If you know a TRON fan, chances are you’ve heard them rant about the premature demise of TRON: Uprising. This show, which serves as one of Disney’s (many) bridges between TRON and TRON: Legacy, was well-done, well-regarded, and well-loved. But unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to stop Disney from treating it like an abject failure and giving it the axe after one nineteen-episode season. Hell, we’re probably lucky that they finished showing the first season at all.
But what’s the deal with this show? Why are people still signing petitions to save it years after it went off the air? Let’s find out!
So what’s it about?
The short version is, a rebellious program named Beck teams up with Tron to try and get the programs to rise up and take down CLU from the inside. The long version is:
Beck’s Beginning (Episode 1)
After filling in the backstory described in TRON: Legacy – Kevin Flynn builds a digital world with the help of CLU (both voiced by Fred Tatasciore) and Tron (Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role from the films) until CLU betrays Flynn and Tron and seizes power – we meet Beck (Elijah Wood), who has been captured and is being interrogated by another program. Beck is a mechanic who works in Argon City with his friends Mara (Mandy Moore), Zed (Nate Corddry), and Bodhi, but when General Tesler (Lance Henriksen) and his forces occupy Argon City and kill Bodhi, Beck decides to strike back. Beck disguises himself as Tron and blows up a statue of CLU that the occupying forces built in the center of Argon City. CLU is not amused, and Tesler sends his second-in-command Paige (Emmanuelle Chriqui) after the culprit.
After fighting off Paige, Beck escapes to the Outlands where he is captured by the program interrogating him. When asked why he wants others to think Tron is still alive, Beck responds that he thinks it will inspire a revolution. Beck tries to escape but the other program easily dodges his attacks and reveals himself to be Tron – weak and scarred but still alive. He asks for Beck’s help. “What are you looking for?” Beck asks. Tron replies: “The next Tron.”
Beck expresses doubts about his own abilities and leaves, returning to the garage where he works. There, Paige assembles all the workers and announces that programs will be rounded up at random and forced to compete in the deadly Games until “The Renegade” – as the program who blew up the statue has been dubbed – is found. Zed and Mara are among the first group selected. Beck pursues and derails the lightrail train they are put onto and frees all the captured programs. Tesler confronts Beck and they battle – Beck wins, but Tesler lives. Beck returns to Tron’s hideout and agrees to help: “I want to do this. I have to do this. I’m ready.”
The Renegade Part 1 (Episode 2)
Beck begins training with Tron, but he still has doubts about his ability to become “the next Tron.” While returning home Beck runs afoul of one of the Occupation’s recognizers and hides in a container which, as he soon learns, is actually full of other programs being taken to the Coliseum to compete in the Games.
While Beck enters the Games, Zed and Mara are out at the club, where he promised to meet them. There, Zed – who has a crush on Mara – meets another program named Perl (Kate Mara). He takes her back to the garage he works at, where she steals his boss Able’s (Reginald VelJohnson) one-of-a-kind first-gen ENCOM lightcycle.
Meanwhile, Beck finds a possible resistance ally in fellow Games conscript Cutler (Lance Reddick). They attempt to escape but are caught and forced to disc-battle against a team of lightcycles while tethered together. Using teamwork and ingenuity they sever the tether and emerge from the battle victorious. Tesler, worried that the team may inspire rebellion, forces them to fight each other to the death; the winner goes free.
The Renegade Part 2 (Episode 3)
Beck and Cutler refuse to fight, so Tesler creates a wall to close in on them; it will only disappear when one of them is dead. Beck forces Cutler to fight so Cutler can survive. Cutler refuses to kill Beck and forfeits, saying that Beck is the better fighter and must be the one to continue the resistance. Tesler refuses to accept the forfeit, saying that now both programs must die, but Paige convinces him to let one of them go free. Tesler releases Beck and announces that Cutler will be publicly executed in Argon Square. “Find Tron!” Cutler tells Beck as he’s hauled away. “Don’t stop fighting!”
Back at Tron’s hideout, Beck blames himself for failing Cutler. Tron points out that Cutler hasn’t been derezzed yet, so Beck hasn’t failed. Zed and Mara recover Able’s lightcycle from a gang of thieves while Beck, disguised as Tron, rescues Cutler. Paige tries to stop the pair but they manage to fight her off and escape on a speed boat. Tesler and his other second-in-command, Pavel (Paul Reubens), attack them on the water but they make it out with the aid of Tron. Beck convinces Cutler to recruit others for the revolution and spread the word that “Tron lives.”
Beck returns to the garage and helps Zed and Mara repair Able’s damaged lightcycle, then goes to the hideout to tell Tron he’s decided to continue training with him to keep the resistance alive.
Blackout (Episode 4)
While doing a training simulation, Beck and Tron experience a mysterious blackout, and Tron orders Beck to investigate. Outside the city, they discover that Tesler’s forces are drilling for energy, causing the blackouts and risking a massive explosion. Tron gives Beck a device that will cause a meltdown on the drill, but the drill can only be accessed through the tunnels under the city. Beck, knowing that these tunnels are being used for a lightcycle race that Zed has become involved in, plants the device and rushes into the tunnels to prevent disaster.
Paige discovers Beck’s map in the tunnel under the drill, and Beck blows up a bridge inside the tunnel. The rubble blocks the way and stops the racers, and Beck warns them about the coming explosion. Paige overhears and goes to disarm the device and Beck pursues her on Zed’s bike, intensifying Zed’s existing dislike for the Renegade. Paige arrives too late and the drill explodes, forcing Beck and Paige to try and outrun the explosion by going back through the tunnels. Beck saves Paige’s life by pulling her onto his faster lightcycle, then he ditches her outside the tunnel exit and flees.
