WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Upload, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
As Upload’s first season unravels, it quickly becomes clear that the show is not just about picture-perfect, screensaver-esque digital heavens people’s minds (and perhaps, their souls) are being sent to. As Nathan’s (Robbie Amell) consciousness is uploaded after a shady death, fans discover that this picture of virtual heaven only benefits the elite and privileged.
And while there are so many funny moments to pick from as he tries to figure out how to be with Nora (Andy Allo) in the real world, it should be clear just how potent this story is as a cautionary tale for the future in front of us.
Nathan only ends up in the hotel-like Lakeview because his girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) has a lot of money. That’s how he can afford food, clothing and all the luxuries up but as he meets other rich members, he sees there’s a social pyramid built on classism and capitalism. You can have nice things and a nice afterlife, once you have the money. And as in life, this separates classes from the wealthy enjoying their heavens to the poor suffering in languish in a place like 2 Gigs.
When Nathan tries to emancipate himself, viewers come across cheaper heavens that feel like virtual reality settings and not the full experience. 2 Gigs, however, is a perfect statement on the classist theme because here, just like data on a mobile device, once it runs out, you can’t get anything else. Clothes, food, calls and the bare necessities are difficult to attain and with two gigs of data as your prime resource, it’s basically a small salary in a dirty land of squalor. This is Upload reminding us how poor people struggle to survive, as seen when the people literally freeze when their data’s done. It’s like they’re dead digitally and unless topped up with money/data, they have to wait for the cycle to begin anew.
It’s a pertinent point given our present circumstances in the COVID-19 era as well, seeing as for many, due to self-isolating, lockdown rules and quarantining, life has come to a standstill. However, only a certain few have the money, homes and tools to survive these times. When it comes to food, space, running electricity, water, technology, worries about not being infected or passing the disease along, and the ability to just enjoy life in general, hassles about bill payments, it’s not the same, maybe not even for most middle-class homes. And therein lies the rub: only a select few get this comfort, which is reflected as it weighs on Nathan’s conscience how people suffer in death.
He feels a sense of guilt, and one we hope he explores a lot more in Season 2 because he was creating an afterlife app to break this system for people like Nora’s dad. It would allow them to create their own utopias and hand them down to family members — a statement on them being given agency, as they’d now have the means to earn a proper afterlife as if it were wealth to be passed down through family trees. He just can’t stand how those with less have to die the old-fashioned way, without maybe never even uploading to a hard drive for storage at least. In other words, either you end up in a ghetto-like 2 Gigs or you just wither away into nothingness if you’re not at an Upload center. Nathan believes in equality but again, classism exists, which is why businesses and the industry, in general, are eyeing his Beyond app.
It’s also what seemingly leads to his death because the industry has to capitalize on division and class. If everyone had access to such a free tool, heavens wouldn’t be expensive, so Nathan as a humanitarian is a threat to the system. So while Upload is fun, it packs a powerful social message on hoarded wealth in society molding the one percent. It’s best summed up when Ingrid comes to 2 Gigs and taps a frozen and financially deprived Nathan to give him a gig. One has to wonder if she’d ever considered doing the same to other poor people down there. And that’s what makes this portrayal of the future so intriguing, as it indicates we’ll be carrying the same biases from life over in death, not caring for the downtrodden who are doomed to suffer, as 2 Gigs shows, for eternity.
Created by Greg Daniels (The Office), Upload stars Robbie Amell, Andy Allo, Allegra Edwards, Zainab Johnson and Kevin Bigley. The series is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
KEEP READING: Upload: How Did [SPOILER] Die?
Season 1 of Upload is fun and quirky, but it also serves as a potent cautionary tale for classism that's set to be carried over into the near-future.