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What is your humanity worth?
Pantheon is a 2022 Science Fiction Drama Animated Series produced for AMC, based on the short stories of author Ken Liu.
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Madison "Maddie" Kim is not a happy kid. Her father, brilliant programmer David Kim is presumed dead. Kim was a lead designer of the "UI" (Uploaded Intelligence) project for tech corporation Logorhythms, a brilliant advancement to scan human minds into the cloud and become more than human.

When David was stricken by illness, he volunteered as a test subject and was believed dead when the process went haywire. She faces intense abuse and bullying at school and hasn't any friends. One rainy day, she receives messages from a mysterious stranger who seems to be interested in helping her navigate her issues. This strange new friend soon launches digital vengeance against Maddie's bullies and Madison's mother Ellen is alarmed-especially when Maddie's "friend" begins communicating in ways only her late husband would.

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Maddie soon hooks up via Chatroom with Caspian Keyes, a sullen yet intelligent teenager whose parents have been keeping secrets from him involving Logorhythms. Maddie suspects Logorhythms has faked her dad's death and is keeping him prisoner, and the two begin a small-scale investigation into the company. Meanwhile, idealistic engineer Vinod Chanda hopes to use the "U.I" technology to usher in utopia, but his employers have far more sinister plans and target him as the latest test subject.

A new kind of war is brewing, a battle for humanity between corporate ambition and the souls they victimize, and Maddie and Caspian are caught in the middle of it.

The first episode was uploaded on September 1, 2022.


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Tropes:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The year is 2023. Uploaded intelligence was an ongoing but not yet realized field of study in 2001. By the present day, two software companies have successfully uploaded human brains, with only the integrity problem of decay over time, a known problem in 2001, still unsolved. Additionally, VR technology has become advanced and prolific enough to be used in MMOs and integrate motion capture gloves, and haptic vests are also available accessories.
  • Abusive Parents: Caspian's father is a different kind, he's emotionally condescending and constantly challenges his son with complicated equations to gouge his intelligence, clearly never satisfied and smug.Turns out both he and his wife are acting this way to monitor an emotional response on their prodigy son. It doesn't make them any better.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The show is based on author Ken Liu's trilogy of short stories, which only followed Maddie. As such most of the other characters and plotlines (including Caspian and Logorhythms' arc) are either original to the series or expanded upon from the source material.
  • Asshole Victim: Mr. Prasad. Given he was a corrupt snake who killed numerous people in his Uploading experiments, including Chanda, while posing as a benevolent businessman, no one would mourn when Chanda kills him. That said,Chanda killing Prasad's innocent wife and children as well makes his revenge far less satisfying.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • The show makes a distinction between AI and UI, but the integrity problem inherent to all UIs thus far, where they gradually become erratic and unstable the more processing power they expend, is in line with this trope.
    • Chanda struggles with a similar problem. As a human, he had anger issues that he mainly dealt with through exercise, such as taking up boxing. As a UI without a body to exert, he has all of his old issues with none of his old coping mechanisms.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Maddie, Justine, and Caspian all suffer this in different ways. Maddie is cyberbullied by a cruel Alpha Bitch and her posse who suicide bait and humiliate her, Caspian is thought of as a creepy loner by most of his peers, and Justine is ostracized and avoided because of her weight. Fortunately, Maddie and Justine become friends while Caspian starts to bond with the more outgoing and friendly Hannah. Until it's revealed that Hannah is just an actress meant to further Caspian's development, and their relationship was a lie.
  • Amicable Exes: After talking things out and agreeing that they can't be husband and wife anymore, David and Ellen settle into being friends.
  • Amoral Attorney: Pope's lawyer is aware of all his unethical activity and even pushes him to be less moral for the sake of reducing risk, arguing for David's continued captivity when Maddie is trying to free him and arguing repeatedly that Caspian be killed despite Pope being firmly unwilling to do the latter. Presumably threatening Ellen and Maddie with a smear campaign was her idea.
  • And I Must Scream: Heavily implied so far to be the case for U.I's. Logorhythms trapped David Kim and another subject in their databanks to use their minds as resources, and in turn given them every reason to rebel. And it only gets worse by episode 3, where Chanda discovers those who fail the process are trapped in the grid as amorphous, mute wraiths, yet fully remember their human lives.
  • Animesque: The show's art style is very reminiscent of popular late-90s and early-2000s anime. Further cemented by one of the animation studios working on the series being DR Movie.
