Scott Z. Burns (Contagion) brings a terrifying vision of the future in the new Apple TV+ anthology series Extrapolations. Set over 33 years, the series shows a world forever changed by climate change through a series of interconnected stories. Read our review.
The show starts in 2037 in a world that almost exactly mirrors our own. Part of the world is on fire, the other part is six feet underwater. Whilst world politicians are debating whether to feed people or keep the global climate from rising substantially, the wealthy are making Earth-changing decisions without any regulation. Sounds eerily like Earth’s current situation.
Kit Harington’s Nick Bilton is an Elon Musk type who is deciding on whether to use his tech to help or hinder humanity. Bilton is a name that will reappear throughout the series, holding the strands of the story together.
Extrapolations smartly deals with the big, real-world consequences of climate change through small, intimate stories. As humanity loses its battle with climate change, Extrapolations concentrates on the individual stories. It never treats audiences like they are dumb, updating us in each episode’s political climate through dialogue.
Extrapolations smartly knows that it’s only through connecting with characters like the expectant mother played by Sienna Miller, Daveed Diggs’ rabbi and Yara Shahidi’s activist that the audience will care about this future. Although the devastation is universal, this show very much focuses on the day-to-day lives of those living through it.
The second episode, set in 2046 and centred on Miller’s character and the last whale on earth (Meryl Streep is the surrogate voice of the whale), is a huge let-down in comparison to the powerful opening episode. This sophomore outing feels a little plodding and dry, not assisted by the fact it is sandwiched between two witty and sharply scripted episodes.
Episode three is a delight and the funniest in the anthology series. It sees Miami-based rabbi (Diggs) fight to save his synagogue from the frequent floods, deal with a sassy teen who doesn’t understand the need to have a bat mitzvah in the apocalypse and David Schwimmer’s rich dad. In a bleak world, Diggs’ Marshall Zucker still has faith, even if those around him are struggling with their own views on religion.
The mid-season two-parter is an uneven tale written by Dave Eggers. Starring Edward Norton and Indira Varma as exes with different ideas on how to fix the rising temperatures in 2059, it takes a not-so-subtle dig at the billionaires “proving their manhood by shooting rockets into space.” After a shocking cliffhanger, the second part (penned by Rajiv Joseph) goes on a tedious tangent into the backstreets of Mumbai.
There will no doubt be comparisons to Black Mirror, another anthology that delves into the bleaker side of the 21st century. The sixth episode is especially reminiscent of ‘The Entire History of You’, en early Black Mirror episode. Episode six of Extrapolations, titled ‘Lola’, features people uploading their memories to a cloud storage system. If you don’t pay your monthly subscription, your memories will be deleted and if the cloud goes down, your brain is rendered unable to remember its past. Set in 2066, this particular episode gives us a rounded view of metropolitan life and the freelance culture where people hire others to fill in any gap in their life, whether that is acting like a father to their child or to fire employees on their behalf.
The seventh episode, written by Bess Wohl, stands out for all the wrong reasons. A dinner party from hell in 2068 where the rich are uploading their consciences to wait out the apocalypse ends up falling flat. The whole series is perhaps too neatly tied up in a bow with the last episode, set in 2070. Extrapolations didn’t need such a clean-cut ending nor did the audience need such a clear resolution on so many plots.
The cast of this anthology series is so extensive it would be unfeasible to list them all here. It also makes it impossible to utilise their talent to their full capacity. Diggs, Tahar Rahim and Forest Whitaker particularly stand out amongst the who’s-who of A-listers.
Extrapolations is a haunting look into a future devastated by climate change and humanity’s greediness. Balancing the humour and the gloom, this eight-part series explains big world consequences through the lives of everyday people. We are so accustomed to seeing history explained through public figures, tech giants and politicians that it feels refreshing to see the day-to-day realities of droughts, floods, illness, and desperation through those facing it head-on.
Extrapolations will stream on AppleTV+ from 17th March.