s rights, the corporation is lobbying Congress to allow digital people to work (at a reduced rate) echoing how corporations use prison labor for pennies on the dollar to net even more profits.

With Upload being an Amazon show, they once again poke fun at themselves a little bit. In the middle of the season, there’s a “Discount Day” at the Lakeview Digital afterlife which feels eerily similar to how Amazon runs its annual “Prime Day” sales. While a it’s tongue-in-cheek self-referential comedy about “fake discounts” and excess consumerism, we all know Amazon does this on the regular. You really can’t criticize something you do to reap your profits, and still do it to reap your profits. That being said, I’m sure I’ll be logging in on the next Prime Day like the rest of the planet does!

The cast continues to be great and deliver from the exceptional writing of Upload. Robbie Amel absolutely is no longer a supporting cast actor and he’s successfully anchored three seasons of Upload. The standouts from the third season are Zainab Johnson as Aleesha and Kevin Bigley as Luke. While Luke is the comedic relief with him fanboying for Nathan more than Charles Boyle does for Jake, he also has some serious moments, especially as his friendship with Aleesha continues to grow. The season ends with the conclusion of the class-action suit against the corporation and does it in the most realistic manner that leaves you begging for a third season to happen. Overall Upload is a fun time!

Upload is currently available on Prime Video.