  • Bad Bedroom, Bad Life: While not derelict by any means, Caspian's bedroom has his computer desk positioned in the middle of the room and facing the door, like someone looking over his shoulder was his chief concern when arranging the furniture. This reflects the non-specific intuition he's had that he's being spied on.
  • Bad Liar: Pope accuses Peter of this, explaining that he made Peter genuinely transfer David's data into the hard drive because Peter wouldn't have been able to convince Ellen to come if he didn't believe himself that they'd be doing what she wanted. The audience can see some of this in how he stutters in his voicemail to Ellen when describing Pope as a good man, but there are other lies he tells that land better.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • When it seems like Pope and his lackey are returning to the charging station and will discover the in-progress hack of the laptop, instead they went to the breakroom.
    • When is seems like Peter's team is about to raid the Kim household for David's servers, instead they enter an arcade, having been sent to the wrong address.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Pope shushes his underlings when they tell him David and Laurie are trying hack the Norway site. He knew that would happen and is having Peter's team trace David's signal so he can be apprehended while occupied with the hack. The plan goes awry when the mooks end up at the wrong location, which Peter claims was due to David spoofing the tracking algorithm. Either David anticipated something like that after being shut down in Oregon, he caught on when Pope called through the compromised satellite phone, or Peter lied to protect his former friend.
    • David drained Pope's phone battery with the expectation that he'd then leave it unattended on its charging port and David could take the opportunity to find a vulnerability in the area.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Cody argues with Laurie about how he never gets to make the major decisions in their relationship. To his horror, she's rendered comatose shortly afterwards and he is the one to agree to the upload procedure on her behalf.
  • Becoming the Mask: While he's in on the conspiracy surrounding his "son" Caspian, Cary grows to genuinely care for the boy and resents having to play the role of cold, abusive father. He eventually breaks down sobbing with remorse after Renee breaks her own arm to frame him and he takes a beating from an enraged Caspian.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: The particularly cruel way in which Chanda is uploaded sours him on humanity as a whole, starting with murdering his boss and forcing him to watch his family die by setting his entire building on fire, and only getting worse from there.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Maddie and Justine form a female version of this whenever they share screentime. Though big girl Justine is actually quite articulate, cool, and collected, while the much smaller Maddie is often passionate, impulsive, and doesn't always think things through.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Maddie(short) and her two teenage friends, Caspian(thin) and Justine(big), although only technically since Caspian and Justine haven't actually met.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Caspian's mother Renee. Despite posing as the timid, caring housewife, she actually cares only for her son as an assignment, has no remorse forcing him to live in a toxic, abusive home, and browbeats her "husband" for not going all in with his role.
  • Bland-Name Product: The show's usual approach for software and websites is to show what is clearly the user interface for a real world product, but with the the logo and name removed or obscured. When Maddie runs a command line window, however, we see that her operating system is Blinds.
  • Body Horror: Some elements of cyberspace are represented visually this way: the failed uploads look like ghastly wraiths, Laurie's manipulations of herself and David involve stretching and duplicating body parts, and David distorts horribly when his server starts being shut down mid-operation. The upload procedure itself, with the skull opened and then vivisected with a laser as blood drips down, is a more classical example.
  • Brain Uploading: The whole premise is based around humans scanning their brains into the Cloud as new thinking, feeling programs, as well as the ethical implications that carries. The catch is that the process scans the brain by vaporizing it one layer of neurons at a time, so it's a strictly one-way process that is obviously quite fatal.
  • Broken Bird: Maddie. Poor, poor Maddie. Maddie lost her father at a young age, has no friends, and is an outcast at her school, where her bullies e-mail messages telling her to kill herself. In the first episode, it's clear that Maddie is depressed.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Maddie isn't tolerating her mom's attempts to dissuade her from finding out more about her dad's disappearance and accuses her of denying her dad can still be saved.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: When he's at the mercy of Prasad, Chandra begs his boss not to kill him. "Fortunately" Prasad feels Chandra's mind is still a valuable resource, but he didn't say that included his body....
  • Cast from Lifespan: With current methods, UIs have a design flaw that causes them to gradually degrade the more processing power they use. Figuring out how to prevent that problem is the motivation for most of Logorhythm's current schemes.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Maddie does this in the third episode after her Nightmare Sequence.
