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Series / Upload

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Forever is just, like, so long...

Upload is a 2020 Amazon Prime original sci-fi sitcom by television icon Greg Daniels (The Office (US), King of the Hill).

By the year 2033, humans have developed the ability to upload themselves into their preferred choice of Artificial Afterlife. In Los Angeles, software engineer Nathan (Robbie Amell) is fatally injured in a self-driving car accident. His shallow girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) pressures him into agreeing to be uploaded to her family's luxurious virtual heaven, Lakeview. Once there, he is greeted by Nora (Andy Allo), his customer service representative (or "Angel"), who appears as a holographic avatar while actually working in an office in Queens alongside other "Angels".

The series follows the two as Nathan grows accustomed to his imperfect afterlife with Nora's help, the still-living Nora struggles to stay afloat, and the two begin to find out that there's more to the story of Nathan's upload than it sounds.

On May 8th 2020, a week after its release, it was renewed for a second season, which was released on March 11th, 2022.

Upload provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: First aired in 2020, set in 2033. Self-driving cars are widespread, food is usually 3D printed, instead of physical phones people have smartwatches that project screens in their hands - oh and there is an Artificial Afterlife (available to those that can afford it)
  • Advert-Overloaded Future: They'll even follow you into the afterlife!
  • Always Murder: Nora, Fran and Nora's dad all believe Nathan's death wasn't an accident. Nathan comes to believe this too, and Ingrid's conversation with her father seems to confirm this. Nathan's Corrupt Corporate Executive neighbor immediately guesses he was murdered after Nathan explains that he was working on a free way to upload people.
    David Choak: So you got murdered.
    Nathan: No, I was in a car accident.
    David: (laughing) Yeah sure. You just threatened a six-hundred-billion-dollar-a-year industry and no one murdered you.
  • Artificial Afterlife: You can have a digital copy of your consciousness uploaded to one of several corporately-owned afterlives. The process involves taking a deconstructive scan of your brain (which results in an unfortunate case of Your Head A-Splode) ...and you have to be able to afford it.
  • Automated Automobiles: They're the rule rather than the exception on the West Coast. Nathan likes shutting off his car's camera, plugging in a controller, and racing down the highway. He can usually talk his way out of a speeding ticket, since the car's AI can't confirm that he was driving manually. Cars can be set to follow another, such as when Nathan's car is following Ingrid's while they are engaged in Auto Erotica in hers.
    • Since New Yorker Nora is pretty unused to them when she goes to Los Angeles, self-driving cars are not as widely used in the east.
  • Black Market: A digital version called "The Grey Market" exists on the fringes of Lakeview. Among other things, you can buy celebrity memories and avatar modifications.
  • Brain Uploading: The development of this technology has allowed the creation of digital afterlives where dying people can be uploaded into a virtual resort to live out eternity.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: All over the place, from cutthroat businesses like Horizen to the contrasting living conditions of the rich and the poor in the real world as well as in Lakeview. While some capitalists venturers are depicted as seemingly decent and reasonable, the Coca-Pepsi, Inc. companies that control the world have devolved into cronyism and nepotism, holding more power than the government itself, and will use any means to exploit and capitalize their costumers.
  • Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: By 2033, many major real-life corporations have combined together to become market dominators, for example Google-Samsung.
    • Notably, Amazon is one of the few mega corporations to not be name-checked. However there are obvious reasons for that...
  • Crapsaccharine World: Lakeview is explicitly billed as being Heaven, an eternity of living in a beautiful luxury resort with all your needs met. In practice, it's full of annoying pop-up ads, getting food means either constantly paying for it or being beholden to an extremely strict schedule, and the constant Uncanny Valley vibe of the AI servants slowly drives everyone insane.
  • Crapsack World:
    • The "2Gig" section of Lakeview. The living space resembles a hospital ward with virtually no decorations, amenities are nonexistent, and the food is provided by Lean Cuisine to test flavors for the living. When the free 2 gigabytes of data is used up, the user is frozen in place for the rest of the month, or until someone provides more data. When Nathan and Nora first visit it, they see a boy trying to kill time by reading the first five pages of a Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ebook, since the full book would cost money.
    • The real world, however, is even worse as everything is mostly operated by machines, big businesses have merged into mega-corporations that treat their employees more as assets than people while valuing profit over basic human needs, and most people passive-aggressively desensitized to the pollution and rampant homelessness. Not only that, there is even a stigma between those who accept and use the digital afterlife and those against it (the "Ludds"), even going so far as to use propaganda and vilify the latter as "terrorists" just for their beliefs.
  • Dating Service Disaster: The app Nitely appears to be a Bland-Name Product version of Tinder, except no one is under any illusion that it's a dating app. It's for hookups and that's it, and people get rated for their performance. Nora and her roommate use it, and neither seems weirded out by the roommate and her date going at it a few feet away from Nora (although she's in VR at the time). Nora ends up getting matched to the same sleazy guy twice. The guy has multiple accounts and uses fake photos to trick women. He also lies when he says that they will talk after sex. His version of it is "have a quick chat while getting dressed immediately after and asking for 5 stars". In addition, partners wear body cams as a form of legal protection, as both clearly speak their consent to engage in sex.
