The Feed‘s premiere episode established a detached existence for common people like Danny (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah), and a chaotic one for those in the know, like Hatfield family members Tom (Guy Burnet) and Kate (Nina Toussaint-White). Everyone owns a Feed, but not everyone’s willing to be plugged “in” with everyone else. After the virus attack, I can understand the hesitation.
As creators of the Feed, Meredith (Michelle Fairley) and Lawrence (David Thewlis) gather their children for a family photo PR opportunity. Following the recent hack, the tech giants must present like everything is under control. It isn’t.
Kate’s now the proud mother of Beau. Tom views each interaction between mother and child–which should be a beautiful thing–as sinister. Laws are in place to keep randos from digging around in other’s mundles, so Tom can’t confirm that something’s wrong. When Kate suddenly returns to awareness, they ask Feed employee Evelyn (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to help. Who was inside Kate’s head, and what did they remove?
Things turn ugly once the intruder is revealed as father-in-law Lawrence, who claims he was only worried about his grandson. Probably true, but he also enabled her “in-ute!” Not cool, Grandpa.
Tom visits the incarcerated Sara and Anton, but neither offer any insight on their outbursts. Tragedy strikes when the two patients end up in the same room. Anton snaps her neck, then gouges out his own, all in front of Tom. He goes home to Kate covered in blood, but she’s got her own problems. She’s bathing Beau while adjusting the settings on her Feed-link with the child, because she “can’t see” her daughter. That’s almost as chilling as what comes next. Distracted by the Feed, she almost drowns Beau, causing Tom’s parental Feed alarm to sound (it’s like a baby monitor).
This alarm comes into play later, when Tom’s being chased by Max (Osy Ikhile), who’s abruptly under the murderous spell of the mysterious hacker. Tom and Kate stopped to visit Evelyn and her bf on a secluded “digital detox farm” for a break following the intruder reveal. The new parents are off to find a way to remove the Feed from their child.
For a short time, it’s heavenly here — Tom learns Max is going to ask Evelyn to marry him, but the poor guy’s hacked during his sleep. After a few glitches, this turns into Max shooting arrows (from a gifted bow) at Tom, who’s fleeing with Beau strapped to his chest. The Feed relies on baby danger to build tension in these episodes. The kid survives, but only after Tom resorts to covering her mouth for a scary period of time to send the alarm to Kate, who arrives just in time to shoot Max in the leg.
Back at Hatfield HQ, Lawrence pokes at Max, now safely restrained. Tom recalls Max crying after he learned of Anton’s death, therefore the hacker must’ve known them. Eventually “Max Vaughn” is tricked into the open. They slip up, almost revealing their real name (“Dar…”). The Hatfields decide to “wipe” Max’s mundles and try to install a backup via SAVEYOU (a “digital exorcism”). Brilliant but risky. It pays off once Max comes to. He’s lost time but he’s his old self again. Take that “Dar,” if that is your real name.
The moral here? Whatever this virus is, it’s evolving. We’re shown previous “hacks” which end with the possessed going mental, trying to murder whoever’s near. Max’s possession is the first that hasn’t gone self-destruct, and that scares Lawrence more than off-liners.
The term “off-line” is integral to the world of The Feed. The husband and wife team attend a Senate hearing, where they plead for access to off-line Feeds. “They’re terrorists,” argues Lawrence, but a look at the youth proves “off” might be a healthier choice. When Danny leaves his mates to go to school, he returns hours later to find them still staring off into the Feed, even with a mysterious creep watching them.
One of the more touching stories is this teen’s struggle to log off. Danny’s suffered seizures from overuse, including while going live for his followers, which causes his friend to yell, “Danny’s mum!” over and over, until she (T’Nia Miller, Years and Years) arrives. At home, he’s made fun of by younger kids because he can barely kick a football. His muscles are out of practice, and he stutters to speak. When he goes out, he angers two strangers who beat him unconscious. He awakes to the kind touch of Jonah (Laurie Kynaston), who christens Danny “Little Mermaid” because he can’t write or walk. This nickname isn’t meant to be cruel, and soon the two bond, then share a clumsy kiss. Jonah’s revealed to be a Resister so I’m hoping this doesn’t end in tragedy, as queer onscreen romances often do. But we know how this show works, so no one is safe.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we learn more about Ben (Jeremy Neumark Jones). Ben sucks. He’s using a sleazy app to use his estranged wife’s image in sexual ways. For the first handful of episodes, we only know Miyu (Jing Lusi) as a mostly mute Asian woman dressed in various fetish outfits. Which is a problem. At one point Ben requests the app to “Age back. Even younger.” Needless to say, when it’s revealed that security head Gil (Chris Reilly) and the real Miyu are seeing each other, there isn’t much sympathy for this dingus. Miyu’s character gets a tiny bit of characterization, but the constant visual of her “pleasing” Ben is off-putting.
Did I mention Ben sucks? Surprisingly, he discovers that the hack possessions occur during REM sleep, which is actually helpful. When he tries to delete his “love” apps — as one does routinely with Tinder or Grindr — the Feed won’t allow it.
Lawrence and Meredith’s bond is explored over an international incident, where the latter is caught up in a violent protest against the MeKong (she’s there to sell the Feed). Good guy Gil smuggles her out in a car but not before there’s bloodshed, which shakes Meredith to her core. While this is happening, Lawrence frantically tries to message her, but can’t. When they reunite on the border, their embrace is believable. On top of them being great actors, we’ve seen both have cruel, ugly sides, but appear vulnerable as well. Basically, they’re human. Very Yin and Yang, these two.
And together they’re going to do something. Lawrence is serious about fixing the damage and enlists Tom to go deeper — grave rob the mundles from Anton and Sara’s corpses in hopes that their attacker will be revealed. At the same time, Kate’s found herself in a den of Resisters as a last-ditch effort to free her child. Police arrive, and she’s forced to run with the off-liners. The last thing we see in Episode 4 is Tom’s agonized expression as the memories of the dead flood into his Feed. I wonder what he’s seeing?