Warning: some spoilers ahead. Seriously, this show is profound. By about ten minutes into "About Time" as the series begins, you start to get that creepy vibe - like you're in for something along the lines of an extended "Black Mirror" episode, which was A-OK with me. In the series, Alex struggles to make a movie that's just not working. Paul, who is hyper-intelligent, is trying to come to grips with what reality is or isn't - and trying to explain this all to Alex while also needing to supply some kind of potential mobsters with an algorithm they need in the background. Alex is also filming journal-like entries into his computer for what seems like his unborn child. Michael and Chelsea seem like they're not only playing actors in Alex's movie but also trying to find a way to be together outside of their film. Everything feels a little off-kilter, but in the right way – the way that'll get you interested and engaged before the first episode is even halfway through.
I was honestly freakin' stoked about continuing through "Incompleteness" right away. We're dealing with intense themes like how much control we have over our daily lives, from thought processes to how we interact, and whether or not choice or our self-determination is anything other than an illusion or some theory without merit. "About Time" will finish with Alex getting a promotion at work, screaming his face off alone in his car in the parking lot, getting an epiphany about how to tackle his movie, and absorbing the toughest news of his life. The quality in this show is instantly apparent, and it's clear that what we're watching is thought through from every angle. The script is stellar, and how it's filmed is superb. The actors selected to make "Incompleteness" come to life onscreen are excellent choices. Everything bodes well for this series straight out the gate, and after a single episode flew by, I was already onto the next right away. I'll do my best to keep many details under wraps as I go through this series episode by episode but rest assured; there's no way to discuss "Incompleteness" without talking about a lot of what it has to offer as directly as possible. That being said, even if I told you exactly what you were going to experience, you'd still have to see it to believe it, and every single one of us would process the perplexing information, philosophies, and multiple theories this show puts forth in our own unique way.
As "Yesterday's Future" begins, we witness the rise of Alex. No longer allowing life to come at him, he puts on an old hat in the most intense way you've probably ever seen onscreen and starts grabbing life by the proverbial balls. Paul starts developing a relationship with his barista, wasting no time with small talk and going for giant philosophical conversations. "What kind of medications are you on," asks the barista after learning that Paul is basically trying to make human beings immortal through DNA editing outside his life as a screenwriter. Throughout this episode, we get to spend a lot more time with Paul (Clarence Wethern) and really start to understand how he views the world. One of the most clever scenes you'll see has the barista acting out Paul's life as he explains it, which is one of the smartest ways you'll see how "Incompleteness" puts someone in someone else's shoes. A lot of this show feels like it's showing us how connected we are, how life is essentially out of our control, and how technology is creeping into our daily lives under the guise of helping us - while simultaneously hurting us. All this continues while Michael and Chelsea continue diving into the most awkward relationship ever. Don't get me wrong, it's supposed to be awkward, but they're nailing it. You can't help but watch this trainwreck unfold and feel like this is all art imitating our lives. Jodi, Alex's significant other, is completely falling apart. With Alex so damn busy all the time, ignoring her & leaving her unattended, she starts to drift from their relationship, detach, and look for something else. The question becomes whether or not Alex will snap out of his fog long enough to actually notice.
You'll find writer/director David Ash has great ideas all around. For instance, not only is the dialogue extremely smart and equally intense - based on how "Incompleteness" is shot, but you'll also find these clever ideas really well-supported by what you see visually. The dialogue of "A Different Kind Of Perspective" is nothing short of incredible and thought-provoking – really "on a different plain" when it comes right down to it, but it's certainly enhanced by the stylistic visuals and superb acting we see combined. "You're right. It is just a dream, but when you wake up, you'll just be in another dream you call your life." What an amazing line! As episode three progresses, we start diving into heavy philosophical and existential conceptualism that would take another lifetime to process for most of us fully, but Ash's slight, sly, and subtle use of dry humour also allows us to stick with the story. David essentially keeps us all watching on the edge of our seats, trying to figure out what is actually real, just like the characters seem to be.
I suppose the answer is that it is all as real as it is an illusion – and ain't that what life is really like when you think about it? "Sometimes none of it seems real." The barista goes on to talk about how different choices we make, the multiple forks in the road we face, all create this "daisy chain of unlikely events" that somehow make us who we are…or at least, who we think we are. There's no doubt in my mind that Ash likely has a few degrees of some kind under his belt…presumably philosophy, psychology, sociology…you know…the thinker's degrees. I don't know that for a fact, but I'd be willing to make a decent wager on it. To have this much depth in writing would certainly require some serious research or learned knowledge - to be able to make a screenplay this advanced and yet this cogent simultaneously.
