It’s time for another review of The Peripheral, the latest science fiction show on Prime Video. After last week’s bombshell future apocalypse reveal, “What About Bob?” dials things back and focuses on the dangers in Flynne’s present. This is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat episode that features one of the best action sequences on the show to date.
As always, there will be SPOILERS for this week’s episode of The Peripheral below.
The Peripheral Episode 5 review: “What About Bob?”
If the ending of “Jackpot” began to reveal what happened to the world at large, the beginning of “What About Bob?” starts opening doors on smaller, more personal events. The episode begins with a flashback to Aelita West (Charlotte Riley) initiating contact with her old ex-girlfriend Grace (Amber Rose Revah). As you might recall, Grace was murdered by Cherise (T’Nia Miller) during Episode 3 in retaliation for causing a security breach. Just before she was swarmed by killer bees, Grace pleads for her family, her children.
Now we find out what that security breach was, as well as more about Grace’s family. It turns out that she is a lesbian who was basically forced into marrying and having children with a man; the show conveys all this with incredibly natural dialogue between her and Aelita. As for the security breach, that came about because Aelita wanted to know more about Grace’s work, and Grace took the risk to show her.
Together, they go down to a place known as the “God font,” aka that upside down pyramid that Flynne (Chloë Grace Moretz) helped Aelita steal information from in the season premiere. The writing in this scene is ridiculously good, conveying all sorts of important bits of information about a slew of different plot beats. We see Grace use a retinal scanner to open the room while Aelita watches; this is how Aelita learns how to break into the God font in the first place.
But the real gut punch comes when they go into the actual room. Grace reveals how this technology has allowed for various companies to run unethical tests in stub timelines, including trying out the haptic link technology used by Burton (Jack Reynor) and his squad of marines. We get a brief, brutal scene of a soldier — Connor (Eli Goree) — running out to save a dog because of a haptic experiment on the part of his brain that controls compassion, which leads to him stepping on a landmine and losing his legs and arm.
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that raises the stakes so much. Yes, Burton and Flynne have gotten in deep by getting involved in future conspiracies, but these issues were already affecting their lives. Burton already experiences side effects from the haptics; Connor’s entire lifechanged after his injury. It adds a lot.
In the final bit of the opening, Aelita and Grace are confronted by security officer Mariel Raphael (Poppy Corby-Tuech), who is the person that Flynne seduced in the season premiere in order to get her eye for the retinal scanner. Grace bluffs their way out of the situation, but not before Aelita gives Mariel a loaded compliment about how beautiful her eyes are…and how she’d kill to get some like them.
I get chills just thinking about this opening. The Peripheral can get complicated at times, but if you’re willing to pay attention, it really rewards close viewing. This opening sequence is the perfect example of that.
Assassin showdown in small town North Carolina
From there, we jump back to 2032 where things are heating up fast. We’re quickly introduced to a new character, a retired assassin known as Bob the Butcher O’Connell, who receives the same sort of cryptic blackmail/bribe call as Corbell Pickett to murder Flynne. The episode spends a decent amount of time introducing us to Bob, which is necessary to establish just how scary it is that he’s after Flynne and Burton.
The way the episode drives that home is by having Bob pay a visit to the person who ratted out the location of his daughter (which is what caused him to cave and accept the assassination contract). It’s none other than Game of Thrones veteran Clive Russell (the Blackfish)! Alas, Russell’s time on the show is short lived, as Bob murders his character Frank and all of his sons.
The scene conveys a lot about just how seasoned Bob is; after killing the family, one son stumbles outside and tries to shoot at Bob while he’s in his car. Rather than get stressed, Bob grumbles the way someone would when they’re having a tough day at work, then tries out the sonic punch gun that was mailed to him by his mysterious contractors. It paralyzes the attacker, and after a chilling speech Bob runs him over with his car and heads off to go find Flynne and Burton.
The setup before everything comes together for the confrontation with Bob is great; we get some solid scenes that develop Jasper (Chris Coy) and Billy Ann’s (Adelind Horan) complicated relationship, as well as a squirm-worthy moment where Flynne gets a spinal tap to help diagnose the cause of her seizure last episode.
It all leads to a showdown on the bridge near the edge of town. Bob sets up shop there, pretending his car is broken in hopes that it’ll help him ambush Flynne and Burton. However, Billy Ann drives up first, throwing a wrench into the assassin’s plan that ultimately ends up being his undoing.
What follows is a great example of how to write a compelling action scene. Everyone’s motives are crystal clear, every action leads to reactions, and every single character on the bridge becomes involved in interesting, unpredictable ways. By the time Billy Ann pops up behind Bob with her shotgun (something she subtly alluded to having earlier in the scene), I cheered at the TV even though I was expecting something like it to happen from the get-go.
Robot fight in the future!
While the fight on the bridge may be the climactic moment of the episode, there’s still plenty more good stuff to come. Flynne and her crush Sheriff Tommy (Alex Hernandez) have a heart-to-heart, the Fishers’ mother finally realizes there are bodies buried in her backyard and gets her kids to come clean about what’s going on, and Flynne confronts Wilf about the fact that he didn’t even know there were more assassins after her.
But by far the most exciting bit comes at the very end, when Flynne waltzes into Cherise’s headquarters and provokes a confrontation. Chloë Grace Moretz and T’Nia Miller have riveting chemistry, with Miller in particular chewing up her lines with delightful villainy. Cherise has no intention of backing off killing Flynne, even after finding out that Flynne doesn’t even have the data she thought was stolen from the God font (Aelita still has it). Flynne is done running, and ends up provoking Cherise into a fight.
Both women are in robotic peripheral bodies, which means that as scary as Cherise is, she doesn’t have all the powers she’s usually displayed. On the flip side, Flynne is an expert gamer who has been piloting a peripheral all season. She snaps the neck of Cherise’s peripheral, warning her that next time she’ll come for her for real just before the episode cuts to credits. It’s an exciting ending to an exciting episode.
- It turns out the issue that’s causing Flynne’s seizure was bacterial in nature, which is interesting since it’s presumably coming from the headset. Is it causing the growth of some kind of bacteria?
- I could rave all day about the bridge scene, but can I just point out how fantastic the writing is when Bob tries to bluff his way out of the situation with Billy Ann by saying he’s getting a tow, not thinking about the fact that they’re in a small town? Billy Ann knows the tow guy, and it only makes her more determined to help since she could hold it over his head. These kind of small details are really helping make The Peripheral a stand-out show.
- Bob’s coded conversation with his daughter is another fantastic moment. This show is doing a great job of introducing scenes where everything isn’t quite spelled out, but you slowly realize what’s going on.
- We don’t get a good look at the person who slams into Tommy’s car with their own invisible vehicle, but my money is on someone related to crime lord Corbell Pickett. The only clue we get is Tommy glimpsing the person’s fancy cowboy boots, and that seems like Corbell’s style. I wonder what he (or whoever else) wants with Bob?
- The fact that Flynne and Burton’s mom may not totally understand the entire situation but is still able to give solid motherly advice about the fact that both of them are basically indebted to different shady factions is another fantastic bit of writing. Totally believable.
- The final showdown between Cherise and Flynne was cool, but it definitely feels like Flynne kicked the beehive there. No way is Cherise going to do anything other than come after her twice as hard after that.
With three episodes left to go in its first season, The Peripheral is firmly setting up the stakes for its final stretch. “What About Bob?” is an action-packed episode that still managed to do a ton of heavy lifting to develop the show’s ensemble cast and its many disparate plotlines. If this episode was any indicator, the rest of the season is going to be a hell of a ride.