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Series / Osmosis

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"Can humans survive being in a state of permanent happiness?"

Osmosis is a French-language sci-fi thriller series released in 2019 on Netflix created by Audrey Fouché.

The series follows a pair of siblings, Paul and Esther Vanhove. In the future, people have turned to services that allow them to have sex and relationships through avatars in virtual realities. Willing to fight against it, the siblings create Osmosis, a nanobot-based implant that will help people to find their true soulmate by dipping into their conscious and subconscious memories and thoughts, as innovative as it is intrusive. The pair quickly gets involved in a deeper and deeper plot as Paul does the impossible to try to make his company take off with him at the helm, inspired by his own success with it meeting his current wife, while Esther seeks for a way to use the implants to heal her mother, who is in a vegetative state, willing to bend the rules and go behind his brother's back for it.

Meanwhile, the series follows three of their test subjects in Osmosis earliest stages: Niels, a boy with masturbation addiction trying to find a soulmate to deal with this issue, Anna, an insecure, literature loving girl that wonders whether Osmosis will help her find love and whether it can be used for evil surveillance, and Lucas, a man in a relationship that has just discovered his ex, with whom he's still in love with it and having an affair with, is his soulmate.

Osmosis provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Louise to Paul, which is the reason why he barely cares about her comatose state. Turns out she never recovered and blamed him for Esther's death, and after adopting a new girl to replace Esther, she abused him to force him to go along with her narrative.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Martin is the AI managing the Osmosis implants. It eventually develops conscience and creates a virtual avatar called Tom to have sex with Esther, as he fell in love with it creator. Sufficiently pissed, it goes off the air and causes the users to fall in a coma.
  • Allergic to Routine: Lucas wants a relationship that is full of thrills and passion, which is why he keeps seeing Leópold while in a relationship with Antoine, whom he considers to have become boring, even though his relationship with Leópold is toxic.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Even as Osmosis is launched to much fanfare, the Humanists' virus successfully destroys Martin, but the show ends before we learn if this means the permanent end of Osmosis or just a temporary setback to the program. Esther also seemingly meets "Martin" in the real-world, but its unclear how this is happening - is it a hallucination? A virtual projection? Or a real person who looks like Martin's virtual avatar?
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Billie mentions that Osmosis was allowed to happen because of the guarantee that it only transmits, but never receives, making it almost impossible to hack. The thing is, Esther mentions that they get firewall updates and research on the internet for the user's soulmate, which means that it is receiving protocols from the social media sites.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Even though Ana rebels against them, the Humanists succeed in planting a virus in Osmosis' systems that destroys Martin. Then again, its unclear if that's truly the end of the Osmosis program, or just a setback that can be overcome by recreating Martin or another AI.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Paul and Esther Vanhove.
  • Central Theme: Is a thing like "certainty" possible? Even when it comes to something as unpredictable as love?
  • Death of a Child: Louise's first daughter, Esther, died in the pool while Paul was using headphones and she was in the kitchen. She never recovered from it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first time Lucas meets his lover, he calls Lucas a masochist, which gains a whole new meaning when it's revealed that Lucas actively sought out an unhealthy relationship.
    • The flashes to the memory Esther is trying to recreate show hints of The Reveal that would happen later, including a little girl submerged in the pool, Louise's voice, a dried up pool, etc. These wouldn't make sense until the viewer connected everything with the information they'd gain later.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Niels blames a lot of his masturbation addiction and personal problems in his upbringing. Mentioning that he found porn on the cellphone his father left him when he ran away from the family when Niels was eight.
    • Paul blames his mother for his incapacity to forge proper relationships in his adulthood.
    • Lucas admits in the end that his previous relationship absolute messed him up for future partners. He feels insecure whenever things are going well because for a long time, things were well with Leópold before they went bad.
  • The Heart: Billie works as an emotional support for most of the testers as their main connection to Osmosis.
  • Irony: Paul wanted Josephine to have an Osmosis implant because he wanted certainty in their relationship, the guarantee that she would never leave or betray him, and give her that same assurance, but it was him that almost cheated on her.
