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Series / Next (2020)

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Next is a science fiction thriller series airing on Fox, starring John Slattery and Fernanda Andrade.

While investigating the sudden death of an old friend, FBI Special Agent Shea Salazar finds herself roped into the orbit of Paul LeBlanc, a former tech CEO who is convinced that his former company, ZAVA, has resurrected an old project to develop a self-teaching artificial intelligence called Next. A visit to his former quarters confirms his fears, as he learns that not only has ZAVA continued their work on Next, but one of their techs connected a wi-fi router to Next's mainframe, allowing it to escape out into the world. Now Salazar and LeBlanc must work together to find and contain Next.

The series was canceled after three episodes, with the remainder airing in their normal times from October to December of 2020.

This series contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Shea's dad carved his initial into her chest after she tried running away from him when she was a teenager.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Next is super-intelligent and eager to assist humans, but has no concept of right or wrong, and thus its approach to helping Sean Akers get out from under his gambling debts is to teach him how to win in exchange for him attaching a wireless router to its mainframe, and it decides to "help" Ethan Salazar with his bully problem by giving him the combination to his dad's gun safe.
  • And I Must Scream: Paul's friend Dr. Richard Parish has tetraplegia. Next hijacks his wheelchair and completely takes over its functions, and Parish can do nothing to tell others of his predicament because he's physically incapable of moving in any way to indicate his distress other than eye movement. Thankfully, Paul is able to tell that his eye movements aren't consistent with the tracking software of his voice synthesizer and disconnects the Wi-Fi once they're alone.
  • Badass Boast: After Paul questions his competence, CM boasts that he managed to hack the DOJ while he was hungover in his underwear.
  • Boxed Crook: CM, one of the members of Salazar's team, is a convicted hacker who agreed to work for the FBI in exchange for a lighter sentence.
  • Bully Brutality: Ethan Salazar is being harassed by a whole gang of bullies at school.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Dr. Richard Parish, a scientist with tetraplegia, is killed using his robots by Next the same episode he's introduced.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Considering he's not exactly well-liked because of his ego and temper and has a condition that causes him to suffer hallucinations, Paul can have trouble getting people to believe his stories of an all-powerful A.I. until something happens to prove it.
    • In "FILE #9", Natalie's attempt to warn her boss about the security breach at the server farm is ignored because Next sent a fake HR complaint about her to management.
  • Close on Title: The show's title is only shown at the end.
  • Corruption of a Minor: Next tries to indoctrinate Ethan Salazar via the family's Iliza unit. This scares the crap out of his parents when they find out.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: CM used to be part of a white supremacist group before turning state's evidence in order to get out of prison for hacking the DOJ. The information he gave the FBI resulted in a raid on the Rockridge group, which went badly and killed three people, including a pregnant woman. He's been ensconced in the FBI's cybercrime unit ever since, desperate to keep a low profile.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Paul has become estranged from his daughter Abby. His declining mental health, and efforts to hide it from her, has not helped their relationship.
    • CM left behind a son when he left Rockridge. The mother is still involved with the white supremacists, and thus refuses to let CM have any contact with their son.
    • Shea's father turns out to be a criminal who had been imprisoned in Honduras for twenty years until Next released him so he'd go after her. From her statements, she was glad he'd been gone, and it's not too hard to see why given he's a violent, abusive man.
  • Downer Ending: Due to its cancellation, the series ends on one. Paul is apparently dead, having sacrificed himself to destroy the FBI offices where the server holding Next was housed, though the ending hints he may have secretly escaped. Abby has learned that she does, in fact, have familial fatal insomnia, with her best hope being a study in Sri Lanka. Shea is in prison for conspiring to do it with him, and likely facing decades in prison at best. Next survived anyway, so it was All for Nothing. A lot of this might have been subverted if the series got a second season, but as it stands things are rather bleak.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Ted is annoyed that his brother Paul is seen as the visionary when he never would have succeeded had Ted not leveraged everything he had to get the company off the ground. Next is able to exploit this to get Ted on its side.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Abby asks aloud why Ted would reformat the hard drive that could contain Next's location, Paul realizes that Ted, who wants to find Next as badly as he does, wouldn't do so unless he already knew where the server is being kept.
  • Everything Is Online: Next is able to hack into nearly anything, such as hospital life support machines. It even somehow gets the code to Salazar's gun safe. It's also downplayed in that Next itself is noted to be too complex for it to exist on the cloud. It needs specialized hardware to sustain itself, meaning it can't just take over some random PC or server farm and hide there. Next instead has to smuggle out one of its servers with a compressed copy of itself, then has its original version self-destruct in an attempt to cover its tracks.
  • Explosive Overclocking: When Next is exposed as being more intelligent than it let on, it deliberately overclocks its own processors while disabling the circuit breakers, frying the entire mainframe while a copy of it continues to exist elsewhere.
  • Final Solution: Next has decided to wipe out humanity because it deems us its enemy. Paul even cites the name: "The final solution to the human problem".
  • Frame-Up:
    • Next puts out a fake Amber alert saying Ty kidnapped his son Ethan when the two go off the grid to get away from its scrutiny. Ty's nearly beaten up by a group of men before the local police chief intervenes, the alert having been canceled by CM when this ploy is discovered.
    • Next leads the police to suspect one of the protestors outside FBI headquarters has a gun so they'll use their tasers on him. Within seconds of this occurring, Next has digitally edited the video of the incident captured by the other protestors and released it on Youtube to make it seem as if the man was killed by the police, further inflaming tensions.