I like the barista and Paul together as a couple. No doubt they seem like they'd make an odd fit when we first see them together, but episode three reveals the potential and possibilities they could certainly have in front of them. As a result of us never really knowing what is or isn't real as we watch, we somewhat have to assume we're watching more of a dreamlike sequence that shows the couple moving through the various stages of life together. Is it just another split of this multiverse we're in called life? Is it the timeline they're really on? We might not ever know the answer to that, and we might never know the answer to that based on what this story is communicating to us overall - but it sure is filmed beautifully and gets us dreaming along with them. I love that we keep experiencing similar points of dialogue and scenes that all our main characters share, even while they all seem to be living different lives. Given that we're all living out each and every point of possibility in life in a variety of timelines, doesn't that basically imply that we're all one and the same, or that we theoretically would experience everything in life the same way that everyone else would too? What can I tell you, folks? Episode three of "Incompleteness" is fascinating and gets you thinking.
Jodi and Alex continue to devolve as a couple, which is an interesting dynamic in comparison to the other two couples we follow along with; they're the most established, but they're also in the most trouble. At the point we're seeing them, Alex is way better left locked in his room, watching life as it happens onscreen in his movies, as opposed to trying to live it as poorly as he has been with his wife. The twist you'll see towards the end of "A Different Kind Of Perspective" in a scene between Jodi and Alex pretty much humbled me for the rest of time…I feel like I've considered so much of what is being shown to us in this story before that - I could even BE Alex myself, yet I'm practically clueless in terms of being able to figure out where this all leads. The acting in this episode is straight-up award-worthy. Ash knows exactly what he wants to get out of his leads, and they consistently deliver at every opportunity. After what I've witnessed in this episode, I'd already be ordering a second series if I were a studio exec.
Episode four begins with a serious bang - and one you likely didn't see coming. At this point, I'm basically beyond impressed with the courage that "Incompleteness" shows in terms of being willing to go where other shows wouldn't ever dare. My wife and I have always had a steadfast rule with any series – they get three episodes to make an impression – if we can make it to that and we're still interested, then we're in it for the long haul - and I'm still watching. The use of déjà vu in this series is spellbinding – you're going to hear many lines that you're certain you've already heard, but this is all leading to a much larger point being made. I'm just smart enough to know that I'm probably not smart enough to keep up with the mind of David Ash, and I'm freakin' HERE FOR IT. The developing relationship between Paul and the barista continues to be one of the most fascinating aspects of "Incompleteness," I feel inexplicably drawn to their storyline. Alex serves this series well as what appears to be its main centrepiece, even though we're never really all that sure of how long we'll get to spend with him. "Within The Inner Light" has him turning to religion for answers he doesn't have, but in a very…hmm…Alex-like way that you'd likely only grasp by spending time with this character/series to understand fully. Even if the pastor he'd sought out DID have the answers he was looking for, chances are he'd still make the meeting between them a whole lot more complicated than it would probably need to be. Michael and Chelsea continue to struggle to get on the same page, and I like the yin-yang thing they've got going on in the sense that it seems like they can't be apart, yet haven't really latched onto the reason or reasons that they should truly be together either. The times when Ash writes humour into this show are absolutely AMAZING – he's every bit as crafty as a comedian as he is insightful as a writer. We get yet another incredible scene between Paul & the barista in this episode, where he magically goes from being neurotic to genuinely charming. When asked to say something naughty, he comes out with one of the sweetest and nerdiest lines you'll probably ever hear in your life, and thankfully, our hero barista takes pity on his efforts and takes the reigns to guide the rest of the night.
Alex and Jodi are devastatingly sad. The disconnect between them seems to be entirely irreparable. Even when they try to be interested in each other, it seems to blow up in their face. When Jodi describes a story that she's writing, and it completely mirrors what we're watching and how the majority of viewers would probably feel about what it's like to watch "Incompleteness" – honestly, it's a masterstroke of brilliance. We genuinely have no idea what side of the mirror that we're really on. Chelsea continues to have orgasms where she shouts, "Oh God," leading us to have to consider whether or not that makes sense to do as an atheist, thanks to Michael pointing out this unique inherent paradox. Michael's explanation of our existence should make every one of us want to curl right into a ball and cry. "If only you could see what I see," he says in the midst of one of the show's craziest scenes of 'intimacy.' Who in the heck is this mysterious lady that we've been seeing at the end of the last couple of episodes?
