This Incorporated review contains spoilers.
Incorporated Season 1, Episode 2
An imbalance exists in Incorporated. On the one hand, there’s the huge story potential inherent in the corporate future the writers have envisioned as well as the perfectly compelling intrigue unfolding with Ben and the secret mission behind his rise to power. On the other hand, the characters themselves have an uneven amount of personality and emotional depth to draw in the viewer, causing supporting characters to upstage principles. Viewers are engaged, but how much do they care?
Perhaps it’s the air of suspicion permeating the entire atmosphere of the show that transfers to the audience as a disconnected feeling. Laura Larson, of all people, ends up being the most sympathetic as she struggles to help Fiona Peterson, the wife of the man Ben framed for spying in his quest to get to the 40th floor. Her heartbreaking offer of an adoptive home for the kids as the Peterson’s are exiled makes viewers want to scratch themselves bloody just like she does. Definitely an emotional peak!
So how is the audience supposed to feel about Ben, who prioritizes finding his childhood sweetheart over the lives of an entire family, whether they’re Green Zone bourgeoisie or not? As Ben withstands the interrogation of Julian Morse (and Dennis Haysbert is killing it), his lies about his boss Chad sound downright malicious. The best part of his getting away with it lies not in watching him succeed but in seeing his mother-in-law CEO scramble to be done with the whole affair with as little scrutiny as possible.
That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable to be fooled into thinking Morse had found Ben’s… what shall we call it: hacky puck? Ben was apparently just as relieved to see the riot suppression gun, for which he undoubtedly had a cover story. But the real suspense comes from realizing that his co-worker, who will be competing for the vacated executive position, has the puck and will of course be using it to his own advantage, especially since Ben conspired with him to lie about whose idea it was to go to the Red Zone bar.
As stated earlier, all of this scheming and subterfuge is great stuff. But why should viewers care if Ben gets caught? Is it enough to be presented with Ben’s childhood story of hacking the ration machines on behalf of Elena and others? It certainly provided a good explanation for how he caught the attention of his resistance handler, Hendrick, but the necklace keepsake passed through the fence didn’t carry enough emotional depth to explain away Ben’s ruthless manipulation to find Elena in the present.
Perhaps it’s not supposed to. Maybe, like Hendrick, the audience is supposed to be wary of Ben making himself too visible. In that sense, he’s as reckless as Theo, who is also trying to game the system in the Red Zone by taking a fast track to fame. It was certainly fun to see the scrappy kid take down the hulking brute in a cage fight by using the bone from the steak offered only to the favored fighter. It seems that hubris is at play with both male protagonists in this show.
And hubris is a wonderful device to knock heroes down a peg; it’s true. But it doesn’t feel as tragic when the main character isn’t all that likable to begin with. Not that Ben or Theo are unlikable… they’re just kind of neutral. They need to borrow some real pain from Laura or at least show some distress behind their stoicism. Ben assured Laura last week that he felt the tragedy of the broken world, too, but so far, that hasn’t been apparent. And now matter how great the story is in Incorporated, if the viewers can’t connect with the main characters, they won’t keep coming back.