Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3/5
If we could live forever, what would the world look like? Originally released in France last year to mixed critical response, sci-fi thriller Ad Vitam looks to answer this question. Despite being interesting, thought provoking and artistic throughout, Ad Vitam is a show that’s actually better in concept than in execution. That’s not to say it’s a bad series, far from it, and some of the later episodes have some nicely worked plot twists that make the slow burn worth the wait to get there. Quite whether you’ll have the patience to make it that far is another matter though. Ad Vitam’s beautiful aesthetic is constantly bogged down by a pace that feels far too sluggish than it should be at times. With each episode clocking in at around 55 minutes, Ad Vitam does get better as it goes along but the series never quite reaches the lofty heights of its ambitious premise.
The general idea behind Ad Vitam revolves around a breakthrough medicine called ‘Regeneration’. This part-jellyfish cocktail transforms the world, allowing people to live for much longer and present a whole slew of societal and economic issues for the world to deal with. With over population becoming an ever-present issue, Ad Vitam begins with 7 teenagers found dead on a beach, seemingly all having commit suicide, tying in with a previous slew of similar cases 10 years prior. Determined to find out what happened, Detective Darius arrives at the scene and calls on the help of teenager Christa to track down a pro-suicide group that may hold the key to understanding what happened.
As the episodes tick by, things become more complicated as we learn more about the world, including a Youth Center and the recurring theme of Jellyfish that crops up throughout the series. All of this builds toward a dramatic finale where Darius’ life is turned upside down as all the pieces begin to come together, with a few nicely worked twists along the way for good measure.
There’s no denying that Ad Vitam is an aesthetically impressive show. There’s a consistent presence of neon blue through a lot of the episodes and even late on, when things steer away from the glitzy French streets, the lighting is consistent with its dominating use of this colour. Alongside this, the recurring theme of jellyfish doesn’t just tie in with the series’ main idea, it also feels thematically relevant too and a deliberate design choice. It works, for the most part, and the episodes are visually great to look at, even with a seemingly limited budget given the lack of green screen being used.
Thematically, Ad Vitam asks a very interesting question around eternal life and reflects this back on us with its ideas around life and death. Given some of the early ideas around “experiences” that allow you to feel near-death and the troubling way minors (under 30’s here) have difficulty fitting in to this new world, it feels like this was deliberately placed to showcase the growing divide between the young and old in our society. It’s a fascinating idea though and especially with some of the characters expressing the need for children to disappear completely, it opens up an extra dimension of morality-based questions. If we could live forever, would we really need to have children anymore?
While many people will likely compare this to Altered Carbon for its futuristic setting and ideas around eternal life, Ad Vitam’s lack of CGI is more than made up for with its storytelling which provides a continuous source of excitement throughout the episodes, even during some of the slower segments. Quite whether you’ll have the patience to stick with this one and see it through to the good bits is another matter but if you can, Ad Vitam delivers a consistently good but never-quite-great series that doesn’t quite do enough to follow through with its fascinating idea.