Synopsis of 1×01: The world has become a dark place by 2074. The wealthy elite live in safe, protected green zones ruled by powerful corporations while the poor fend for themselves in brutal, crime ridden red zones. Ben appears to be an ambitious young company man loyal to Spiga, one of these massive corporations. But the truth about his past and motivations turn out to be dangerous secrets he will go to any lengths to protect…
Incorporated takes place in a world that’s not that far of a stretch from our own in a future, where global warming has decimated the planet and corporations have turned into massive, extra-national entities that basically control everything. It’s a common theme in science fiction series these days similar organizations exist in shows like Dark Matter, Continuum, and Killjoys.
People are divided with the wealthy living in prosperous ‘green zones’ while the rest of the population try to survive in unruly, lawless ‘red zones.’ Human trafficking, drugs, and general debauchery seem to be perfectly acceptable in this world as long as you maintain appearances inside the green zone.
The main character is a man named Ben who appears to live a charmed life within the Milwaukee green zone. At first glance he appears to be a dedicated company man. He works for one of these massive corporations, Spiga. He’s been married to his wife, Laura, for three years and, as the son-in-law of the leader of Spiga, he appears to be on the fast track to a leadership position himself. He and his wife are even approved to begin trying to start a family of their own – something that we’re led to believe is quite difficult. (As is getting real bacon and real tobacco cigarettes.)
It becomes pretty clear early on that, however, that Ben is not what he appears.
In fact, he’s not even named Ben as we come to discover. His real name is Aaron and while he may be playing the part of the Spiga company man there’s something else behind his actions. We’re not told what exactly but after a secretive meeting with another man we learn that Ben is clearly playing some sort of long con infiltrating Spiga. He’s already done more than anyone expected by getting himself into a management position but he’s got bigger plans – he wants to get a coveted position in the influential and powerful ’40th Floor.’
But his motivations may not just be related to whatever fringe group he has been working for. Ben apparently has been looking for a woman named Elena for years and when he thinks he finds her, it changes everything for him. We learn that he and this woman have a past – a past that pulls him out of his present relationship with Laura to a degree. He’s been trying to take care of Elena’s younger brother, Theo, who has been getting dragged into a dark world of underground cage fighting without blowing his cover.
When Ben finds Elena it looks like she might be the victim of some sort of human trafficking ring and he becomes determined to stop at nothing to get promoted to the 40th Floor so he can track her down. Getting promoted isn’t easy, though. Corporate culture is dangerous in this world – those who are fired or who are caught working against the corporation go to “The Quiet Room” where they are tortured and possibly worse.
Ben’s a pretty clean cut looking guy with a nice wife and the possibility of a family on the way but he doesn’t hesitate to destroy all of that for someone else. A good part of this episode is spent watching him set up one of his co-workers for a terrorist bombing against the corporation. He drugs the guy, manipulates him, and then plants the kind of evidence that not only gets his co-worker carted off to the Quiet Room but also likely dooms the man’s entire family.
But this all sets the tone for the series. It’s going to be a dark but ultimately fulfilling ride, I think. Incorporated does a fantastic job of setting the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the series in this opening pilot episode. You learn that while your main character seems like a pretty decent guy he’s ruthless when the need arises. You also get introduced to the mystery behind who he is and what his motivations are without it feeling like the series is being too enigmatic.
Some shows drag out these kinds of mysteries for a long period of time without really giving you much. Incorporated, though, gives you hints from the beginning and it almost feels like you’re being given pieces of a puzzle that you’ll most likely be able to solve in short order.
This episode also does a good job of establishing the world in which this story takes.
A lot of very shocking things happen that essentially become common place. Corporate espionage leads to terrorist attacks. We’re show a clip of Canada erecting a fence to keep out illegal Americans. A wealthy woman takes in a poor boy who doesn’t speak English only to have his face altered to her own pleasures.
Another woman’s husband gets kidnapped and mutilated because he’s cheating on her with a woman in the red zone. The red zones themselves are show as dark, dirty, and sex-crazed with giant neon holograms of naked, dancing women. The corporate world is show as this very clean, sterile place – up until people are being dragged around with black bags over their heads.
But it’s also intriguing.
I’m excited to see what happens to Ben next and to see what he has planned next. I’m excited even though I have no idea what he’s trying to accomplish. Because besides his devotion to this Elena woman he seems to have grown up with and his torn allegiances to his wife – and their potential future child – we know so little about him.
I think it says a lot about the potential this series has that it’s so readily able to hook potential viewers. Granted, you’ve got to like this kind of dystopian storytelling but if you do then Incorporated may just be the sort of series you’ve been waiting for.