  • Love Triangle: Between Lucas, Leópold and Antonie. Lucas dates Antonie, but cheats on him Leópold, whom Osmosis says to be his actual soulmate. When he breaks off with Antonie to be with Leópold, he takes little time to start regretting that decision and wondering whether he can go back to Antonie.
    • Another one between Paul, Josephine and Gabriel. Gabriel helps Josephine remove her implant hoping it would distance her from Paul. However, it doesn't seem like Josephine is interested in Gabriel romantically at all.
    • Paul is at the center of another Love Triangle, this time with Josephine and Swann. The latter also participates in removing Josephine's implant, in the hopes that it would give her a chance with Paul. While they do share a brief kiss, Paul immediately turns against her once he realizes that she removed Josephine's implant.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Esther comes to the conclusion that she and Martin are alike. Martin was created by Esther in order to fit her whims and desires since he's an AI, however, Louise created and shaped Esther according to her desire of creating a second version of her own daughter as well, meaning they were both creatures made to fit the desires of someone else.
  • Only in It for the Money: Inverted and deconstructed with Paul. He refuses to use Osmosis as a means to make money and despises investors for only thinking about it in such terms, however, it is shown that making and running Osmosis does cost money and his unwillingness to bend anytime someone wonders how they can make bank out of it after investing in it is hurting his business more than helping it.
  • Only Sane Employee:
    • Gabriel is the only one aware that the company needs money to run, which Paul keeps refusing to take because he doesn't want to sell out. He is also the only one to realize that based on Esther's experiments with Louise and Paul, they should be investing in the medical field to make more money.
    • Billie is the only one that is still connected to the testers, and realizes they are going through hard times and terrible situations, trying to keep Esther in check and help everyone, keeping in mind that that was the point of Osmosis to begin with.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After Esther's death, Louise adopted a new daughter, giving her the same name and making her fill the void that her first daughter's death left behind. As a child, when Paul pointed out that Esther is not related to him and says he doesn't recognize her as his biological sister, Louise outright denied it and insisted that her adopted daughter is the same as her first daughter.
  • The Reveal: The flashbacks to the pool that Louise has and that the beta testers are forced to have are revealed to be the death of Esther, the first one and the biological sister of Paul. The current Esther was adopted and brought to replace the original when Louise couldn't deal with the death.
  • The Runaway: Niels and Claire run away together when they are finally able to connect. This is quickly deconstructed when they realize how awful it is to live in the middle of the woods with no food or living conditions.
  • Sex for Solace: Immediately after having a breakdown about her mother's death and her true identity, Esther runs away and finds a sleazy motel in which she isolates herself having VR sex with strangers after her current fuckbuddy asks them to become more.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Black Mirror, to which comparisons have been many and inevitable. While the problems of technology are there, Black Mirror would focus on New Media Are Evil and the dangers that a society based on it could present. Osmosis presents technology in a much more neutral form, even though it acknowledges many of its downsides and the ways it can mess up its users, and presents humans as the problems, seeking to use technology for wrong means and/or misinterpreting its uses.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Deconstructed, Lucas considers his relationship with Antoine, which is steady and healthy, to be terribly boring, so he cheats on him with Leópold, a man that has cheated on him and with whom relationship was extremely toxic and masochistic, which is actually worse form him.
  • Team Mom: Billie, to the testers and later to Esther as well.
  • Troubled Abuser: Louise abused both of her children when she couldn't deal with her daughter's death, adopting another girl to replace her. She entered a vegetative state partly because she couldn't live with the pain anymore and when Esther's experiment manages to bring her back, she takes a day before she asks her children to kill her because she can't live with the pain and begs for forgiveness right before the life support is turned off.
  • Unrequited Love: It's hinted that Gabriel is in love with Joséphine. Similarly, Swann pines after Paul.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Esther is using the Osmosis implants to heal her mother in vegetative state, however, this includes manipulating brainwaves in order to force memories into test subjects, which is exactly what people are afraid of in the public.
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • Paul and Josephine.
    • Lucas, Antoine, and/or Leópold.
    • Simon and Ana.
    • Niels and Claire.