Online streaming service Crackle looks to capitalize on the growing cryptocurrency craze, greenlighting a popular show for a third season. Startup uses nascent fascination with the future of money and builds intersecting storylines around four characters as they struggle between the seemingly clean and clear world of technology and the dirty, murky world of real life.
Startup Season 2, Episode 1, Disruption
Bitcoin purists will have to visit optometrists, demanding eyes returned to place from back of their heads due to excessive rolling at the plot structure to Startup. “Oh, cryptocurrency being used for drugs and general criminality!” cynics will shout. “What an original idea!”
That written, I enjoyed Startup. Sony Pictures Television reached out to me for a review, and inexplicably linked to the first episode of its second season (posted binge-style this fall). I honestly was unaware of the show, and nothing about its opening alerted me to my being a full season behind.
Nevertheless, Ben Ketai (writer, director, executive producer) explains: “This past season was exciting with nods to relevant and timely topics like corporatization of the internet, Bitcoin and the darknet that made for some great storytelling.”
Startup is set in Miami, amid tech moguls, vibrant law enforcement, Cubans and Haitians. They’re all attempting to grapple with the curious subplot of cryptocurrency, a corporate-backed token called Gencoin. Drugs, murder, corruption; old human vices are contrasted with the light of a world-changing innovation.
I last remember visiting Crackle, Sony’s online answer to Netflix, back when it touted Seinfeld episodes and entire seasons of The Larry Sanders Show. After I clicked the link this time, I was pleasantly surprised at its improvements.
The interface is lush and fat, not busy at all, totally unobtrusive. I was able to stream without issue, and save for five commercial breaks, it was a pleasant fee-less viewing experience.
Hobbit and Hellboy
It’s shot film-style, multiple cameras and on location. The sound is aggressive, slamming, filled with uptempo contemporary music. Lighting is dim, giving it that gritty vibe.
It’s pretty great to see Crackle attempt original programming too. Dramas are an expensive and losing art, as more broadcasts tend to focus on absurdism, documentaries, comedies. Cool as well to watch a fight scene, with lightly sped-up sequences, serve a larger narrative.
Four main characters are continuing battles from Season 1, evidently. To me, that’s compellingly confusing. I paid much more attention to the nuance of dialog as a result. Acting in such a circumstance can come off stilted and unconvincing. Here, it does not, and that’s a huge compliment to Startup‘s cast and writing. Each character has depth, causing viewers to want to learn more.
And speaking of the cast, bitcoiners will no doubt recognize Martin Freeman from his role as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and Hellboy’s Ron Perlman; both have prominent roles in the series.
Pope Gregory XVI ranted against innovations such as railroads, labeling them “chemins d’enfer” – roads to hell. Luddites destroyed production machinery as a form of labor protest, but also out of fear they were being replaced. Even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been taken as a rebuke against innovation and science.
Startup for sure plays into these perennial concerns, but it does so in a manner that proves the general rule of cryptocurrencies: they’re a life-changing way to do money.