  • Cheat Code: In a flashback, David intends to use an external cheat code to respawn himself while he's playing Lords of Winter with Maddie (with the implication he does this regularly), though when Ellen argues that's teaching a bad lesson and leaves in a huff, he follows her rather than going through with it this time. In the present day, he reacts to a raiding party of other players interrupting his and Maddie's conversation about Ellen not talking to him by unloading the environment's graphics and then those players. Maddie voices worry that he could expose his presence to government agencies doing that.
  • Cloning Blues: Caspian's nature and nurture have been carefully curated in hopes he'll be able to perfect his original's, Logorhythms's founder Stephen Holstrom, life's work on UI.
  • Congruent Memory: UI problem-solving suffers if their emotion is partitioned away, but reintroducing it may make them resistant to having their memory erased.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Logorhythms is led by people who are willing to do anything to see their late founders' dreams achieved, even if it means holding people prisoner as sentient programs and resources. Chandra's boss arguably outclasses them, as he not only turns his pupil into a U.I through a horrifying and invasive procedure, but casually mentions he's done this to other people. With less successful results.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Downplayed example with David. He disrupts Ellen's date with Gabe shortly after he learns about them, but when he and Ellen finally have a conversation, he concedes that "til death do us part" means they're not married anymore even if he could be considered still the same David and that he shouldn't and won't stop her from pursuing a new relationship with someone else.
  • Cult of Personality: When Cary reveals to Caspian that he's a clone intended to bring about Stephen Holstrom's utopian vision, Caspian calls Pope's inner circle a cult. Cary agrees.
  • Cut the Juice:
    • Logorhythms begins disconnecting David's servers in Oregon, forcing Laurie to compress and download him to keep him out of their clutches.
    • In the season finale, the entire internet is forcibly disconnected as a short-term solution to all-powerful U Is running about, now that their existence is public knowledge.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Episode 4 reveals this is gradually happening to U.Is. They start out as their human personalities, but as their code breaks down they become more volatile and unstable. Laurie wants to prevent it when she senses it coming, but Chanda seems to have gone over the deep end when he burns Mr. Prasad and his entire family alive in revenge.
  • Daddy's Girl: In case you couldn't tell by the premise, Maddie. And David was a great dad, so justified.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Pope's lawyer refers to the prospect of killing Caspian as "terminating the project."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Justine, Maddie's fellow student seems perpetually disinterested and blunt.
    "I have to ask. If you get trafficked, it's on me."
  • Death Faked for You: Logorhythms told Cody and Ellen that the upload process for Laurie and David failed, respectively. Easy to fake the dead when "alive" doesn't have a body.
  • Defecting for Love: Familial love. Cary defects from Logorhythms to save Caspian from the possibility that they'll kill him for failing to align with their goals.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Mr.Prasad casually reveals that before Chandra, he picked several guinea pigs from the slums of Mumbai to test the uploading process on. Chandra is horrified by this inhumanity while Prasad doesn't blink an eye at these lost lives.
  • Digital Abomination: The failed uploads look monstrous and initially seem threatening to Chanda, but it turns out they're just trying to help him escape.
  • Digitized Hacker: A U.I is a digital copy of a human mind that can freely move through cyberspace and meddle in any computer system. Laurie Lowell wrecks havoc on Logorythms after her transformation and David hacks Maddie's school to dish out some justice on the teens tormenting his daughter. This is done by the Russians to a quite literal extent, using the digitized mind of a genius hacker who is naturally even better at his job as a digital ghost.
  • Disappeared Dad: David Kim. His body is dead, but his mind is still on the grid, and Maddie is ready to take on an entire corporation to bring him home.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Pope often treats Peter disrespectfully, and it appears that Peter may have given his mooks the wrong address to prevent his former friend David from being captured again, rather than David spoofing the tracking algorithm like Peter claims to Pope.
    • Mr. Prasad secretly had several poor slum denizens gruesomely experimented on to create a UI program, with the failures trapped in the cloud as digital monstrosities. When he succeeds with Chanda, the failed uploads help Chanda escape, and Prasad really starts paying for his atrocities when a very angry Chanda hacks his apartment.
  • Domestic Abuse: Renee and Cary's "relationship" is this, with him being critical and dismissive of her, throwing her into a table the day Hannah visits the house, and eventually breaking her arm with a hammer ( though Renee did the last part herself since Cary didn't have the stomach for it) and abandoning her and Caspian when Caspian retaliates. This indicates that Stephen Holstrom's parents had a sincere case of this.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Laurie's message to the world isn't merely something she intends to release to the world, it's a hack that hijacks every single networked display device on Earth, even personalizing the name used in the case of individual devices.
