After many pointless detours in Ben Larson’s misadventures, Incorporated’s first season finally comes to an end. In “Golden Parachute,” Ben’s sacrifices, his series of lies and and dark deeds committed in the name of Elena, proved pointless. Finally scheming his way into the Spiga’s most exclusive club, Ben learned that his one-time girlfriend wasn’t waiting for his arrival and rejected any attempt to be rescued from the corporate sex trade. Everything he’d done was ultimately for nothing. Alone and rejected, Ben must find contentment in the executive office on the 40th floor, the bigger check, the more impressive house, now that the promotion he fought for was finally granted to him.
Forced to accept success and denied the actualization of one’s true ambition is perhaps the best way to sum up the good bits to come out of Incorporated’s first season. While the premise of a dying planet and kleptocratic systems thriving on every continent is both prescient and wanted by an audience that’s gone glutinous over news media. But too often the main plot felt like it had nowhere to go, making Ben feel out of place in his own story. To make matters worse our hero was perhaps too duplicitous, coming off as inherently selfish and destructive, which would be fine, even great when you consider he’s acting much in the way conglomerates do. That, however, would require a story worth telling.
Laura’s time controlling the story was in some ways more tolerable. Depending on the episode she felt like a better character to focus on in order to make sense of Incorporateed’s privileged class, much in the same way Theo’s story highlighted class warfare better than any of the other characters. As a child of privilege, completely ignorant of the pain corporate America (green zone) inflicts daily on the rest of the country, Laura’s guilt for living in luxury tied into her post-traumatic stress and the eventual self-harm she impulsively practiced. So it was interesting to see that self-destructive behavior lessen as she spent more time in the red zone, contributing to the relief effort there. The graduation from cosmetic surgeon to doctor at the local free clinic illustrated what was possibly the strongest theme of the show: though Laura may not have contributed to the pain inflicted on red-zoner’s directly, the disparity between the two classes of people would never be rectified if people on her side didn’t directly contribute to the relief of their collective actions. Laura easily has Incorporated’s biggest character shift, and the finale brought it full circle.
Finding out that she was finally pregnant, which, like Ben’s promotion, turns out to be a coveted luxury in 2074, and something that she doesn’t seem too happy to have, Laura’s forced again to consider her affluent surroundings and how to reconcile them with her developing code of ethics. Should she stay in luxury, forsake her clinic, and raise her child with all the comforts Spiga money can afford? Or does she continue her work with the poor, circumventing bad laws and tech to administer healthcare to people who’d otherwise never receive it? Unlike Ben, there’s real jeopardy in Laura’s case, an examination of how one side truly perceives the other, and how ignorant luxury makes people oblivious to the suffering of others. But you don’t need to jump to 2074 for those lessons. In fact, the Milwaukee of the near future largely went to waste. Technology is treated like magic, there’s little consistency between science and the barren wastes of the Midwest, and apart from a few pieces, the budget betrays the show’s ambitious art direction. Unlike my first impressions where Incorporated felt like a live-action adaptation of the Syndicate series, the show’s shadow war was more like a daytime mugging where Spiga held up Inazagi with a steak knife then proceeded to cut itself as it ran off a cliff. Sure there’s questions about Elizabeth’s ability to lead and the betrayal of her watchdog Julian, which presumably will set up a thread in future seasons, but what could’ve been an interesting C-plot about private military companies defending their conglomerates, reducing traditional military forces to some withered memory of old power was reduced to a few pot shots over an IP that could end world hunger and reap trillions in profit. To make this interesting angle less so, the instances where this story appears were so far apart and limited in scope and action that when the corresponding scene came along the previous one is already forgotten. And when Inazagi’s moment to shine finally showed up in the finale, it turned out to be a head-fake, which largely sums up my impression of this first season.
Unlike Continuum, which in has its own corporate-owned future and a group of Canadian terrorists in 2077 looking to settle inequality, Incorporated, beyond a first look, seemed to have no understanding over the level of chaos that could be showcased in its setting or how to build a story around it. Rather, the show preferred to show the aftermath of corporate rule, which proved to be far less interesting. With that in mind, it’s probably easy to deduce why Syfy execs haven’t announced a second season despite the fanfare and A-list names executive producing.