How The Peripheral’s Robots Copy A Westworld Trick

The Peripheral’s robots compare pretty closely to the Hosts in Westworld – how much do they cross over? Based on the 1973 movie by Michael Crichton, HBO’s Westworld is all about Hosts. These robots with programmed personalities were originally created for the express purpose of entertaining and serving humanity, but their creators eventually realized Hosts were evolving, gaining sentience, and becoming a new species in their own right. With Westworld’s Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy moving their creative touch onto The Peripheral – also a mystery sci-fi series set in the near future – comparisons are inevitable.

The Peripheral’s robots are much less integral to the show’s narrative than Hosts are to Westworld, but the similarities register immediately. The most obvious is forcing the viewer to question whether characters are robotic or organic. Some Westworld Hosts spent seasons hiding in plain sight, since the only way to truly tell them apart is digging into their noggins. The Peripheral calls upon that same trick, with Chloe Grace Moretz’s Flynne Fisher shocked to discover her simulated avatar has robotic components underneath its skin. Like Westworld, The Peripheral also squeezes mystery from the possibility that seemingly-human characters are actually robotic, such as the young Aelita, and the Research Institute’s Daniel. Surely someone is piloting a peripheral in secret…

The Peripheral’s cyborg Clue game feels very reminiscent of Westworld, but the similarities to Hosts go deeper still. Just like Hosts, a peripheral body can be made to replicate a human exactly, then modified to meet the tastes of its creator. Mirroring Westworld’s differentiation between proper Hosts and the obedient, mindless, faceless all-white drone hosts, Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral also draws a distinction between peripheral robots – which contain a human consciousness – and the « Koid » robots seen in Buckingham Palace, who are obedient, mindless, faceless drones.

The Peripheral borrows a couple more tricks from Westworld’s Hosts. One of the most visually striking tropes in HBO’s sci-fi western is when a character who appears harmless and innocent (Dolores, Clementine, etc.) turns into a rabid killing machine. The Peripheral plays on this same juxtaposition when a polite cab driver starts pummeling Flynne’s peripheral with punches and kicks as soon as it senses danger. Later, when Flynne’s fake body is chilling in Lev Zubov’s garden, the robotic peripheral enters a serene, blank, automated state. This creepy vacant mode is strangely similar to when Hosts enter diagnostic mode in Westworld, and their human personality immediately disappears.

Despite the parallels, The Peripheral’s robots are fundamentally different to Westworld’s cyborg Hosts in a few major ways. For starters, there’s no sign of developing sentience – not in the peripherals themselves, nor in the nanobot servants. The Peripheral’s narrative shows zero indication of taking that route anytime soon, whereas the nature of humanity sits at Westworld’s very soul.

The second major difference concerns how a human character winds up inside a synthetic shell. In Westworld, a human brain can be scanned and decoded, then placed into a Host body. As seen with the likes of Charlotte Hale, however, a completely new personality often develops as a result, while the failures of Delos’ immortality experiment prove true transference from organic to sentient still doesn’t work. In The Peripheral, there’s no real transfer at play. Flynne’s headset in 2032 allows her to pilot the peripheral body in 2100, but the peripheral goes into auto mode as soon as she disconnects. The Peripheral season 1 hasn’t suggested a human mind can permanently occupy a peripheral body, nor that personalities can be replicated as easily as faces… at least, not yet.

The Peripheral continues Friday on Amazon Prime Video.