  • Don't Think, Feel: When trying to get David to analyze her directly using UI senses, she chides him for thinking like a programmer and trying to grasp what she's doing on an intellectual level. When his love for Maddie is what allows him to repel her, she tells him to lean into that feeling, which is what then allows his breakthrough. Downplayed in that logical analysis is what she's trying to get him to do once he's past that hurdle.
  • Emergency Transformation: David went through with the upload process because he had weeks left to live due to an unspecified illness, and Cody agreed to put Laurie through the process because she was comatose from a car accident.
  • Emo Teen: Caspian, and Maddie somewhat at first.
  • End of an Era: When the American UIs learn that Alliance were able to develop Brain Uploading independently of Logorhythms, Ellen speculates that the creation of more UIs is inevitable, and that humans will need to adapt to a new era dominated by UIs much like humans dominated after discovering fire.
  • Enhance Button: Averted. When showing a satellite image, David comments that he's zoomed in as far as he can without losing resolution.
  • Enslaved Tongue: Logorhythms thought it was safe to give Laurie and David access to the internet because their language processing was partitioned, but the two eventually figured out how to communicate with Caspian and Maddie/Ellen, respectively, by conversing solely in emoji.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite what a horrible man Prasad is, he begs Chanda to spare his family when he goes out for blood. Chanda, apparently having fully embraced his inhumanity, refuses.
  • Everything Is Online: Generally averted, with things only slightly more online than in the present day. When Laurie performs a DDOS attack on Logorhythms, they mitigate the damage by disconnecting as much hardware as they can. After they beef up their firewalls, she needs Maddie to bring a wireless device onto the premises to access their intranet to be able to pull off the same trick. The Norway black site provides a similar access puzzle.
  • Expendable Clone: U Is are able to create limited copies of themselves that can imitate the behavior of the real thing while lacking the original's will. The way Chanda looks at his partial copy before leaving could be interpreted as having some misgivings about following this trope. Presumably Logorhythms could have gone this route and only deleted a copy of David to satisfy Ellen if not for Pope's doubt of Peter being able to sell the lie.
  • Faking the Dead: See Death Faked for You above.
  • Fat and Skinny: Maddie and Justine after becoming each other's Only Friend.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mr. Prasad, whose such a patient and rational man while he's having a terrified Chanda's brain sliced open to be digitized, and telling him of the failed test subjects he went through behind his back.
  • Financial Abuse: Possibly implied by Cary and Renee's argument, where he accuses her of outspending his income but she insists it was just one dress and her clothes are falling apart.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: We see the car that was supposed to pick Chanda up moments before Chanda is grappled and sedated by someone in the back seat of the car he entered instead.
  • Foil:
    • David and Ellen's marriage to Cody and Laurie's. The former pair had a happy marriage as humans, but Ellen won't pursue a relationship with David as a UI, so they become Amicable Exes. The latter had a rockier marriage, but become more committed to and interdependent upon each other after Laurie becomes a UI.
    • Cary and Renee. Cary loses his commitment to the project due to paternal love for Caspian, whereas Renee's is unwavering due to her romantic love for the late Stephen Holstrom that will be "resurrected" through Caspian.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: On the screen when Chanda is uploaded, we can see it writing an SDR map and HTM state.
  • Gasoline Dousing: Chanda facilitates Prasad's home burning down by causing the gas pumps in the interior parking lot to pump out their contents.
  • Geeky Turn-On: When Stephen Holstrom likens a song playing to a recursive loop and ponders whether that may be the key to solving UI integrity, Renee sultrily comments that she loves the way he thinks.
  • A God Am I: Stephen Holstrom wanted to correct the degradation flaw not to make all U Is immortal, but to create a single UI that would be superior to all others, which is explicitly given a God-like biblical reference by Pope.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Pope uses the term to describe David's ability to bypass the Laser-Guided Amnesia and other control measures in place on him and values its potential for advancing UI as a field. Peter's description to Ellen frames it as the digital model emulating the neuroplasticity present in a physical brain.
