Not a Review of “Mare of Easttown” and “Upload”

So over the last few weeks, with Dickinson between seasons, we’ve sort of been looking for some new programs to intersperse amongst the lighter Big Bang Theory and New Adventures of Old Christine fare—sitcoms that my wife likes to refer to as “dessert”. I had been hoping the new HBO series The Nevers would fit the bill:

Looks right up my alley, doesn’t it? My wife sure thought so.

Wife: “Is this steampunk?”
Me: “This is totally steampunk. Especially that little car of theirs.”
Wife: “Yes, the car is why I asked.”

But unfortunately, a couple of episodes in, the show has not only been putting my wife to sleep within 10 minutes, it hasn’t even managed to really hold my attention. And when a Victorian steampunk superhero show fails to draw me in, you know there must be something wrong with it; I just can’t quite figure out what it is. Neither could Mashable, although they tried.

Anyway, ranging a bit afield from HBO Max, I remembered hearing somewhere about a show called Upload that was streaming on Prime, so I decided we would give that a try.

The typical way I introduce my wife to a new series is to just start it without telling her what it is, sort of like, you know, throwing your kid into the river to see if they can swim; sometimes they sink, and sometimes they make it back to shore.

Wife: “What’s this?”
Me: “This is Upload. It’s a show where when you die, you can upload your consciousness to a computer and live inside it.”
Wife: “Oh, kind of like the end of Westworld* where all the hosts went to live in that simulation?”
Me: “Yes, exactly like that. And I’m impressed you remember it.”

In the case of Upload, the program did make it back to shore, albeit just barely:

Me: “Would you watch another episode of this?”
Wife: “I think so. But not every night. Maybe once a week.”

I would characterize Upload as kind of a comedic version of Black Mirror. The consciousnesses living in the upload are required to pay for “upgrades” like better (simulated) food or (simulated) views outside their window, and at one point the main characters visit a level where the “2 gigs” reside; these are residents who can’t afford the full data plan, and instead of roaming around the entire simulated mountain resort environment, they are consigned to barren, sterile hallways, and are frozen in place if they exceed their data caps. This particular episode was a lot closer to going full-on Black Mirror than the show in general, and there are hints of a more broadly dystopian future at work that keep intruding further and further into the glossy simulation of paradise. And as it turns out, Upload has not only never put my wife to sleep, by the third episode she seemed to have forgotten her earlier throttling of her Upload tolerance.

Me: “What do you want to watch?”
Wife: “Mmm … maybe Upload?”

(the next night)

Me: “What do you want to watch?”
Wife: “Let’s watch Upload.”

(the next night)

Me: “What do want to watch tonight?”
Wife: “Upload?”
Me: “I thought we were only going to watch that once a week.”
Wife: “I guess I changed my mind.”
Me: “It must have you questioning the nature of your reality.”

The other show we started watching recently is the new HBO series Mare of Easttown, in which Kate Winslet plays a detective investigating a murder. Or at least, that’s what’s going to be happening starting with the second episode, since when the first episode starts, no one has been murdered yet.

Wife: “What’s this?”
Me: “This is a murder mystery with Kate Winslet.”
Wife: “The only murder mystery I really liked was that English one.”
Me: “You do like Kate Winslet, though.” (beat) “You remember who Kate Winslet is, right?”
Wife: “Yes, I remember who Kate Winslet is.”

The first episode of Mare of Easttown is mostly dedicated to establishing the characters, setting up its pins so that it can start knocking them down. We are introduced to one such bowling pin character in tight focus: A (very) young lady lying in her bed, telling someone or something off screen how much she is going to miss them. Who is going to cuddle them? Who are they going to kiss? Who is going to keep them warm at night? All of which prompted some speculation from me:

Me: “What do you think? Is she talking to a dog or a cat?”
(camera pulls back to reveal that she has been talking to a baby)
Me: “Well that never even occurred to me.”

Because there had been no murder yet, I spent most of the first episode working on (correctly) identifying who was going to be dead by the end of it. And also trying to identify who was playing that one guy. You know, the one with the chin?

Me: “Is that Guy Pearce? I think that’s Guy Pearce.”
Wife: (says nothing)
Me: “All right, I know you have no idea who Guy Pearce is. But he’s been in lots of movies I like.”
(on-screen, the guy who is probably Guy Pearce continues hitting on Kate Winslet)
Me: “Well, whoever this is, he must be an important character, or they wouldn’t have gotten Guy Pearce to play him.”

Spoiler alert: Yes, that was Guy Pearce, and therefore that guy must be an important character. Whether or not he’s the murderer remains to be seen. And we should get to find out, because Mare of Easttown also failed to put my wife to sleep:

Me: “So will you watch another episode of this one?”
Wife: “Uh-huh.”

Of course, in this case we have no choice but to watch it once a week, since HBO likes to release its shows in the old-school episodic style. Although we could just wait until they accumulate a bunch of episodes and then binge them. But what the heck, HBO, we’ll play along. After all, there’s still plenty of Big Bang Theory to fill in the gaps.

* I apparently never did a “Not A Review” of it, but Westworld was one of the programs** that initially led us to keep HBO after Game of Thrones ended. I had been interested in watching that show but never got around to starting it until, shockingly, my wife suggested we check it out, having read an article somewhere that had made it sound of interest to her. I think the article had said something like “Westworld will make you question the nature of your reality“, and although it took a while, it finally uncorked a few major twists that had my wife’s jaw on the floor.
** The other one was Chernobyl, which I had zero success interesting my wife in watching, but which I thought was fantastic. Although I totally fast-forwarded through the episode where they hunted down and killed all the dogs while evacuating the town.

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