  • Different for Girls: Dylan's attitude to women noticeably changes after his "puberty hack" ordeal.
  • Domestic Abuse: They're not in the same plane of existence but, because she is paying for Lakeview, Ingrid ultimately has complete control over Nathan. She even threatens to delete him at his own funeral, which she later brushes off as just kidding.
  • Downer Ending: "Freeyond" ends on a pretty negative note to everyone. Nathan and Nora part in bad terms when she is attacked by an assassin, and has to run away to hide, and because Nathan is now a 2Gigs and just used a lot of his data to save her, he is frozen in the middle of their goodbye, which leaves her believing he is breaking up with her, and she flees heartbroken. Ingrid unfreezes Nathan, to reveal that she has decided to follow him into the afterlife by uploading herself to be with him, despite him not being interested in her anymore.
  • Enforced Plug: Companies can pay a premium to have Lakeview's Angels do this for their products. Fortunately, the residents can fast-forward it.
  • Evil Luddite: How evil is a mystery, but Luddite groups opposed to the afterlife exist and are described by news broadcasts as terrorists. When Nora needs to lay low, her father arranges for Nora to stay with them. In Season 2, the "Ludds" are revealed to be divided between those who are only opposed to digital afterlives because they're for-profit and functionally exclusive to the rich, and Fundamentalists who are opposed to all uploading on principle.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Bios" and "Uploads" are the term to refer to living people and those uploaded.
  • First-Name Basis: Residents aren't supposed to know the names of their "angels", and angels are supposed to address the residents by their title and last name. But Nora tells Nathan her name after she interrupts his suicide attempt in the pilot.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Nora is introduced watching 50 First Dates, and later falls in love with someone with gaps in their memory.
    • Once Nathan recovers his memories, one of them is of a strange man looking at him through the broken glass of his car. A different episode shows that some people climb Nora's vertical garden to steal the vegetables she cultivates there. In the final episode, that strange man uses her garden to climb to her bedroom where he attempts to kill her.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: In the pilot, it's explained that a lot of the architecture is designed to appear palatable to the Lakeview residents. There are millions of people uploaded to Lakeview, and well over 10,000 virtual floors. Residents can only see people from the two floors above and below them unless they specifically travel to a different floor. From outside the building, residents can only see five floors. It looks like a quaint hotel beside a lake, not a towering digital skyscraper.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: 3D printing of food is commonplace for the masses. Nathan's young niece is surprised by her dinner at Ingrid's house containing actual bones.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Lakeview's processing power is immense but it isn't infinite, and computer glitches occasionally result. A man is shown to glitch out when diving into the lake due to the processing load of the immense number of people in the program, birds occasionally glitch out in midair, and the sunshine shimmering on the lake is a .gif that repeats a touch too fast to be immersive. In one episode, when a Luddite attempts to destroy Lakeview's servers, the significantly reduced processing power renders the residents akin to Minecraft characters, but they soon revert to normal when the servers are restored.
  • Hot Guys Are Bastards: This is the expectation that Nora and Aleesha have of Nathan.
  • Indecisive Parody: The mystery of who killed Nathan and why is often used to mock Ontological Mystery shows with characters pointing out how needlessly obtuse and complicated it is, but at the same time Nathan and Nora's investigation itself is treated mostly seriously.
  • Inside a Computer System: This is where the virtual Heaven, and the uploads are located.
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: While it's possible to have sex with other VR users or uploads, it requires people to put on "sex suits", which look like they're filled with rubber gloves inside. Ingrid freaks out when she visits a suit rental place and runs off. She eventually rents one to sleep with Nathan and actually enjoys the experience, although waking up in her bathtub isn't that much fun. These suits are also used to allow kids to hug their uploaded grandparents, but the most common use is sex between uploads and corporeals.
    Nathan: When's the last time an adult called it a hug suit?
    Nora: ...The commercial?
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: As a result of the accident and improper uploading, part of Nathan's memories were damaged, leaving him with gaps in his memories.
  • Ludd Was Right: Downplayed with regards to uploading: It isn't presented as a bad thing in concept, but the fact that it exists in a hyper-capitalist society creates a lot of problems. Nathan creating a freely available version is presented as an unambiguously good thing.
  • Matrix Raining Code: The agents' computer screens at Horizen have green matrix code running in the background.
  • Meaningful Name: Nathan's niece. Nevaeh is "Heaven" spelled backward, tying into the afterlife theme of the show.
  • Microtransactions: An Artificial Afterlife with "In-App Purchases" for things like the hotel's minibar.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Dylan's character in a nutshell. As a child, he fell into the Grand Canyon (which somehow became an Instant Web Hit) and was uploaded at the age of 11. ...And is still that way a decade later, while his younger brother goes to prom and has a girlfriend. And, because he is essentially his parents' property, there's nothing he can do to change any of this. (At least, not legally.)