  • Ground Hog Day Loop: Chanda ends up imprisoned in one after his successful uploading, where he relives the same boring day over and over, completely unaware what's really happening. But he breaks out when the failed uploads show him the truth and he slips out of his virtual prison unnoticed. David and Laurie were subjected to something similar, but in their case the loop was broken because emotion was reintroduced in an effort to improve their problem-solving, which had been worse than expected when emotion was removed. That emotion then allowed their memory to adapt and remember each loop, leading to their attempts to break out. In Chanda's case, Prasad had already identified that flaw when working on the failed test subjects, so his engineer picked a careful mix of love and annoyance to avoid that, leading to him remaining stuck until the outside interference of the failed uploads.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The news report on the accident that rendered Laurie comatose describes her as being "nearly bisected" by the crash. When a flashback shows her in the hospital afterwards, the lower half of her body is completely absent at that point.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Samara, the Alpha Bitch bullying Maddie in the first episode. Thankfully, she gets put in her place.
    • Renee also becomes this as the show goes on. She is cold, manipulative, and abusive, pushing Cary to throw aside his morals for the project, threatening Hannah for faltering in her role(even calling her a slut), and manipulating Caspian's love for his "mother". Unlike Cary, she has no real care for her son as his own person, and is prepared to murder Caspian when he sees through the facade, even shooting Cary as well for confessing.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Invoked and defied. Peter never asked who she'd told or suggested Logorhythms might kill her, but Ellen scoffs that she can't be killed off because she's already told the New York Times she's ready to break her NDA.
  • Have You Tried Rebooting?: When David is overclocking himself on Logorhythm's servers demanding freedom, one of the programmers suggests rebooting from source to erase his memory now that he's No Selling other methods of doing so. The fact that this is done on Chanda and he still breaks out suggests that it is, at best, a stop-gap.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: After escaping his virtual prison to seek revenge on Prasad, Chanda becomes just as vile as his former boss when he murders Prasad's wife and children solely to hurt him further, then demonstrates a willing to nuke Sacramento just to spite David.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Averted. The two female members of Pope's inner circle are the most amoral and committed among them, respectively.
  • Honey Trap: Hannah, really an actress named Rachel, was hired to be Caspian's girlfriend for the next three years to further keep tabs on his development after his father would be phased out of the project.
  • I Hate Past Me: This is something that Laurie comes to see in regards to herself and her relationship with Cody in the past. During the more severe stages of her degradation, recovering her source code is brought up as a way to save her which Cody plans to do. She however counters that her source code is merely the day one version of her as a UI prior to all the character development she gained with Cody. Seeing that her past self was someone who was more focused on her personal career than her marriage, she admits that version of her didn't really love Cody as much as does in her current state. Thus not wanting to hurt Cody, she asks that he just let her go and not bring her back.
  • Impeded Communication: David disrupts the bullies targeting Maddie by redirecting phone, chat, and email messages and by doctoring a photo to show a girl having stolen another's boyfriend. Since they're in class and can't talk to each other directly, the group is splintered by lunch and are so riled that they direct accusations of hacking at each other rather than an outside party.
  • Instant Sedation: Possibly averted. The camera cuts away from the struggle shortly after Chanda is grappled and injected, so we don't see how long it takes to subdue him.
  • Interrupted Intimacy:
    • In a flashback, Renee's foreplay with Stephen Holstrom is interrupted by Cary bringing files Stephen had asked for earlier. Renee didn't want Stephen to get up, and Cary offers to come back later when he sees Renee, but Stephen says he'll get his laptop and transfer them immediately.
    • Ellen and Gabe are starting to get intimate when David starts messing with the electronics in Gabe's house. Ellen snaps at David to stop, and Gabe kicks Ellen out when she refuses to explain what's going on.
    • In another flashback, Cody's surprise gift for Laurie gets her in the mood while they're driving through the forest at night, so she has him pull over on the side of the road, gets out of her seat to straddle him, and they start kissing and feeling each other up. Then a drunk driver who doesn't see their car through the dark and the snow rear ends them. Cody is mostly fine since he was still strapped in, but Laurie isn't so lucky.
  • It's All About Me: A character flaw of Laurie's. The night of the accident, Cody criticizes her for always being the one to make major decisions in their relationship, which she doesn't have a good counter for. After she's uploaded, this dynamic goes even further since he's her "hands in the physical world," but he's so happy she's alive he no longer minds. Moreover, she didn't break David free for his sake, but because she thought he could fix her design flaw and impulsively tries to kill him when he says he can't.
