After spending many weeks with Agent Shea Salazar, Paul LeBlanc, and Shea’s cybercrimes task unit, as well as a rogue A.I. bent on destruction, we have come to the end of the series. Was the team successful in destroying NEXT? Who lived and who died? Did our team survive? Why is Shea locked up? Where is Paul and how did Ted fare in this mess? We’re about to find out.
A lot happens in the first five minutes of “File 9.”
Congresswoman Beatty, who was attempting to help Shea by warning those on the West Coast that rolling blackouts would continue and that those in charge should begin to expect the unexpected, died after telling Shea that she couldn’t break through a wall of disinformation. Paul, still on the run, discovers Ben’s deception by figuring out his dad was deputy director of the ONI. Shea reacted quickly and basically locked Ben up, but not before he tampered with Gina’s security pass. While locked up, and while Shea tried to get information out of him, Ben discovers that his father’s been killed in a helicopter accident. Natalie, the person working with Mason from the last episode, the one who discovered that something was weird in the server farm, is fired over falsified emails. Mason is still gone. Everything is a mess.
Gina, however, decides to go ahead and basically infiltrate the NSA with her stolen badge and fake identity so she can input the hardware virus. The hitch? She has to key the virus in by hand, because, you know, it’s the NSA and no electronic devices are allowed inside. But Gina is determined to do it. She’s a tough cookie. After she inputs the virus, a network error occurs and it throws out the number DCI-22. Paul then informs her the virus is trackable and she’s about to be arrested. She is, but now Paul has his next move.
He was never going to destroy NEXT with a virus. No, he’s going one step further and plans to eradicate the A.I. with a truck bomb. CM knows exactly who to go to. Meanwhile, Natalie appears again and gives some information to the man who questions Gina after she’s been arrested. He doesn’t want to take it but does on Natalie’s insistence. Paul tells Abby he wants her to leave for New Zealand where he has a private beach and if she doesn’t, she won’t get her inheritance. She resists at first but seemingly relents as the team leaves Paul’s hideout.
While Shea and CM go to talk to his brother-in-law’s house, Paul burns down his hideout. CM’s brother-in-law, Ray, is less than happy to see him. Making matters even more complicated? CM’s ex-wife and his son are there with Ray. However, Shea points a gun at Ray and makes him comply. She appeals to his hatred of the government and he points out that she’s a federal agent but Shea says it’s not the FBI she’s dealing with, it’s the NSA. This piques Ray’s interest and he agrees to make her a truck bomb for their attack.
In “File 10,” the blackouts get worse and worse. Abby finds Ty and Ethan and suggests that they all escape to New Zealand to ride out the attacks. They agree and they get out to safety, just in time, as the mob mentality gets worse and worse. CM runs away to Canada but not without first offering Hannah and his son an alternate option. He knows the authorities will trace the bomb equipment back to Ray’s farm so they all have to leave and leave quickly.
Spires, the one who believed Natalie had something on this attack, prevents her from getting fired but doesn’t believe Gina who keeps telling him what’s going on. He leaves his security card with the two women who go and find DCI-22 and download the information that will prove NEXT’s existence. They are stopped, however, and detained.
Meanwhile, Paul and Shea head to the NSA black site with their truck full of explosives. The plan is to detain the guards and drive in together and detonate the bomb, but Paul takes matters into his own hands. As Shea is detaining the guards, he drives on ahead without her, leaving her to call in the bomb threat. NEXT tries to stop Paul by saying it has a cure for his disease and NEXT does deliver, only one-third of the cure, a study in Sri Lanka. Paul takes the bait and sets the bomb to detonate. Gina and Natalie get out and it’s presumed that Paul dies in the explosion.
Six months later, Gina and CM are together rallying for justice for Shea and putting out the truth about NEXT. All of the charges against Ted are dropped. Shea is still being detained for her involvement in what’s being called a domestic terrorist attack and all evidence supports that Paul did indeed die in the explosion. Abby has returned home and returned to work and it turns out she has FFI as well. She tells Ted about the study in Sri Lanka thinking he’s the anonymous donor on the project but he isn’t. Which leaves us to wonder: did Paul really die in the explosion?
Elsewhere, investigators pick through the rubble of the explosion. Someone picks up a hard drive, plugs it in, and well, you can probably guess the rest.
Overall, I found this to be a satisfying end to the cyberthriller. It tied up loose ends, still left questions, and probably put NEXT back into the world after its destruction, but I’m sure there are some caveats. NEXT was as big as a server, there’s no way that the entirety of its code could be put in a little hard drive. So, if whoever is investigating the explosion and picking up the pieces decides to take NEXT for a spin, well, who knows. We don’t have to know and I don’t want to know. I like that things were left open yet wrapped up. There are still questions, there are still theories, and there will be if the fandom is big enough, but it isn’t, so NEXT is finished as far as I’m concerned and I’m glad of it.
This wasn’t the most perfect little event series. In my opinion, it should’ve been about two episodes shorter (to make up for the disastrous fifth and sixth episode), but what was given is enough for me. It was an above-average thriller with a decent ending that wasn’t tinged by a deus ex machina. People died. It was tragic, but it was well told and it was wrapped up in a way that made sense. Not to mention they actually killed Paul. Yeah, okay, we could make the argument that he’s not really dead and that we could call that a cop-out, but I don’t feel like it’s a cop-out. We know Paul’s crafty. He escaped death multiple times before. It makes sense with the narrative and what Coto set up from the very beginning.
The final two episodes were well acted as well. Everyone gave it their all. Slattery, as always, came in with the same fierceness he started the series with. Andrade continued to prove her talent and each scene she was in was more nuanced than the last. She really pulled back Shea’s layers and bared them all. Mike Molsely as CM continued to surprise me with his humanity. Every single character arc in this series, no matter how subtle, came to a satisfying conclusion and every single actor delivered fantastic performances. Not only that, every single character changed for the better. I feel that rarely happens in ensemble thrillers that are structured like this. So, this show was doubly surprising and welcomed for that very reason.
NEXT was such an underrated show and I wish that more people saw it so that the actors and writing could be appreciated like they deserve to be. Manny Coto created a series that felt fresh yet nostalgic, something human underneath a plot that was rooted in technology. I found it to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of so many continuing procedurals and reboots.
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