gung-ho sci-fi series booted up a mind-bending season 1 finale, to say the least. Flynne Fisher (Chloe Grace Moretz) made some literal life-altering decisions to protect her family, while alliances jumped train tracks in the far future.
It was action packed, exciting and just a tad confusing -- we'd expect no less from the time travel thriller. Let's dive into the biggest questions brought up in that twisty finale in the spoiler-packed section below.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Why does Flynne technically kill herself?
From the very first episode, the Research Institute (from future London in 2099, around 70 years ahead of Flynne's time) had a hit put on Flynne simply because she'd seen too much, thanks to the little "SIM" game the mysterious Aleita setup. She was chased down by the mercenary bounty hunters, Clanton County's local drug baron Corbell Pickett and retired killer Bob. She successfully left them all in the dust, yet Dr. Cherise Nuland, a prominent figure at the Research Institute, is relentless and finally plans to blow up a silo in Flynne's county that would assuredly wipe her and everyone she loves out.
Yet Flynne comes up with an ingenious plan to save herself and her town, even if it looks like she's out of the picture. In future London, she has Inspector Lowbeer lead her to a "stub portal" (a "stub" being an alternate splinter timeline), where she can create a new connection with her body in the past. She convinces Dr. Nuland that she's escaped for good by crushing the coordinates (enclosed in a fancy antique-looking watch) and wakes up back in the (fictional) mountain town of Clanton, North Carolina -- a reboot that creates a new splinter timeline, or stub, one Dr. Nuland won't easily be able to get her hands on.
Because this dooms her old un-piloted body to die from malnourishment while attached to the headset, Flynne decides to turn this condemned self into an opportunity. She has Connor shoot her to get Dr. Nuland off their backs, and to look like a favor from Inspector Lowbeer to Dr. Nuland, so that Nuland believes the inspector is an ally. Flynne then wakes up in future London, where she and Lowbeer reunite. Now they can begin working on their master plan: accessing the world-saving data in Flynne's brain that will help them prevent The Jackpot apocalypse (really a series of cataclysmic events, from bees dying to a global pandemic) from ever wiping out civilization.
That end stitch is where things become Westworld-level tricky. Because of the show's editing, it looks like the consciousness of the dead Flynne has been transferred to Flynne's peripheral (the future robot body accessed via the special headset). However, the past Flynne died without wearing a headset. The way this is possible might be that, because Flynne created a new base stub, she was only a pilot in her old body. When it died, she returned to her new stub, then from there, still wearing the headset, she could jump into her future peripheral. Good luck deciphering all that!
Why does the Research Institute want to kill Flynne?
The Research Institute is intent on eliminating Flynne because of something to do with bacteria inside her brain. That whole "SIM" ultra-realistic game sequence in episode 1, where Flynne pilots her brother Burton's peripheral (the robot the headset connects to), turned out to be all part of Aleita's plan to steal and hide "the entire library" of files from the Research Institute. Aleita thought she could download the stolen files into Burton's haptic implants, storing them in the past timeline where they would be untraceable. Because Flynne doesn't have implants, the headset "translated the data into bacterial DNA," according to Ash. This data then began to "colonize" her brain. (That explains all the seizures Flynne was having.)
What data exactly? Data on something called a "neural adjustment mechanism," which sounds like a mind control doodad. In episode 5, Research Institute worker Grace naively reveals to Aleita that they're behind the haptic implants embedded in US soldiers in the stub, including Burton and Connor. These implants can "subtly goose" the subject's "neural chemistry" in the "compassion center" of the brain. The Research Institute thinks that, with this technology, it can prevent mob violence and influence society on a grander level. Grace lets slip they're already implementing some of these changes.
Dr. Nuland is intent on ensuring this information never reaches public knowledge, fearing both backlash and the increased risk of the technology being hacked and weaponized. For these reasons, she intends to do whatever it takes to destroy Flynne and the invaluable data in her brain.
Lev Zubov's green-eyed "technical" worker Ash, who uses "quantum tunnels" to communicate with the stubs, reveals she'd love to sequence the bacteria and present the data to the Neoprims or Neo primitives -- those who survived the Jackpot and aren't the biggest fans of the power structure of the future world. (It's possible these are Aleita's people, who all gouged out the implants behind their ears that are used to establish "neural links" with others and provide an "immunity boost," but also suppress memory.) Ash hopes the Neoprims can "burn the world down and build a new one in its place."
What's the Research Institute doing in Flynne's timeline?
In episode 7, Inspector Lowbeer lets Flynne in on the Metropolitan Police's intriguing intel. She reveals that Connor didn't lose his limbs in the Texas War in the original timeline, before Flynne's stub was created. The haptic technology he and Flynne's brother Burton are integrated with hadn't been developed for another couple of decades. In this original timeline, Burton -- fighting as a common soldier instead of an enhanced one -- was killed, while Connor survived unscathed.
Lowbeer says the Research Institute opened Flynne's stub and tinkered with it at least a decade earlier than Flynne had thought. The result is large divergences between the two timelines, the most pressing of which is the accelerated advent of The Jackpot apocalypse. Only Dr. Nuland knows why the Research Institute has pushed it forward.
Is Lev Zubov a bad guy?
He's rich, Russian and sports an impressive goatee, so he must be a bad guy, right? Yet early in the season, Zubov had been positioned as more of a good guy, working on the same side as his kind friend Wilf. Yet tensions soon begin to simmer in the Zubov compound until Ash reveals Zubov is a "killer." Flynne learns from Wilf that Zubov is interested in cloning -- another red flag -- and Zubov begins to both lie to Wilf and dodge his questions, including one about what Zubov's motivations and goals truly are. "Take some care of what you ask... I'd hate to stop thinking of you as a friend," Zubov says.
Episode 4 is when Zubov really kicks the hinges off his villain status. Because he can't bear the thought of other versions of himself living out there in multiple timelines, he paid assassins (via a "quantum tunnel" that allows him to communicate with the past) to murder his family around 70 years ago, in the splinter timelines.
At least Zubov reveals more of his intentions: All this time, he was paying Aleita to steal the Research Institute's data on how to open a stub, so that the Klepts -- wealthy families like Zubov's who benefitted from The Jackpot and became de facto rulers of the world -- can use the splinter timelines for their own immoral money-making means. For example, Zubov's brother Alexei uses stubs to test drugs on human populations in the past.
Of course, Aleita turned against Zubov after destroying an implant that had suppressed her memories. Now remembering that it was Zubov's father and the other Klepts who had eradicated her family and Wilf's along with 5 million others for fear of contagion, Aleita bands together with other children of the deceased to begin a war with the Klepts. All they need is the Research Institute's technology, the blueprints of which are stored in Flynne's head.
What does The Peripheral post-credits scene mean?
In a brief but sinister post-credits scene, we get a pretty clear idea of what Zubov's intentions will be in future seasons. Zubov and his wife head to an esteemed-looking lunch spot, where they discover three older men waiting at their table. Fearing the worst from the influential members of the Klept, Dominika bids farewell to her husband and quickly vacates the area.
Meanwhile, Zubov gets a lesson in cauterizing wounds from the Klept gentlemen, who imply that he needs to eradicate Aleita -- who could pose a threat to their status -- and her kind, just as the Klept slaughtered their families decades ago in the "transit" camps all over England.