  • I Want Grandkids: What Chanda's mother asks for in the simulation his UI is trapped in. When he has a phone conversation with her after escaping she similarly tries to pair him off with a girl.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Samara gets Maddie's entire class to mimic Maddie's fidgeting as part of the bullying campaign against her.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Chanda blows up Laurie's server hub with a hijacked cruise missile to keep her from exposing the existence of UIs to the world, warning Maddie that he can do the same to her father should he follow in her footsteps. He makes good on this by threatening to nuke Sacramento to stop the possibility of David releasing Laurie's message.
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Defied by Ellen, who insists she can't have a relationship with a partner that lacks a physical body both before and after David returns as a UI. Played straight with Cody, who continues his relationship with Laurie once he finds out she's alive as an AI.
  • Language Equals Thought: Chanda mentions this theory while slipping into Word Salad, and it is likely connected to the Enslaved Tongue situation David and Laurie were initially under.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Since UI's memories are part of their code, their captors can selectively partition memories away or reset them to a prior memory state. Learning to No-Sell this is what lets the UIs start going rogue, though the more thorough method of rebooting from source is suggested to still potentially work.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Cody complains to Laurie that he's never in the driver's seat in their relationship, she replies that he's in the driver's seat of their car at that moment.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Justine thus far is the only major character who isn't either involved in the Logorhythims conspiracy or knows of Uploaded Intelligence. Given her demeanor, one wonders how she'd react if or when she discovers what her friend's been up to. Becomes less locked out when Caspian uses her phone number in an attempt to contact Maddie, and listens in on his emergency right as she was lighting up. Overall she takes it pretty well, visiting Maddie to assure her that regardless of everything Justine is there for her.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Caspian. Due to being a brooding quiet teen, he's seen by most of his classmates as a creepy weirdo. One girl even infers that he'd be the type to shoot up the school.
  • Love Martyr: As part of her act, Renee begs Caspian to stop attacking Cary after he "broke her arm" and begs Cary not to leave when he walks out on them. Presumably the Mrs. Holstrom she was emulating was the genuine article.
  • Nice Guy: David Kim, a great dad and loving husband as well as an altruistic programmer.
  • Nightmare Sequence: The third episode opens with Maddie bringing her father to class for "take your parent to school day," only for Logorhythms to take him from her to run further tests.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Subverted, despite what Logorythms tried to convince Ellen to get her off their backs, but the UIs here aren't in a position to have their own backups. Base scans of their initial uploads are all kept by Logorhythms, hence why they're seen to be both copyable and able to fit on a small hard drive when compressed when in their self-aware states. Whether or not Alliance also bothered keeping their UIs' backups is unknown given The Clan seems to be their "prototype". This becomes very important the more the flaw degrades both Laurie and David. Cody being in contact with Cary, and the man then owing him a life debt, gives him hope that he'd be able to get back Laurie's backup, though she points out the time they've spent together after her "death" has changed her and their relationship a lot and for the better so she's doubtful it would go as he'd like it to. When David's UI dies right before Caspian chooses him as the one he'll fix, Pope reassures him that David's backup is fine so he can immediately get to work fixing him. Unfortunately, Maddie's completely unaware of this, leaving her to mourn her father's death all over again.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Stephen Holstrom is clearly inspired by Steve Jobs, including his first name, appearance, role as CEO of a massive tech company, presentation style, and premature death.
  • No-Sell: David and Laurie both developed workarounds for the Laser-Guided Amnesia and Enslaved Tongue meant to control them. Chanda developed similarly with the help of the failed uploads.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Renee pretends not to know what UI is when Caspian brings it up, or to remember the correct term when she asks him if he's still looking into it later. Driving home without the groceries she was getting may also have been part of her helpless housewife act, or she may genuinely have forgotten after talking to Pope.
  • Oddly Small Organization: While Logorhythms is a multinational corporation, the portion directly involved in its more unethical activities appears to be in the single digits. This limited manpower plays a role in Cary and Caspian being able to go off the rails.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The upload process is only seen to work on those who are already naturally intelligent. David, Laurie, and Chanda are all genius programmers (in different fields), the Russians upload a hacker, and the Chinese upload a prisoner and a warden running a gold mining scheme in an MMO. By contrast, a bunch of vagrants used as test subjects cannot manifest themselves as anything but featureless ghouls with limited ability to communicate.
