Omniscient is the perfect dystopian cyber-thriller we deserve. Set in a timeline that's several decades away from us, it's a glimpse of a machine-driven era where cops rely on applications to investigate crimes, drones track our movements, moods and habits, while a software informs us whenever we break the law.
Alike the UID system in India with the Aadhar card today, we're identified by a number that is a record of everything about us and our past. It's surprisingly described as a time that's also the perfect marriage of privacy and safety. Homicides, thefts, crimes are at an all-time low, the brains behind this technology claim.
Is there anything human about such a society? Just then, the protagonist Nina's father Inacio is found murdered at his home. There's no trace of evidence of the crime in the drone memory either. The authorities refuse to acknowledge that the system has failed to nab the culprit, to an extent that they would want to write it off as an incident of death owing to natural causes. But the determined daughter and her sibling Daniel are ready to go to any lengths to find the truth about the death of their father, who was probably leading a life like any common man until the moment he breathed his last.
The series, lasting six episodes, is excellent at presenting the dangers of the technological future we're headed at. Though the incisive portrayal of the timeline may seem exaggerated, the tension in the narrative is consistently maintained due to it too. The protagonist's training stint in a technology major that specialises in drones adds intrigue to the plot.
From depending on the local commissioner Judite to uncover the flaws of the system to trying every trick in the book to grab hold of the footage of her father's last moments, Nina has never been more focused. While the technology-related portions lend the show relevance, the protagonist's quest to find her father's killer provides it emotional depth.
The director doesn't make the journey any easy for the protagonist – there's some mumbo jumbo about electromagnetism, drone defragmentation where she could sneak in a few moments away from the sight of the drone. She even deletes a few lines of code in her colleague's program to edge past her professionally and seek answers to her father's death. To complicate matters, Nina is in a relationship with her immediate superior. The profession-versus-personal conflict is weaved in with tact.
Just like any good thriller, the storyteller directs us away from the obvious culprit through the narrative and makes us genuinely wonder about their identity. The portions where the latter deconstructs their modus operandi to murder Inacio are pure gold. Just when we think the series is reaching its conclusive segments and everything about it is obvious, the director keeps adding newer layers to the story.
Omniscient is a mishmash of the whodunit, whydunit and howdunit genres, where every element in the frame is in-tune with the story. It even tells why lovemaking in the confines of our homes isn't the same when there's a fear of being watched. What's the future when the deepest feelings of our human core are left unexpressed?
The series ends with a lot of questions. But it's Clara Salle's excellently self-aware performance as Nina that helps us resonate with the trauma of losing a loved one and not knowing why. It's a must-watch show where quality filmmaking is a great match to its timeliness.