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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Next veers into the bizarre with multiple John Slatterys and DIY shock therapy

Illustration for article titled Next veers into the bizarre with multiple John Slatterys and DIY shock therapy
Photo: Sandy Morris/Fox

It seems in every caper/adventure series/movie, you have to have an idiot character. The idiot character is the one that’s too trusting of one of the obviously devious players and manages to mess everything up. We unfortunately have no shortage of idiot characters on Next (looking at you, Ty), but here Paul’s daughter Abby opens up to evil Uncle Ted, destroying the all-important hard drive in the process, while all viewers (well, me) scream “Noooo!” at the screen while she’s doing so. At least even her screwup looks like it will help lead Paul to Next in the end.


Next remains fractured this week, with Paul dragging Abby off to some warehouse by the docks, Shea and Ty trying to save Ethan from his evil grandfather, Ted straight-up in love with Next the server, and Gina and C.M. trying to stoke some romance by hiding out as homeless people, for no discernible reason I can fathom except that someone thought the show needed a burgeoning relationship between an edgy girl and a former white supremacist. But C.M. and Gina are a giant meh, unable to foster enough spark to light a Yankee Candle. Next needs to get the whole band back together as quickly as possible.

Shea’s plot doesn’t seem to have much to do with Next’s impending AI domination either, but at least it stands up as fairly riveting on its own. The frantic parents head off after Evil Grandpa Nacio, only to find Ethan holding him off with his mom’s gun (that kid has handled firearms way too many times for a middle-schooler), right after Nacio has cold-heartedly knifed someone to death. Shea takes Nacio into the hangar with her shotgun, and apparently kills him. Is there something really wrong with me that I was relieved by this chain of events? (I have been inside for quite a long time now.) So many times on TV, you see characters like Shea, especially in law enforcement, let complete monsters just walk away. But this man branded his initial into her skin, and was responsible for the gruesome death of her mother. He kidnapped her son. Believe me, I am not a capital punishment proponent, but in this purely fictional context from a plot standpoint, I can see why Shea reacted the way she did. Also, since we didn’t actually see his body, I wouldn’t be surprised if Next somehow arranges for super-secret emergency services to save Nacio’s life, so that he could conceivably pop up later in the season.

If I can see Shea’s point, I have no idea why Ty can’t. See the idiot character example above: If Ty hadn’t trusted Nacio, a total stranger, during this time of clearly grave peril, they all wouldn’t have been in that predicament to begin with. (This week in Next clunky dialogue: Ty: “Shea, he has our son!” Shea: “I know!”) And yet, he blames her for not telling him about her father in the first place. And then, says he’s leaving with their child after she’s just saved them all. Honestly, Ty is a bit of a waste of space. The only good news from his idiotic announcement is that it will hopefully mean that Shea is on her way to meet up Paul et al. again.

Because Paul is definitely on to something. This was a pretty stellar episode for John Slattery, having to play several versions of his own character, and having Paul come to grips with the fact that he basically owes his career to the man whose algorithm he purchased, who hung himself afterward. When the apparitions get more out of control—not just Evil Ted, Baby Abby, but all those other Pauls—he takes it upon himself to give himself shock therapy. You kind of have to hand it to Next here: seems like a possible first for prime-time television? And that first Evil Uncle Ted conversation was a straight-up psychout. (But Paul asking Abby her name: Ouch.)

Speaking of Evil Uncle Ted (this show doesn’t say much for extended family, although it seems to place a precedent on parent-child relationships), he’s so downright giddy about the Next takeover, can he really be unaware of what Next reaching its full potential will mean? Those bio-weapon images on the drive were so horrific; I am hardly a pinnacle of virtue, but how much money would you really need to be able to get past murdering so many people? And not sure what Ted’s connection to Sarina is (affair?) but I really thought that she was actually going to grow a conscience, instead of being concerned about where Next’s ideal server farm is located.


But all in all, a marked improvement from last week’s disjointed episode! But only four episodes left to take down Next. Frankly, I don’t like our chances.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.