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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

After a promising episode, Next rides right off the rails

Eve Harlow and Michael Mosley in the “File #4" episode of Next
Eve Harlow and Michael Mosley in Next
Photo: Sandy Morris / Fox
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Man, Next, we were really pulling for you after last week’s stellar episode. Even in light of the series’ recent cancellation, with seven episodes left to go, the stakes still seemed promising. But this week, episode four seems like a similar show altogether. Bad enough that the episode starts out with everyone just strolling around dead Richard, still upright in his wheelchair. Then, somehow, things actually go downhill from there.

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There are just so many elements in this episode that make little sense, logistically. Like LeBlanc sending fake FBI agents to basically kidnap his daughter; how in the world is that supposed to help their trust-strained relationship? White supremacists heading straight to an FBI building to protest, and then somehow managing to break into it? (You would think that a goddamn government agency would be able to hold off a riot, even if the power goes out.) Next is now able to somehow hypnotize one of those white supremacists, so that he kills his sister and father in a really upsetting scene before heading off to the FBI building to go after C.M.? Also, Next can just call LeBlanc up on his burner phone with his daughter’s test results?

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Next works much better when its AI terrors are actually plausible, like the deep fake video going instantly viral: Honestly, I do find that deep fake stuff pretty terrifying, as it will mean that future photographic evidence is basically useless. So it make sense that that would be something that Next could easily accomplish. Hypnotizing, not so much (although who knows, maybe next week will prove me wrong. Like that guy has a chip in his head or something?)

At least this episode of Next offers us a human villain to root against, which isn’t too surprising: LeBlanc’s brother Ted, who took over the company when he was booted out and who was dependent on the ascendance of Next to make his board happy. Suspect that it turns out that Ted took some shortcuts along the way to make his board deadline, which unfortunately allowed Next to gain greater power without all the proper safeguards. It’s practically textbook.

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Not quite yet in the villain category: the caretaker at the remote cabin. Nasio seemed harmless enough… but he also seemed to ask a lot of questions. I guess if Tyler and Ethan weren’t in some sort of peril, there wouldn’t be much point in tracking them, but they’re the weakest link in our storytelling structure so far.

Also weak: the leaps and bounds you have to take to get behind this white supremacist demonstration, which helps us root for C.M. as he’s it turns out actually a former white supremacist who lost his family by warning the authorities about the dangers of his former group. But if this group was able to track down a remote FBI building (with Next’s help) and if they were all able to congregate there even though there was no one else around, then I guess Next could also block the police from getting there, easily mess with the generators, and raise a loading dock door. But would there only be, like, three FBI guys in the building that could be called on to head the protestors off?

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This episode did less in moving forward with the looming threat of Next and more toward leading us into an absolute clusterfuck of rioting white supremacists. Hopefully the decrypting of the Biomotion Dynamics hard drive leads to something, because Next really needs a rebound after this week, even with that explosive (pun intended) ending.

And still, the question remains: What is Next really after? Give or take a Frank Lloyd Wright house metaphor, it seems like it wants to take over everything just because it wants to take over everything. Total control, but what for?

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Stray observations

  • “This guy’s your boss?” “Oh, that’s not helpful.”
  • But, he has a point: “You see where I’m going with this?” “Not in the slightest.”
  • Are Special Agent Williams and Special Agent Baker the fakest possible FB names in existence? And would they really have been instructed to get so rough with Abby before bringing her in?
  • Can’t wait until Gina and C.M. fall in love.
  • So what, LeBlanc and Abby are on the lam now? Another prediction: He’ll head to his brother for help, walking right into his trap!
  • Hard to believe that there are still payphones anywhere, honestly.
  • Who were those two guys that LeBlanc overheard in the bathroom? They were paid off by Next, right?
  • This week in exceptionally clunky Next dialogue: “I’ve been in this business long enough to know, leaks only come at night. Especially if you drink only an hour before bed… Yeah, my wife never laughs at that one either.” Oof.
  • Just a closetful of FBI jackets hanging around. Sure.
  • LeBlanc really does sound like a tin-foil hat guy when he’s yelling at Next about plane crashes and whatnot.
  • “This thing, it’s not just hacking our stuff; it’s hacking us.”
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Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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