Recently, I was given the opportunity to preview Syfy’s new show, Incorporated, coming later this month. This upcoming sci-fi drama is set in the year 2074, after severe climate change has devastated the continental United States, destroying most coastal cities and turning the middle of the country into a desert wasteland. In this harsh environment, many people became refugees, in what is known as the Red Zone. These refugees lived off of handouts from the government, until that government collapsed, when they were forced to eke out whatever existence they could under the thumbs of crime lords and high-powered corporations, who control all of the remaining resources. While the crime lords have access to the Red Zone’s few luxuries, those who work for corporations live in the Green Zone, a comparative paradise where no one knows any kind of want. It is a life everyone in the Red Zone desires, yet few achieve.
The plot of Incorporated centers around Aaron (played by Sean Teale), a man on a mission to find his old girlfriend, Elena. Both Aaron and Elena were refugees in the Red Zone, but circumstances caused Elena to enter service as a ‘companion’ to high-level business executives in the Green Zone. To attain his goal of rescuing Elena, Aaron has taken on an entirely new identity as Ben Larsen, hiding his past and spending seven years working his way up the corporate ladder at Spiga, a high-powered company at the forefront of the country’s leading industry: agriculture and food production.
To the current day viewer, an agricultural company may sound benign, or even philanthropic, yet Spiga’s true nature is far from this pleasant image. In the devastation caused by drastic climate change, the cold, cut-throat environment in the industry is mirrored by the executives at the corporation. Rival companies attack Spiga’s worldwide installations terrorist-style, with Spiga dishing it right back. Spiga’s head is Elizabeth Krauss (played by Julia Ormond), whose sophisticated demeanor belies the steel lurking within. At her side is Julian (played by Dennis Haysbert) who will go to frightening lengths to enforce Spiga’s interests. Yet Spiga cares for its employees, keeping them comfortable as long as they continue to pledge their lives to the corporation.
It is into this hotbed of suspicion, ruthlessness and intense demands that Ben inserts himself, playing the game and rising up the corporate ladder, ingratiating himself in any way possible, including by marrying Krauss’ daughter, Laura. He is willing to go to any lengths to find Elena. Any lengths. And this is what makes Incorporated stand out from other shows of this genre.
Ben is not a hero. He is not a likable character. His intense desire to find Elena, while seeming noble on the surface, is quickly revealed to be obsessive, almost pathological, in nature. Ben thinks nothing of the numerous lies he tells his wife or the people he literally destroys in his effort to fight his way to the top, justifying any actions he takes to further his goal of finding Elena. In a world of ruthless predators, Ben fits right in, targeting anyone who gets in his way, or who can unwittingly be of ‘assistance’ in pursuing his objectives.
Surprisingly, the hero of this sordid tale turns out to be Ben’s wife Laura, a kindhearted doctor who bears mental scars from being horrifically kidnapped in the past, yet who is determined to put it behind her and live her life to the fullest. She is unaware of her husband’s true identity, or any of his other duplicitous acts, yet we can sense a strength inside of her that suggests that when she does learn the true extent of the deceit around her, she will survive. While Ben digs himself into a deeper and deeper hole, it is the character of Laura who really shines through, unknowingly both aiding and hindering Ben in his search.
This absorbing tale is wrapped in the believable environment of a high-tech workforce living in a perfect bubble, surrounded by the wretched remnants of society who consume their product. The technology used in the Green Zone is both credible (from a 2016 perspective) and advanced, much of it resembling what Apple probably hopes to accomplish over the next couple of decades. The devastation and poverty we see in the Red Zone are frighteningly plausible, and the hints of what happened to cause this great dichotomy in American society are both intriguing, and a warning.
Incorporated premieres on the Syfy Channel on November 30, and is well worth placing on your watch list.
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