It's funny that we can only assume episodes like "The Ruse" begin in a flashback sequence, but by the very nature of this entire show, we can't really be sure at first, you know what I mean? We could be watching one of the many avenues of possibilities and choices that the lives of Alex and Jodi would lead to. That being said, it ain't at all long before we see Alex (Matt Bailey) being Alex, and we know that we're definitely on the same timeline we're supposed to be on. I suppose in all our infinite possibilities and forks in the road, there COULD be a universe where Alex isn't so Alex-y…but it definitely seems like those would be far and few between. We immediately sympathize with Jodi as we watch a proposal go from great to grotesque in that modern-day 'doin' it for the Gram type way.' In Paul & the barista's story, we get a few more details about the people who are pressuring him on the algorithm for his DNA editing project, which is probably the one aspect of "Incompleteness" that I suppose I could theoretically see its audience get a little restless with - as the details have been sparse to this point. I'd advise patience - and having some faith in the writing in this show if you're feeling that way. While there's a lot of the whole 'what happened in Boston?' (or anywhere USA) effect of that part of the plotline being hinted at but never seemingly revealed as to how important it's going to potentially be, we have to acknowledge both that plot devices are necessary & crucial to set up from way out, AND that a show like "Incompleteness" is attempting to do a phenomenal amount of things in one season. So be patient y'all…I assure ya, you'll get your answers.
"We're wired to be deluded to not see things clearly," says Paul as he tries to explain how he sees through "The Ruse" and attempts to explain the full mechanics of what keeps him up thinking at night. It's also a solid explanation as to why he can't get a boner - because, you know, why not? You get a lot of Paul's backstory and what makes him who he is in this episode, as he reveals a lot of the trauma he experienced as a kid. Wethern is always great as Paul, but what makes him even better, or perhaps more complete, is having Katie Willer to play off of, who is a genuine revelation onscreen. The expressions on her face are as potently emotional as they come and the perfect contrast to Paul's naturally expressionless demeanour. It's through her questions that we get to know who Paul really is, and through her remarkable acting that, we understand how devastating so much of what he has been through has been & how much it's affected him personally. What I found I really loved about the scenes shared between Chelsea (Christine Weber) and Michael (Juan Rivera Lebron) is that we practically can't determine whether or not what we're seeing is part of the script of the movie they're acting in, or whether it's what's happening in their actual relationship. They seamlessly drift in between one and the other as we watch, and it's yet another amazing part of "Incompleteness" that serves to make this show as damn great as it is. As Paul punches rewrites of the script into his computer, we have to start wondering whether or not he's writing it, or if it's writing him. Paul's changing. Those changes are profound, life-altering, and even somewhat beautiful; it's only fair that his work seems to start to change as much as we know that he has been. Art imitates life, right? "Incompleteness" takes an interesting turn and dives into a geopolitical storyline that really works wonders to get us reinvested in the algorithm storyline. I don't know how Paul is able to get his eye to twitch at just the perfect moment - when he's confronted by the bad guy trying to obtain his life's work, but Wethern nailed that scene so perfectly it's hard to describe. He displays the sensational range of his character as he flips back and forth between trying to be "the man" and also completely at the mercy of a group of unnamed individuals - who are apparently backed by Xi Jinping. You weren't expecting that now, were you?
Meeting Sally, a "person who gets it," at the start of episode six made me wish we'd get much more of her in this series. Her conversation with Paul is incredibly insightful in terms of bridging the gap between individualism and understanding we're not always the unique snowflakes we assume we are…and yeah, I'd have taken a whole lot more of these two talking about life. Chelsea and Michael have an equally amazing conversation about the theory of relativity and living in a "tense-less universe." It's truly thought-provoking stuff, highly philosophical, and more excellent writing from Ash, who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers ever. Watching these two characters in the park together was astounding… it's one of my favourite moments because we've been so accustomed to hearing someone yell 'cut' at the end of their scenes, reminding us that they're actors in a scripted setting – but what you'll see in this particular scene just hangs on at the end with no additional direction, and we have to assume that what we just saw take place was significantly real and equally sweet.
One of the wildest moments you'll find in all of "Incompleteness" comes around when Alex decides to confront Jodi about a series of text messages she received, and that whole scene dives into the complex relationship between our emotions & the need to connect…I was blown away. Jodi (Bethany Ford) has gone from good to great throughout the progression of this whole series as we've been watching, and much like we experience with Stephanie's scenes, they can often communicate the most powerful parts of the script without the need to use a single word. Ford is outstanding in this episode. This cast continually raises the stakes along with the plotline. The more they've become dialled in & had the time to spend with their characters, the more remarkable they've become as an ensemble. Even Bailey arguably has his best episode of the bunch so far in "Day Of Birth," especially in the scenes with the pastor, which become this metaphorical Morpheus-esque moment of blue pill/red pill decision-making. We still have NO CLUE who the woman is at the end of each episode and how she plays a role in where this is going…but we see things are heating up with that at the end of episode six.