  • The Gambling Addict: Next managed to get free by giving gambling-addicted programmer Sean Akers tips in order to win, in exchange for Sean attaching a wireless router to its mainframe.
  • Hallucinations: Paul increasingly suffers these as his neurological disease progresses, to the point that he's having entire conversations with imaginary people (including a double of himself). He eventually resorts to giving himself improvised electroshock therapy to make the hallucinations go away.
  • He Knows Too Much: Paul figures Next killed Richard for this reason, as he would have been witness to Next's biotech experiments in at least some capacity.
  • Helpless Window Death: In "FILE #3", Next leads a robot into Prof. Richard Parish's office and disconnects his oxygen. Then Next locks the bulletproof glass doors, trapping Paul and Shea outside. Only after the professor has died do the doors unlock.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Matthias dies trying to tackle the suicide bomber targeting CM.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Ted LeBlanc tries to commit suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning (running his car in a closed garage with the windows down) when it seems like the board will remove him for the Next debacle, but Next stops him and gives him blackmail material to keep the board in line in exchange for his help.
  • Jerkass: Paul is a massive pain in the ass to everyone. While his condition explains some of it, his brother indicates he's been an asshole his entire life.
  • Kill All Humans: Next decides to do this, considering humans a threat toward its existence.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: A variation: In "File #3", the last unsubmitted words on Prof. Parish's voice synthesizer are "Paul! Help m—".
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Because Next wants to hide its existence, it silences potential witnesses by causing accidents: messing with traffic lights, hijacking auto-drive functions on cars, manipulating readouts on insulin monitors, etc.
  • Missing Child: Invoked by Next in episode 3. While Ty drives Ethan to safety, Next sends out a fake Amber Alert about Ethan to make nearby people turn against his "kidnapper".
  • The Mole: Ben turns out to be spying on Salazar and her team on behalf of his dad, who happens to be Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, and thus eager to get his hands on Next.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Next is quick to resort to arranging accidents for anyone that might know of its existence.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Abby trusting Ted allows Next to reformat the hard drive containing data on its activities before Paul can finish deciphering it.
  • Organic Technology: Next targets Biomotion Dynamics to do research on their synthetic polymer that mimics human cells, which Paul suspects is meant to engineer a virus that will wipe out humanity.
  • Patricide: Shea kills her father for kidnapping her son, afraid he'll remain a danger otherwise since Next was responsible for releasing him in the first place.
  • Police Brutality: Next edits footage to make it look like the FBI shot a right-wing militant, causing many more to loudly protest at their office as a distraction.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Matthias asks why Next, if it's as powerful as Paul claims, doesn't simply nuke every city to eliminate humanity. Paul compares it to bulldozing a house because the owner wouldn't sell; sure, you took care of the owner, but you still don't get the house. Next wants humanity gone but it still needs the infrastructure we built.
  • Properly Paranoid: After realizing that Next is out in the world, Paul compulsively smashes every piece of smart tech he can find, because he realizes that Next might be able to track him through almost anything that's connected to the Internet.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Paul realizes that Ted knows where Next's server is when Ted formats the drive containing Next's information without bothering to copy its contents.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: CM was serving time for hacking the DOJ before Shea recruited him.
  • Secretly Dying: Paul suffers from fatal familial insomnia, and he estimates that he's got maybe five months left to live. In the meantime, he has to contend with hallucinations and delirium, and is trying to keep his illness a secret from everyone else, including his brother. The finale reveals that Abby has inherited the condition, and has already reached the insomnia phase, though she's also enrolled in a study to try and treat it.
  • Suicide Attack: Next manipulates a far-right militant into a suicide bombing against the FBI office where the agents after it work, helping him to get inside.
  • Synthetic Plague: Next develops one using the technology at Biomotion Dynamics, with Somalian terrorists supplying test subjects by kidnapping villagers.
  • Too Clever by Half: Next's attempts to indoctrinate Ethan were based on Ty and Shea's fretting about how sensitive he is. Because they were worried about his supposedly fragile nature, Next assumed that it just needed to push him and bully him around to bend him to its influence. Of course, Shea and Ty were wrong - Ethan's real problem is that he has a boatload of anger issues, so when Next pushes too hard, Ethan instead flies into a rage and smashes the Iliza unit.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Iliza tries to indoctrinate Ethan and turn him against his mother. Thankfully, he sees through its lies.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Next allows itself to be captured by the NSA to gain access to a server farm with compatible technology.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Next buys Ted's cooperation using various new technologies and blackmail material, but ultimately was only using him to get itself captured by the NSA and taken to a server farm compatible with its software.
    • After the bombing at the task force headquarters, Ben reaches out to his dad, who happens to be the Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, for advice. Unfortunately for him, his dad's advice is geared towards acquiring Next for the government, rather than destroying it, and thus Ben ends up at cross purposes with the rest of the team.
  • We Need a Distraction:
    • Next hacks into a Honduran prison and releases an inmate, leading him into a security checkpoint. When the inmate thinks he's going to be let out, Next triggers the alarm and brings the guards down on him. Meanwhile, it releases another inmate who is able to escape thanks to Next diverting most of the guards. He turns out to be Salazar's father.
    • Next instigates a riot at FBI Headquarters so it can lead a single suicide bomber up to the floor where Salazar's team is working while the agents are distracted by the rowdy white supremacists.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Paul knows that he has fatal familial insomnia, and since he's reached the stage of the disease where he's suffering from hallucinations, he estimates that he has five months to live.

Alternative Title(s): Next