Upload is a rather silly comedy, but underneath the surface, it tackles some deep and complex issues and puts a unique perspective on a lot of things. Therefore, as you might expect, the Comic-Con @ Home panel, which premiered Thursday, July 23rd, also dealt with some deep and complex subjects in a unique way. And, of course, it also had a fair amount of that weird silliness that makes the show so much fun.
Created by Greg Daniels of The Office and Parks and Rec fame, Upload stars Robbie Amell, Andy Allo, Allegra Edwards, Kevin Bigley, and Zainab Johnson, all of whom were on Thursday’s panel, moderated by Cherlynn Low. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that the panel didn’t include Josh Banday who plays Ivan. Not only is he very funny and talented on the show, he’s also an old friend of mine from college. Still, the panel was a lot of fun, even without his presence.
When Nathan (Amell) is in a freak car accident, his sort-of girlfriend Ingrid (Edwards) arranges for his consciousness to be uploaded to a virtual afterlife. There, he meets Nora (Allo), an “angel” from the real world, assigned to attend to his every need—and with whom he has an undeniable romantic connection.
The panel began by talking about how the concept of Upload came to be. It’s actually been kicking around in Greg Daniels’ head for quite a while. He said the original idea came from advertisements for early CD players: the concept of taking his analogue music, on phonograph records, and converting it into something digital, intrigued him. Daniels also said that on another Comic-Con panel he was on, for the show People of Earth, he had dropped hints about this show as his next big project. People of Earth premiered four years ago—so it’s safe to say, Upload has been a long time coming.
After the origins, the panel then delved into the show’s substance, talking about its underlying themes of unfairness. Class distinctions are frequently highlighted, from Nathan’s inability to afford certain features at Lakeview, to his visit to the “Two Gig” section, where even things like phone calls are considered a luxury. As Nathan points out in the series, and Greg Daniels expanded on in the panel, it’s all just code. It doesn’t cost the company any more to provide the full experience than it does to provide the two gig experience—but maintaining those different levels is necessary to provide the illusion of luxury.
He then expanded on this with an example from the real world: printers. Apparently, when a company manufactures printers, they’re all designed to print at the same speed; however, they add chips to some of them that slow them down, so that they can have different price points and charge more for the ones that go faster.
The idea that the virtual afterlife and everyone in it are just code led to another discussion: Are we, in fact, “just code” of a different sort? Are we just “computers made of meat,” as Nathan says in one episode?
What makes our personalities what they are? Is it just input and output, like a computer? Are we defined by the decisions that we’ve made, or can we change? Robbie talked a bit about how his character evolves over the course of the season, from being shallow and self-absorbed, to someone a bit more self-aware who cares about the people around him.
Of course, the discussion wasn’t all deep and philosophical. Eventually, they got into the logistics of the “hug suit”—the full-body sensory suit that allows people from the real world to have physical contact with people in the virtual world. Allegra, who actually had to wear one of the suits for the show, said that the idea of it is better than the practical application. She described a hot, sticky experience where she couldn’t even hear what was going on around her.
While most of the cast agreed that the hug suit would be fun to use, if you’ve seen the show, you know that using one after someone else might not be the most pleasant experience. Zainab said she would only use it if she could own her own, rather than renting it, and pointed out that the low-level employees in charge of cleaning them might not do the most thorough job. Robbie, meanwhile, said he would want to be the first one to use the suit, then let others rent it after him.
The conversation then went to the tech aspects of the show, as they discussed which of the future technologies depicted each of the cast members would most like to have for their own. Answers ranged from the 3D printed food they eat, to the built-in consent tool in the show’s Tinder-like dating app.
They also screened a deleted scene from the show, wherein Ingrid prepares for a sleepover with Nathan’s niece, Nevaeh. A very funny scene, it also serves once again to highlight both the power imbalance between classes, and the future technology, as Ingrid tries to describe the process of “cooked food” (as opposed to printed fare), to someone who’s never been able to afford it.
The panel would not have been complete unless they addressed the most important question of all: “Would you Upload?” Greg, Robbie, Andy, and Kevin all said they would; however, Robbie was not without his reservations.
“If wealthy people have everything,” he said, “Removing the fear of death from them probably won’t make them better people.”
These are the issues that make the show what it is and will likely continue to be explored in the second season. Greg Daniels and the rest of the team are still writing it, so he couldn’t say too much; however, he did mention that we can expect to see some cool new technologies, as well as a deeper dive into the Lud community who shun Uploads.
All in all, it was a fascinating and often hilarious look into one of the best shows on Amazon Prime. The cast all seem to have a great rapport, and it was a joy to watch them get together and do their thing. The show is very entertaining, but it also raises real questions about the dichotomy between rich and poor, the hold that corporations have over our lives, the nature of the soul, and more. These questions are a prime example (No pun intended.) of why #StoriesMatter.
If you’ve enjoyed this coverage of Comic-Con @ Home and would like to see the panel for yourself, you can do so at this link!