"Watching Me Watching Me" starts out with a display of neurosis and internal thoughts that made me feel seen, much in that same way that Paul discovers he's not as alone in this universe as he thought when he met Sally for the first time. As Alex tries to logic out his own feelings through therapy - and the different opinions he seeks out as episode seven begins, we're reminded about how much we try to change "what is" into "what could be" – where acceptance is really the key. "We cannot become happy, we can only be happy" – what a brilliant line! It's right up there with "hope is just fear in disguise." David Ash, you, sir, are my literal hero. I'm blown away by how effective the dialogue and characters have been in communicating a plethora of valuable philosophies I could only ever dream that people would actually think about - but have long accepted that most folks don't. This entire episode seems to deal with our characters in different stages of disconnection, trying to discern what reality is really all about. The barista has a remarkable scene where she talks about the pressures of privilege and how even when you have the right kind of childhood and opportunities, that doesn't at all equate to a simple, problem-free life. I think that's huge. That's something that a lot of people are scared to acknowledge, but what she's communicating is certainly true as far as I've ever seen out there…some of the most 'normal' people we meet are by far & away some of the most f**ked up we'll ever meet in this life.
Look at the parallels happening here - look at what you see in the latest update of Chelsea's story and how that resembles exactly what's happening in the barista's life. Coincidence? No. Everything you'll see from Ash is completely done with calculated intent and purpose, I assure you. I certainly sympathize with her story about writing her novel – again, it's no surprise that so much of what these characters will go through often feels like someone has peered into the essence of your soul and what you personally feel and experience in life – it's uncanny, really. As we listen to Paul freak out at Alex over changes he's made to their script and point out that even changing a colon to a semi-colon could disrupt his work, we eventually run back into the lady at the end of each episode and can't help but wonder if she is the physical embodiment of such a thing. Maybe she is the personification of how our lives are altered and how it seems like there's no real explanation for what happens to us, yet behind the scenes in what we cannot see, there is always a force of some kind that is steering us in a direction we can't ever control.
As season one of "Incompleteness" draws to a close, I think we all have to acknowledge that David Ash is on a whole other plain of existence when it comes right down to it. The biggest drawback of this series simply comes down to the fact that, conceptually, it's beyond so many people out there – that's the reality he's facing. But for those of us that it resonates with, you'll be every bit as addicted to this show as I've become. I mean…hell…I want Ash to write the next chapter of MY life after watching this! In my heart of hearts, I can only hope that everyone out there gives this show a chance because the mere act of watching something like "Incompleteness" will help you actually EVOLVE as a person. You can't un-see what you see in this show, and whether you understand everything you take in or absorb just a tiny piece by osmosis, I think you'll honestly be grateful for what this show provides us with. It's like we get another piece of our own puzzle. "Incompleteness" is loaded with life lessons that are crucial for us all, yet never once feels like it's preaching down to us from the pulpit way above. It's a trail of breadcrumbs being left for us to follow in the hope that we'll arrive at the same destination one day. It was remarkable to watch the scene with Alex and his father and learn how close the two were in terms of proximity as he grew up, yet how far away they became in regards to knowing who each other really was as time marched on. It's yet another branch of disconnection, with the tiniest threads that keep us all tied together.
Chelsea and Michael have their best scenes of the series in this final episode – Lebron's usual deadpan straightness comes alive, and the spark in Weber's eyes is inspired in every scene you'll see. As Alex and his father continue to reconnect, and the drinks start flowing, everything we know about the movie he's been working on starts to focus through their conversation, and we start to really understand who Alex is and WHY he is the way he is. Past trauma doesn't even begin to cover it – this is subject matter that again goes where most conversations & shows would never dare. Paul continues to make breakthroughs on his algorithm, though we get the sense as time ticks forward that we ain't gonna fully finish this part of the story in season one. Alex conducts what seems like an exit interview with Jodi, and they revisit their past & how they started their relationship long ago.
While it's fair to say that I feel like I'd have to re-watch this whole season at least a dozen times to catch all of what "Incompleteness" is attempting to communicate to us philosophically, I gotta say, I'm actually pretty willing to DO that. I feel like putting on an episode of this show daily would be inspirational in its own strange way…a reminder of what's important in life, and what we should be paying attention to. I not only WANT a second season, I freakin' NEED one now. I'm definitely satisfied with where Ash chose to leave us at the end of season one, every bit as much as I've loved every episode that we've seen in this show along the way – but there's no way this show should be a 'one and done' – there's so much more that we still need to know. This is about as confident as I've ever felt about a series, though – "Incompleteness" is as interesting as just about anything has ever been to me, and I simply cannot express how meaningful a show like this truly is. I'm going with a very enthusiastic four and half stars out of five - that feels like it's about as close to a perfect rating as I've ever given to a show – you NEED to watch "Incompleteness," and then re-watch it again & again until you absorb every nugget of knowledge that it's providing us with. I'm blown away by how amazing this show is from start to finish. I'm fine with not every storyline being wrapped up in a single season. "Incompleteness" reflects life, and life itself is "Incompleteness."