  • Overclocking Attack: In a literal example, one step of David's cyberattack on Logorhythm's Norway site is to overclock Pope's satellite phone. This doesn't make it explode, just drains the battery, prompting Pope to leave it on its wireless charging station where David can use it to access a laptop that's also been left there to charge.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The first time we see Pope's lawyer suggest Caspian be killed, Pope shuts her down in no uncertain terms. However, Cary and Renee don't hear that because Pope had muted his microphone prior to that part of the conversation. When she argues for it again when Pope isn't present but Cary is, Cary is convinced that's genuinely under consideration and goes rogue to try to save him.
  • Power Echoes: Laurie's voice reverberates electronically at several points while confronting David in his simulated office space.
  • The Power of Love: Discussed in the opening narration of the second episode and in Stephen Holstrom's presentation, which posit love as what sets humans and UIs apart from simple A.I.s. When implemented, UIs cut off from their emotions don't have the same creative problem solving that they did as humans, and reintroducing love to fix that problem can cause them to "evolve beyond their programming" due to it stimulating neuroplasticity. David, Laurie, and Chanda are motivated by their love for Ellen and Maddie, for Cody, and for Chanda's mother, respectively. In particular, David's love for Maddie is what lets him repel Laurie's murder attempt.
  • Power Perversion Potential: In a flashback, Stephen Holstrom discusses with Renee how uploaded intelligence could allow people to have even better sex in the virtual world using senses humans didn't even know they had. In the present, Cody alludes to he and Laurie managing to stay intimate using electronic sex toys.
  • Real Dreams are Weirder: Maddie's Nightmare Sequence has an odd premise (Maddie openly bringing her uploaded father to school for "take your parent to school day"), jumbles the situation (the hard drive containing his compressed data file is instead a lunchbox that contains him as a Lilliputian along with her lunch), merges characters (Peter starts in the role of her teacher before he then takes David back for Logorhythms), and doesn't maintain continuity (her classmates vanish between shots).
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Maddie is passionate, curious, and determined to help her father while her new friend Justine is laid-back, cynical, and mostly indifferent to her buddy's strange life.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After Logorhythms tracks down David's servers in Oregon, the protagonists don't feel they have time to set up servers for him out of reach on a boat like Laurie has, so they set up his new servers in the Kim household basement.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Logorhythms installing chips on Caspian's computer to monitor him, which allows them to alter the Google Earth pictures of the Norway site before he can take a screenshot, confirm to him that he is indeed being monitored by Logorhythms when he disassembles his computer and finds them.
  • Self-Duplication: UIs are computer programs, so they can make copies of themselves, though the duplicates are shells of what the original is. Laurie and Chanda make partial copies to continue their work and mask their escape, and Laurie makes another partial copy that conducts her second attack on Logorhythms (and is then captured by them while the original remains free). Chandra calls what's left of the UI who helped him get free "the clan" but he describes them as all being a single mind's duplicates, which are seen to succumb to the late stages of the flaw at different rates.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Maddie's laptop has stickers referencing both Nerv from Neon Genesis Evangelion as a "NERD" logo with a computer mouse motif instead of a fig leaf and a mascot character that looks like Maromi from Paranoia Agent.
    • When first meeting, Hannah and Caspian make pop culture references including how their names are also in The Chronicles of Narnia and Hannah Montana.
    • Maddie likens her arranged dinner for her parents to The Parent Trap, and is dismayed when Justine hasn't heard of or seen either version.
    • Laurie, the chronologically first successful U.I., resembles the Major from Ghost in the Shell (1995). David later mimics the extended finger typing from the 1995 film, saying he saw it in a movie once, while Maddie has a pin like the Laughing Man symbol from Stand Alone Complex on her backpack.
  • Streisand Effect: Invoked by Ellen, who says that Logorhythms can't kill her because she already told the New York Times that she's ready to break her NDA with them.
  • Stylistic Suck: The voice quality of the The Lords of Winter players that invade Maddie and David's game is atrocious, indicating they have cheap microphones.
  • Super Intelligence: In addition to the Super Reflexes below, UIs can develop the ability to visualize the make-up of digital systems they interface with, enhancing their capacity to understand it. It's unclear what other capabilities may be boosted, since all the extant successful uploads were genius programmers to start with.
  • Super Reflexes: UIs can think at accelerated rates if they devote the processing power to do so. The intended use for the extant UIs was for them to simply keep performing the programming jobs they had as humans, but faster. We see Chanda experiencing a day's worth of work in a much shorter span, and then accelerated to experience multiple weeks of workdays within a single day. David complains that Ellen refusing to talk to him for a few days felt longer from his perspective.
