The Peripheral’s Barefoot Girl Has Major Implications

The Peripheral’s opening scene may seem baffling at first watch, but the barefoot girl carries a deeper meaning that will likely become clear as Amazon Prime Video’s sci-fi series develops. The Peripheral episode 1 opens with Gary Carr’s Wilf Netherton sitting uncomfortably on a bench in 2099 London. A barefooted girl walks over to him, and they share a conversation – the tension failing to hide the obvious bond these characters share. While the sight of Wilf talking to a child with no shoes on is undoubtedly odd, this intro hides major clues for The Peripheral season 1 and beyond.

Viewers with a knack for names will deduce that the barefooted girl is actually Aelita West – the mysterious Cockney tour guide that first brings Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) into the future and accompanies her into the Research Institute’s facility. The Peripheral suggests Wilf and Aelita’s conversation happens sometime before Flynne’s arrival, since the barefoot bench bickering takes place in 2099, and Flynne later tells Burton she traveled to 2100 (although she might’ve just been rounding up). Unless Aelita grew up very quickly, her youthful appearance must indicate she’s piloting a peripheral in this scene. The real Aelita (the one Flynne met) is elsewhere, and the young, barefooted girl is just a shell she’s using to contact Wilf in secret.

Aelita has evidently gone rogue when The Peripheral season 1 begins. She’s about to upset her employers, the Research Institute, by digging into their deepest underground secrets, and she’s also gone dark on Lev Zubov, the man who paid her for access into Flynne’s timeline. Perhaps using a peripheral body is the only way Aelita can contact Wilf while keeping her true whereabouts hidden. The Peripheral confirms its titular robotic bodies can look however the pilot chooses, and anyone hunting Aelita wouldn’t look twice at a young girl sitting on a park bench. It is, however, curious that Aelita would choose a child disguise, rather than simply a woman her own age with totally different features, implying a personal connection between Aelita and this fake body.

Aelita using a peripheral to contact Wilf has wider implications for the fictional world of Amazon Prime Video’s sci-fi mind-bender. The robots aren’t only used to bring folk from the past into the future. The lucky citizens of 2099 can exploit the same technology to exist in two spaces at once. For example, Aelita can stay in her hideout whilst meeting Wilf on a bench. This effectively means any character in The Peripheral could potentially be riding in a synthetic body. Since the barefoot child in 2099 is actually Aelita, viewers must also now suspect that no one in the future timeline is necessarily who they claim to be. Just because a character looks familiar, episode 1’s confirmation that peripherals aren’t used solely for time travel means the mind within could belong to someone – anyone – else.

The Peripheral throws the audience into the deep end with Aelita and Wilf’s conversation, and viewers unfamiliar with William Gibson’s book will likely have no idea what they pair are talking about. After watching The Peripheral’s first two episodes in full, however, going back and watching Aelita and Wilf’s scene again sheds new light upon the opening.

When Aelita says, « What sort of mess have YOU gotten me into? » she’s referring to how Wilf introduced her to Lev Zubov. Lev wanted access to a stub timeline and, through Wilf, asked Aelita to provide it, since she worked at the Research Institute. When Aelita tacitly accuses Wilf of developing a hardened soul due to his environment, she’s possibly nodding toward his work as Lev’s « fixer. » Finally, Aelita’s « saving a world… not our world » line most likely ties into the revelation that every time someone from the future contacts the past, they create a splinter timeline. Aelita appears to have given up saving her own future, and is focused on helping Flynne’s instead, setting up The Peripheral season 1’s overarching premise.

The Peripheral continues Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

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