A mysterious apocalypse lies at the heart of The Peripheral‘s labyrinthine narrative – here’s every clue to the Jackpot puzzle so far. Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral divides itself across two eras in Earth’s future history: 2032 and 2100. At some point between those years, a cataclysm happens. The Peripheral doesn’t directly confront the nature of this devastating event during its opening three episodes, but it’s always the apocalyptic elephant in the room whenever The Peripheral dives into its far-future scenes.
Audiences must (for now) keep guessing as to how the apocalypse happened, why it happened, and how the future recovered, but The Peripheral has at least been generous in dropping clues. Some are more subtle than others, but pulling these references together begins to generate a broad idea of what the event known as the “Jackpot” really was.
When The Peripheral’s Apocalypse Happened (& How Long It Lasted)
The Peripheral‘s first big indication of something apocalyptic comes from Aelita West when she meets Chloe Grace Moretz’s Flynne Fisher in person. Evidently having little interest in lightening the mood, Aelita tells Flynne (who’s still in her brother’s peripheral at this point), “If I assured you that you’d likely no longer exist in, like, another decade, what would that mean to you?” Aelita’s ominous warning places The Peripheral‘s apocalypse somewhere around 2042, but how long does the devastation then last before the technologically advanced society seen in 2100 London emerges?
Aelita and Wilf’s ages provide a potential clue here. The Peripheral already confirmed Aelita “saved” Wilf when they were children, giving the bedraggled boy her own shoes to wear. They were then found and placed in an orphanage when Aelita was roughly 10-years-old, and this troubled origin offers an indication of how long the apocalypse lasted. According to Daniel’s iris scanner in The Peripheral episode 1, Aelita was born in 2061. If she and Wilf began their lives struggling on the dirty streets, the aftermath of the 2042 Jackpot – whatever that incident was – seemingly lingered for several decades.
The Peripheral’s Future London Isn’t Bustling With People
London seems to be thriving in The Peripheral‘s far-future, and were it not for the string of ominous hints, you’d never know an apocalypse had taken place at all. Alas, one deeply ominous warning sign becomes apparent every time The Peripheral shows London’s streets in 2100… Drivers aren’t spending hours hunting for a parking space.
When Flynne returns to the future and meets Wilf Netherton in person for the first time, she instantly remarks, “Where are all the people?” The relative quietness of 2100 London is an eerie allusion toward how much of Earth’s population die during the Jackpot, and is further supported by Aelita’s “you’d likely no longer exist in another decade” remark from episode 1. Essentially, characters in 2032 are more likely to die than survive whatever’s coming. In The Peripheral episode 3, T’Nia Miller’s villainous Doctor Cherise remembers a country called Paraguay. While the United Kingdom and Canada have both been confirmed as still existing in 2100, Cherise’s remark proves entire countries are no longer standing.
The meager chance of survival Flynne Fisher and her friends in 2032 have explains why folk from the future call them “polts” – a term short for “poltergeist.” It’s not just because their minds are entering a peripheral body; it’s because they’re doomed to die. From the perspective of characters like Wilf and Aelita, speaking with Flynne is like communing with a ghost.
What Caused The Peripheral’s Apocalypse
Even after episode 3, The Peripheral remains incredibly vague about what triggered the Jackpot, but several subtle clues are woven through both timelines. In The Peripheral episode 1, Billy Ann Baker (Flynne’s best friend) talks about volunteering for a clean-up group, while the rivers in Clanton County are noticeably brown. Depressingly, that’s not too dissimilar from reality (Flynne’s timeline is only 10 years ahead of our own, after all), but both clues indicate a growing pollution problem for the 2032 timeline in The Peripheral. While “motivating” her thuggish employee in the future, Doctor Cherise reveals in The Peripheral episode 3 that the giant statues looming over London are actually “air scrubbers,” which capture and remove carbon from the atmosphere, thus explaining how 2100 has tackled its pollutant problem.
The Peripheral heavily implies pollution wasn’t the only cause behind the Jackpot. When two prospective parents meet Aelita and Wilf circa The Peripheral‘s 2070, Mrs. West makes a point of asking for the youngsters’ immunization status, then checking their mouths and tongues like they’re lower-class passengers boarding the Titanic. The same scene also briefly shows some kind of disinfection process happening in the building’s lobby, with either the parents or the kids getting decontaminated. These details indicate disease and pandemics were as much a part of The Peripheral‘s Jackpot as pollution.
There Are No Records After “A Certain Point”
When Chloe Grace Moretz’s Flynne asked Wilf what happened to her future self in their timeline, he rather uncomfortably told her, “There’s information up to a certain point but after that, the records become… spotty.” Characters in 2100 possess an intimate knowledge of Flynne’s 2032 timeline because they can access her stub via the Research Institute. They know Flynne’s phone number, her brother’s video game scores, and are even aware of Corbell Pickett’s illicit activities.
Records most likely become “spotty” after the apocalyptic Jackpot because populations post-2042 were struggling to survive rather than making notes. More importantly, however, the Research Institute can only study past years by accessing that era’s technology. If the Jackpot knocked out most of the world’s cyber infrastructure, the future has no way of delving into that dark period.
What Was The Peripheral’s Reformation?
On the surface, the 2100 timeline in The Peripheral appears to have recovered from the Jackpot pretty well, but according to Doctor Cherise, that’s only thanks to the Research Institute’s work behind the scenes. Aside from the air scrubbers dealing with Earth’s pollution, the Research Institute utilizes stub timelines to examine the past and collate data that’s then used to avoid a second Jackpot occurring. Cherise is obviously rather biased in her appraisal of the Research Institute’s importance, but there’s no denying the company must’ve played an integral role in bringing the world back from the brink of oblivion.
This process was apparently known as “the Reformation.” Mr. and Mrs. West use the term while adopting Aelita and Wilf, proudly affirming their willingness to “assist with the Reformation.” Mrs. West speaks as if adopting these grimy kids is a patriotic duty, and her obvious lack of maternal desire proves the Jackpot left an entire generation of orphans desperately needing homes.
It’s curious how high society is thriving in Amazon Prime Video’s The Peripheral. The Wests, Lev Zubov, the R.I.’s Miriel Raphael – the upper class either came out of the Jackpot smelling of roses, or survived the apocalypse thanks to their incredible wealth while everyone else died from smog and viruses. The Reformation seems to have been driven by these aristocratic cockroaches several decades after The Peripheral‘s Jackpot began, with the R.I. at the vanguard of that rebuild.
The Peripheral continues Friday on Amazon Prime Video.