  • Tears of Blood: One of Chanda's eyes bleeds slightly during his upload procedure.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Cary informs Caspian that he is a clone of Stephen Holstrom and that his life has been manipulated to the best of Logorhythm's ability to mirror Stephen's. The hope was that it would make Caspian similar enough to be able to solve the problem Stephen was on the cusp of solving when he died.
  • Too Much Information: When Ellen wonders how Cody could be happy in a relationship where his partner isn't physical, he explains they've managed to remain intimate using "devices. That you plug in." Ellen cuts him off saying she's got it before he gives any more detail.
  • Tough Love: Cary frames his emotional abuse of Caspian as helping him live up to his potential, but it's not terribly convincing. This is actually more genuine than it seemed, since putting Caspian through the same traumas as Stephen Holstrom was meant to mold him into the same kind of genius.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for season 1 spoils Cary bringing Caspian to the Norway black site and Laurie's ocean servers being destroyed.
  • Transferable Memory: Since the UI's memories are just a part of their code, they can be manipulated, reset, or fail to transfer. The initial plan for harnessing UIs was to put them in a virtual work environment without any life memory outside that context, and to continually reset their memories so they don't catch on to the situation, but the memory reset began to fail for Laurie and David when emotional memory was reintroduced to get their productivity back up, and for Chanda when the failed uploads interfered. When David's server in Oregon is shut down, he isn't transferred completely in time and loses the past day or so of his memory.
  • Troubled Abuser: Cary has misgivings about the harm he's put Caspian through for the sake of turning him into the next Stephen Holstrom.
  • "Truman Show" Plot: Caspian's homelife is a dark twist on this.His parents are agents of Logorhythms roleplaying a toxic, abusive relationship to mold their son into an asset for the company. His dad Cary is having regrets about this while his mother Renee is more focused. Turns out it's less to be a "Truman Show" and more to be the next "Able Edwards".
  • Unwitting Test Subject: When hired to play the role of Caspian's girlfriend, Hannah is told that he's the subject of a social experiment.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Stephen Holstrom espoused a utopian future for humanity through the use of UI, and Logorhythm's villainy in the present day are in service of that vision.
  • Waxing Lyrical: During a presentation on uploaded intelligence, Stephen Holstrom asks the audience to "Imagine. It's easy if you try," prompting chuckles from the audience. Caspian sarcastically calls him "real original."
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Ellen initially cannot accept or believe that the voice talking to her from Maddie's laptop is her late husband, claiming it's just a program based on David's brainwaves. Thanks to Maddie's favorite RPG, the couple meet each other via VR and she starts to warm up to his new form.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Renee says she chose baby Caspian's name because it's "unusual, like Phineas" when Cary asks and in the present, he gets called "Casper the unfriendly goth" and has its Narnia roots immediately pointed out. Stephen Holstrom, who was named "Phineas" at birth and legally changed it at 18, had expressed how much he hated his name and his father for giving it to him, shows that "Caspian" was Renee's attempt to invoke this for the project's first "inflection point".
  • Word-Salad Horror: Chanda's begging for his life devolves into disconnected babbling as the laser cuts into his brain to upload him. As Laurie's condition continues to deteriorate due to the flaw all UI have she's more likely to mix her words up or backslide into random babbling.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Upon seeing Samara threaten Maddie, Ellen threatens to harm Samara and suffer the consequences for it.
    • Chanda not only sets out to kill Prasad, but torments him even further by massacring his family, including two teenage children, and forcing him to watch. Compare that to the humble humanitarian from episode 1.
    • Pope's lawyer repeatedly argues that Caspian needs to be "terminated" whenever it seems like he might be going off the rails.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: After Renee shoots Cary for telling Caspian the truth about his life and Caspian drives off for the second time she calls out for "Stephen", not "Caspian", showing exactly who she's seen him as his whole life.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Pope's goal is to figure out how to crack the UI integrity problem, which he thinks David may play into. He won't accept Ellen's request to delete David, but when Maddie and Laurie hold Logorhythm's systems hostage until he releases David, he decides that letting David develop on the open internet and potentially be recaptured later is better than trying to wrangle his current state back into compliance in captivity. Note that Peter gave six minutes as the timeframe for when he could capture the part of Laurie conducting the attack (which we later see they did successfully do), but it takes Maddie and Ellen almost fifteen to leave the premises, so apprehending them before they left was an option he chose to pass up on.
  • Virtual Ghost: Brain Uploading to create these forms the central premise.

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