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: It's implied that few people still believe in a spiritual afterlife and most prefer the artificial version. Nora considers her father to be weird for wanting to die and join her mother in the Christian Heaven. She would much rather her father upload himself into Lakeview with her Horizen employee discount, so she wouldn't have to say goodbye and could still visit him.
    • This has also changed the nature of funerals, with "funerals" for those who have Uploaded now just seen as regular social occasions.
  • Possible War: Based on a throwaway comment by Luke, the US actively went to war with Iran at some point in the 2020s.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: Service fees for pizza delivery add up to $15, and tickets for the observation deck of Empire State Building cost $150 (at the time the episode was released, the cheapest adult ticket was $44). Wages, on the other hand to seem to have stagnated, with a typical Horizen angel making under $40,000 annually.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: AI Guy, the Lakeview AI read-headed avatar, gets the least respect of any character in the show. His mannerisms alternate between a bumbling, harried hotel staffer overwhelmed by the requests of the guests and an awkward AI who doesn't understand the subtleties of human interaction.
  • Scenery Porn: Lakeview is a stunning place. A fancy, classic-looking hotel, overlooking a gorgeous lake and woods, which itself shift between seasons at the will of the uploads.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Nora is introduced, she is watching 50 First Dates over another woman's shoulder on the subway. She watches it on her VR headset later in the episode.
    • One of the places of worship available in Lakeview is a bowling alley.
    • In the first episode, a character looks at various meme pictures, which are all from shows Greg Daniels worked on in the past.
    • When Nathan is assigned the task of meeting five new people in Lakeview by his therapist, the checklist is called The Five People You Meet In Upload.
    • Nora has a date with her Nitely fling in a restaurant called Asimov.
    • In one episode, there's a poster that says "Oprah/Kamala 2024"
  • Slapstick: Throughout the first season, Ingrid gets a comedic face massage, wears a cumbersome sex suit, gets blankets thrown on her,and jumps in a fountain.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Nora and Nathan fall in love with each other, even though this is banned by Horizen policy and also he's a Digital Avatar Brain in a Jar and she's distinctly corporeal.
  • Take That!: Lots of them, mainly targeted at big corporations like Horizen.
  • Techno Dystopia: While the world has created an artificial afterlife and used 3D printing to solve world hunger, the divide between the haves and have-nots is more pronounced than ever. While most of the focus is on the varying qualities of the virtual afterlife and how they're directly tied to the income of the deceased and their families, numerous examples show things aren't exactly great for the living outside of the elites. A minor example shows Christmas, Hanukkah, and other similar holidays combined into a single day, which employees still are expected to report to work for.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-universe. Luke mentions in the first episode that in the first uploads, people didn't shit, eat, or even had eyelids, which led them to become crazy within a week. Nathan himself is driven crazy because of the constant effect of this on Lakeview, like the sudden appearances of the AI and how everything is twisted to be more perfect.
  • Video Phone: Obviously the technology already existed when the show was made, but by 2033 voice phone calls are odd enough to make characters surprised and/or suspicious that they've been put on "voice-only".
  • We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future: As you need to be alive to be scanned, and the scanning process destroys your head, the whole uploading process can be viewed as this. Most people are scanned when very elderly or otherwise on the verge of death.
    • However, Iran veteran Luke lived for five years with the loss of his legs, before opting for what he called a "sui-scan".
    • Of course, the whole process arguably inverts this by extending a person's conscious life.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Later in Season 1, someone bombs Horizen's server farm. While the story is, by this point, deep into the Driving Question of the season, and it can be inferred that the bomber was somehow trying to prevent Nora and Nathan from getting to the bottom of the Whodunnit, this is never made explicit — nor is there any follow-up about an act of industrial sabotage concerning a $600-billion industry. (Of course, there's also no explanation as to why Horizen keeps its servers in a Customer Service location in NYC; today, Amazon keeps its rentable server farms in large, temperature-controlled, highly-secured facilities, and there's no Watsonian reason to assume this is no longer a practice.)
  • World of Jerkass: The real world is shown as being full of passive-aggressive snobs to give contrast to the artificially upbeat and corporately-controlled afterlife. Only Nora and Nathan come across as something resembling decent people with depth and compassion.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The upload process involves disintegrating the upper three-quarters of the person's head. In one episode it's revealed that there are "upload scams" that promise cheap uploading but just destroy your head after the scammers take your money.


Video Example(s):


Post Coital Collapse

Nora and Byron having sex is shortcut to their sweaty bodies collapsing onto the bed

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Main / PostCoitalCollapse

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