Friday, September 22, 2023

The Case For Keeping Aloy Off Netflix’s Horizon Series

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I know, I know, what in the world am I talking about? Aloy is the mascot for Horizon and there is no way to bring it to life without her, right? It sounds ridiculous to think Netflix should cut her out of their announced Horizon show and if I am honest, there is no way they actually will cut her out. She is the selling point for the franchise and the single most recognizable thing about it. You play for Aloy destroying giant robot dinosaurs and animals.

You know what? I don’t care, I still say this Horizon adaptation should avoid Aloy and the entire post-apocalypse setting it is best known for. We have seen that story, and we have seen the best version of it. There is nothing particularly interesting about watching a streaming show try to replicate a big budget open-world game that depends more on player choice than any focused narrative.

There is something way easier to adapt, a setting ripe for exploration, chock-full of interesting characters that fans would love seeing more of. Fans should know what I am going to say here. Netflix’s Horizon show should be about Elisabet Sobeck and the efforts to make Project Zero Dawn a reality.

Aloy watching robots from Horizon Zero Dawn

There is so much potential in this setting, with the games so far largely just establishing overarching events about this time period and the people involved. That is what makes it such a compelling time period to adapt. There is a solid outline to follow and enough existing characterization for a showrunner and writing team to expand upon, but is still vague enough that the story would be more than a simple retelling of what we already know.

This works for much the same reason why people want a Robert’s Rebellion spin-off of Game of Thrones. We have a time period crucial to defining the world in the original story, which has enough details to structure terrific storytelling and characterization around, but with plenty of space to surprise and show us more of the world.

And if you really want an Aloy figure, well, she is a clone of Elisabet. We hear numerous times how Aloy is reminiscent of Elisabet, so this show could always merge the two together enough to satisfy that craving. Elisabet is the single most important figure in the history of Horizon. She spearheads Project Zero Dawn. She develops the relationships which still shape the world all the way through to Forbidden West. It is her work which drives Aloy through Horizon: Zero Dawn, and those she worked with who take center-stage in the sequel.

Think about it, wouldn’t you love a show about Elisabet? Wouldn’t you want to see through her eyes while Ted Faro becomes the monster who ends humanity? Or see how she and Tilda’s relationship blossomed and withered? Is the idea of watching the tragedy of humanity’s best and brightest while they save a dying world not compelling? I would imagine most Horizon fans would love to get an in-depth characterization of these people, for better and worse.

From a practical viewpoint, this type of show is also immensely easier to create. Think about the challenges of bringing Aloy’s world to life. You need robots, you need ruins, you need Horizon’s unique blend of technology and Iron Age civilization, consisting of dozens of unique tribes and cultures that have to be recreated. This is a monumentally expensive and challenging task that also requires serious talent and time to pull off.

Is it possible? Of course, but it is extremely difficult.

Compare that to Elisabet’s time, which is basically our modern world with a twist of typical advanced sci-fi. You still have people fighting robots, but in a much more easily replicated manner. Scenes can take place in normal offices and labs. People wear normal clothing. Elisabet’s story would be much easier to produce.

I can hear everyone reading this and thinking there is no point to making this kind of Horizon show. The pre-apocalypse world is window dressing. The point of Horizon is the robots and tribes and cool setting. I can agree with that. But you know what? I would still leave Aloy and her story out of it. Netflix’s version could just as easily be some unrelated story on a smaller scale, telling another interesting story about someone else.

Horizon’s world outside of Aloy is largely unexplored and, like many big gaming universes, full of possible stories to tell. Why not tell a story of some Carja figure involved in the tribe’s endless political intrigue? Or cover a Nora village fighting off the Red Raids? Netflix still gets the cool setting but without the pressure or scope of recreating Aloy’s adventure, and the creators still get a chance to tell an original story while benefiting from the audience buy-in of people fighting robots.

If you throw in an Aloy cameo along the way, well, then you can consider including her if the first season is a success.

There are rumors as I’m writing this that the show will split itself between game timeline and Elisabet’s time. I hope they are true, obviously. I would love to see how other people handled Hades’s growing corruption over the world while Aloy battled to stop it.

I still hope they leave Aloy herself out of the story entirely. It is simply too difficult to adapt a video game like this, where player agency defines the way the experience. Aloy may be a more defined character than, say, Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, but someone’s view of her life and loves and friends are still their own, and dependent on that person.

I’m always of the opinion that it is best to leave characters like that alone. Horizon is a big world with a potential for stories only limited by the imagination of the human mind. Let’s see what that mind is capable of.

Images Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment

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  • Bo

    Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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