When John Slattery is standing in front of a giant screen, “neXt” is a pretty engaging television show. So it’s no surprise the new Fox drama chooses that way to open its pilot episode, with Slattery’s tech billionaire Paul LeBlanc speaking to a gathered group about the impending perils of innovation and how we’re all basically doomed.
What follows is a TV thriller centered on the hunt for an algorithmic super-intelligence; a self-learning program that the series’ main characters believe is murdering people to protect its secrets. In the process, “neXt” is a serial killer story and a detective show and a prophet of catastrophe, delivered together in one-hour chunks.
LeBlanc’s alarm-sounding eventually weaves its way into the work of Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade), leader of an FBI cybercrime task force based out of Portland. (Yes, they were on different networks, but just imagine the “Stumptown” crossover that now we’ll never get.) Along with a main trio of fellow investigators and experts, Salazar joins the effort to neutralize neXt, a pet project that originated at LeBlanc’s old company. As they all track this rogue AI across different networks, they’re left to convince a raft of skeptical gatekeepers that it’s only a matter of time before the mysterious deaths that befell some of their colleagues and acquaintances become a more widespread problem.
The strongest installment of the early bunch is the third, which finds the crew trying to find out how neXt might be connected to a New England research lab. The particular strain of techno-horror that greets them is a stripped-down expression of the nightmare hypotheticals that any video like this one can dredge up. It’s methodical and effective by virtue of recognizing what makes people inherently uneasy about expressionless and emotionless machine capability.
Where “neXt” loses some of that