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'The Feed' is Inventive, Disturbing, and Perhaps a Little Familiar
November 22, 2019  | By David Hinckley

Presumably, no TV show has to convince any viewer that information technology could spin out of control and begin causing catastrophic harm.

The only question for most viewers might be whether this is a theoretical futuristic scenario or a documentary on what's already happening.

The Feed, a British production that premieres Friday on Amazon Prime, nominally sets itself in the future. Almost all the physical trappings of its world, however, could have been posted this morning on Instagram. So the future part isn't necessarily reassuring.

The Feed revolves around the family of Lawrence Hatfield (David Thewlis), who has created the technology from which the show takes its name.

The Feed is a device implanted in the brain of almost every human on earth, enabling him or her to instantly access thoughts, memories, and information from other people.

Yeah. It's that creepy. But most people apparently find it efficient and functional – and besides, boys and girls, The Feed has privacy safeguards! It allows users to block others from accessing, say, the random thoughts that pass through everyone's head pretty much all the time.

As anyone who has ever owned a tech device knows, however, and that doesn't only mean people with Windows operating systems, technology can go walkabout.

In the case of technology as universal as The Feed, a small malfunction could affect millions of users, in ways that severely disrupt the normal function of the brain into which The Feed has been implanted.

To no one's surprise, least of all the viewer's, that malfunction occurs, and chaos engulfs the world. Hatfield responds by beaming out reassurances that this is a temporary minor hiccup and that to compensate all subscribers for the inconvenience, the company will give every user a free six-month security upgrade. While that's less useful to the people who are dead, it clearly proves that big corporations care, right?

Thewlis, so striking as the villain on the last Fargo series, returns to the bad guy seat here in a subtler way. He's now a man publicly providing an amazing technological service to the world, with only hints at first that he has a private agenda beyond becoming unspeakably rich.

The unraveling brings other characters into play, many of them members of the Hatfield family.

That includes Lawrence's wife, Meredith (Michelle Fairley), who has played an active role in the development and use of The Feed. Mild spoiler: She's not a sweetheart, either.

The Hatfield children fall into a classic pattern of heirs in wealthy television families.

Ben (Jeremy Neumark Jones) is the good son, the obedient one, and just bright enough to be Lawrence's heir apparent, highly placed in the family business, and trained to take over.

Tom (Guy Burnet) seems to have some concerns about the whole idea of The Feed and its potential to, for instance, alter perceptions in the brain and thus change the fundamental dynamics of humanity. Little stuff like that.

Tom's wife, Kate (Nina Toussaint-White), who is pregnant, becomes a significant player as Tom's concern starts to play out.

In an ironic way, it's reassuring that as the crisis begins to escalate, Lawrence's own traditional human traits become more pronounced. Even the inventor of mind-altering technology, it seems, can smoothly revert to simply being a controlling jerk.

Some viewers may be tempted to look at The Feed and see it as an advanced version of a technology that's already here, like, oh, say, for one random example, Facebook.

So it may be comforting to note that compared to The Feed, Facebook is primitive, capable of controlling thought only by suggestion, not by rewiring the neurons of the brain itself.

That thought is worth holding onto as The Feed wends along its chilling path. After all, it's only a TV show.

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