Prime Video’s ‘The Peripheral’ is a sci-fi drama that follows the story of Flynne Fisher. She gets the chance to time travel, though not in the conventional term, and finds herself entangled with the events taking place at the beginning of the twenty-second century. Seventy years after her original timeline, the world looks a lot different. While the people in the future are cagey about details regarding what happened that so drastically changed the world, a few hints are dropped for the audience. The term “the jackpot” is used in this context, and it turns out to be the turning point for the future, while also becoming a huge plot point for the story. If you are wondering what it is and how it’s relevant to Flynne’s story, then here’s what you should know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Jackpot, Explained
‘The Peripheral’ is based on the book of the same name by William Gibson, and that’s where our knowledge about the jackpot comes from. The world that Flynne visits in the future is set in the post-jackpot era, where she notices that the population is much lesser than in her own timeline. While in the sim, when Flynne still thinks that she is playing a game, Aelita West tells her that she will most probably be dead by the next decade. This gives the audience a sense that some event of apocalyptic level might have happened to change the face of the world. However, the jackpot isn’t a single event.
The book describes the jackpot as an “androgenic, systemic, multiplex” event that has no beginning or end. It is hard to pinpoint when exactly it started because it wasn’t just one cataclysmic event that changed everything. It was a group of events, happening simultaneously or in succession that led to a lot of deaths and a steep downfall in the population. In an interview with Wired, Gibson commented about the slow death of the world in his novel.
“It posits an apocalypse that takes centuries to get rid of us. We don’t seem to have any cultural wherewithal to deal with that. We usually think of the apocalypse as though it’s the ultimate bad day,” he said. Considering the current situation of the world, he let go of his optimism of a better world in the future, saying that after reaching a certain age, sci-fi writers tend to acquire the “everything is going to hell in a hand basket” perspective. “All my life I’ve been writing myself reminders not to do that. But now I look around, and for the first time it’s true,” Gibson added.
The jackpot in ‘The Peripheral’ is everything from wars, famine, water shortage, and food crises to the diseases that didn’t spread on a pandemic level but claimed enough lives to go down in history as a dark chapter. By the time things were brought under control, eighty percent of the world’s population had been lost. The loss of human lives was also accompanied by the disappearance of animals. The bees are all but gone, and the food chain has been so severely affected that most of the alpha predators are extinct by now.
With so many problems, the future also comes up with solutions. In the twenty-second century, technology has taken a huge leap, cancer is curable, and energy sources are cleaner, among other things. This created a lot of opportunities for certain people to grow their wealth. The rich became richer, and the future, is now, controlled by them. In fact, they have gone so far in exercising their power and influence that they are now reaching out to the past to control it too.
With such a bleak future created by it, it is interesting to note that the event is called “the jackpot”, a term usually associated with something great. Because it greatly profited the rich, it can be assumed that they were the ones to coin the term. While the rest of the world was going to hell, they succeeded in surviving it simply because they could afford to. While the lower classes suffered and new advancements were made to alleviate the problems, it is the rich who prospered even more and now, in the new century, the world is under the control of oligarchs. No wonder they called it the jackpot.