The Peripheral season 1, episode 2 recap – “Empathy Bonus”

By Adam Lock
Published: October 21, 2022 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
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The showrunners use “Empathy Bonus” to dole out lots of expositional dialogue and backstory, which kills the overall momentum established in the opening episode. There’s still plenty of intrigue though, and this world has much more to offer.


We recap the Prime Video series The Peripheral season 1, episode 2, “Empathy Bonus,” which contains spoilers.

The Peripheral episode 1 introduced us to a not-too-distant America, a futuristic London and innovative technology that made VR gaming feel like the real thing. Flynne (Chloe Grace Moretz) tested out this state-of-the-art invention and was subsequently hunted down for her involvement. Episode two, “Empathy Bonus,” picks up straight after this siege, with Burton (Jack Reynor) defending his friends and family, while the London of 2099 is explored in further detail.

The Peripheral season 1, episode 2 recap

We commence in the future timeline, with Research Institute boss Cherise Nuland (T’Nia Miller) discussing her company’s breach with the gunman Daniel, who we saw in the previous episode, where he shot Burton’s avatar in the head. Daniel is blamed for this infiltration. Quickly responding to his own mistake, he’s traced Burton’s operator and has a bounty out on his enemy’s head already. A gang of ex-military personnel are on their way to eradicate this problem as we speak.

This seamlessly segues to Flynne’s timeline, where her home is under attack. Burton’s friends hack the enemy’s drone and are able to pinpoint the killers’ exact locations. Flynne rushes into the house to protect her mother, whilst the men fight back outside in synchronized fashion. A shootout ensues as the two teams battle one another. It’s a darkly lit fight, with the good guys ending victorious.

In the future, Wilf is contacted by a mysterious man called Lev (JJ Feild). Lev updates his ally, stating that Flynne was attacked by bounty hunters the previous night, but thankfully escaped unharmed. Flynne somehow happens to be the only one who can help them locate their missing Aelita. When Flynne re-enters the game she awakens in her own avatar. Wilf explains her next mission, although Flynne has more pressing issues, such as, what the hell is going on? Wilf admits that Flynne isn’t playing a simulation, she is actually inside a ‘peripheral’, a robot body. She isn’t physically in the future, but has been involved in ‘quantum tunneling’, a data transfer of some kind, which places her mind in the future world, while her body remains in the past. OK that’s a lot of scientific techno mumbo-jumbo, but let’s just run with it, shall we?

Wilf proves his statements true by allowing Flynne to step outside the building. She sees a scarce London and those looming eye-soars throughout the cityscape once again. He then produces a newspaper and points out Flynne’s mother’s obituary. She will die in four weeks time from a brain tumor. Wilf promises that they can cure her of this illness and will send across the medicine if she helps them find Aelita.

Flynne exits the game, which is now revealed to be a future reality, not a simulation as first advertised. She sees Burton and the gang piling up the dead bodies after the shoot-out. Flynne tells Burton to bury these bodies and then heads off into town to retrieve her mom’s new meds. Flynne administers the medicine herself and talks openly with her mother about the disease. The mother had kept the seriousness of the illness a secret to protect Flynne.

Meanwhile, Deputy Sheriff Tommy Constantine unintentionally finds the invisible trucks, which may very well have belonged to the bounty hunters now buried on Flynne’s land. He asks Burton for his military expertise with a bullet he found inside the truck. Burton assists, but Tommy is highly suspicious of the man and his friend’s midday gathering. Burton just about manages to cover his tracks though.

Flynne travels to an eerily quiet London in 2100, where she hopes to find some answers. Here, she meets with Wilf again and is introduced to the other members of the gang: Lev, Ash and Ossian. Flynne notices extinct animals brought back to life, moving tattoos and many other future technologies, yet she isn’t impressed by any of it. All she wants to know is what is going on and this sequence tries its best to explain somewhat of the backstory, laying on the expositional dialogue a little too thickly. They talk of parallel timelines and of Aelita’s involvement. She worked for the Research Institute and had access to the past world. Without Aelita they have no ties to this past society, she is therefore a crucial component in their own secretive plans. Flynne asks about her own future and her mother’s illness. They seem vague or defensive about Flynne’s fate and admit that her mother’s illness may not be curable. Flynne demands certainties on her mom’s illness before she will assist in the hunt for Aelita.

The ending

Burton asks for Conner’s help in fortifying their land, so they can protect themselves from further bounty hunters. Then, a local crime boss named Corbell is offered ten million dollars by futuristic bad guy Daniel to kill Burton and Flynne outright. He thinks this is one rather nasty joke, but finds 2.5 million has been transferred into his account as a good will gesture.

As if by magic, that very same night Flynne hears noises coming from downstairs and discovers her mother rifling through the fridge. When they turn on the lights, her mother’s sight has fully returned to her. It would seem that the people from the future are desperate for Flynne’s help and have fulfilled her wishes.

What did you think of The Peripheral season 1, episode 2? Comment below.

Additional Reading for The Peripheral

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