Back at the garage, Paige and two of the racers – Bartik (Donald Faison) and Hopper (Paul Scheer) – try to recruit Zed to help stop the Renegade. As the episode closes, Tesler makes a speech blaming the Renegade for the blackouts to turn public opinion against him.
Identity (Episode 5)
When Beck’s identity disc is stolen, he and Tron must venture into a seedy area to get it back. They are ambushed by a street gang and Beck experiences a memory glitch – a moment of temporary amnesia which will become permanent if he doesn’t recover his disc. He and Tron are saved by a program named Lux (Lake Bell), who offers to help them recover Beck’s disc.
Lux, Beck, and Tron track down the thief who stole Beck’s disc, but whoever he gave the disc to derezzes him before he can reveal the program’s identity. A chase ensues which is cut short when Beck experiences another memory glitch. Meanwhile, Zed is working on designing a weapon to help Paige take down the Renegade. Mara is disgusted that Zed is working with Bartik and Hopper to possibly derezz the Renegade.
Lux takes advantage of Beck’s memory glitch and attacks Tron; it becomes clear that she has been working all along with the person who obtained Beck’s disc. Together they convince Beck that he is in Tesler’s army and that they’re returning him home. Tron tries to warn Beck that they’re lying to him and are going to turn him in to the military, but Beck refuses to listen. Back in Argon City, Zed sabotages his own weapon at the demonstration for Paige, getting Bartik and Hopper into trouble with her.
Lux has a change of heart and helps Tron save Beck. When Tron is unmasked and she realizes he’s still alive, she fights off the guards to let him and Beck escape – and is derezzed in the process.
Isolated (Episode 6)
As Beck breaks into Tesler’s fortress to steal a data cube, we get our first glimpse of Paige’s past, when she worked with her friends in a medical center. She’s snapped out of her reverie by an alarm, and she pursues Beck as he escapes the fortress in a lightjet. She successfully shoots him down but hits his light trail and they both crash near each other on a desolate island.
We enter another flashback to Paige’s time at the medical center, when she stops three programs who are attacking two others – Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Ada (Parminder Nagra). After Paige tends to their wounds, Quorra explains that they’re refugees whose city was targeted by the Purge when some ISOs were discovered there. We get a brief glimpse of the fear basic programs have towards the ISOs and some of the prejudice towards them: “I’ve heard they’re insane, that they can derezz programs with their bare hands!”
Back in the present, Beck and Paige fight, and after Paige steals back the data cube Beck warns her that the island is starting to derezz piece by piece and calls a truce. Paige reluctantly agrees but refuses Beck’s help and tries to escape alone on a piece of her crashed lightcopter. After her escape attempt fails, Beck tries to convince her to let him combine the parts of their two aircraft to make an escape vehicle. Paige notices that he’s injured and gives him medical attention. She finally agrees to a truce.
In another flashback, Paige learns that Ada and Quorra are ISOs and almost reports them, but decides against it. However, when recognizers later arrive as an announcement warns of an ISO contamination, Quorra attacks Paige and knocks her out. “Quorra, why?” Ada asks. “Now she’ll never trust ISOs.” Quorra replies: “No, but at least she’ll be alive.”
When Paige comes to, she attacks two guards and is subdued by Tesler. Everyone else in the medical center is dead; Tesler tells her the ISOs killed them. He offers to let her join his military unit “to make the ISOs pay for what they’ve done.” Paige agrees.
Back on the island, beck and Paige work together to build an escape vehicle. When a part of the island suddenly derezzes under Paige, Beck tries to come to her rescue using the vehicle, but Tesler’s lightcopter gets to her first. Beck escapes and returns to Tron’s hideout, where Tron praises Beck for risking his life to save an enemy.
Paige, however, didn’t see Beck’s rescue attempt and believes he betrayed her. She tells Tesler she finds strength in knowing he would never betray her; however, we learn in a flashback that Tesler is the one who ordered every program exposed to the ISOs to be derezzed. “I would never betray you, Paige,” he assures her in the present. “I know what you’re capable of.”
Wait, why are you stopping there?
Because, frankly, this post ballooned way out of control and I simply didn’t have the heart to cut the summaries short to make it more manageable; TRON: Uprising has been screwed over enough without me glossing over its interesting plots, subplots, and characters.
Overall, the series is off to a good start. While I don’t love these as much as later episodes (just wait till we get to the “Scars” two-parter), these move along at a good clip and manage to get some good character development in between the action sequences. It’s also great to see more world-building for the Grid, since it seems a little sparse in TRON: Legacy – which is unsurprising, since the film had only two hours to work with. TRON: Uprising is able to make the Grid feel like a living place rather than a backdrop, and gives a much more nuanced idea of what everyday life on the Grid is like under CLU’s reign.
Also, it’s interesting to see the way ISOs were viewed by basic programs during Paige’s flashbacks in “Isolated,” as well as Paige’s backstory in general, which really helps round out her character instead of reducing her to a typical adversarial role. It also hints at the possibility that she might be capable of being brought over to the side of the rebellion in the future, which gives the audience something to hope for – especially since TRON: Legacy made it a foregone conclusion that the revolution doesn’t succeed, or at least it doesn’t before Sam Flynn arrives.
While the character designs can take a little getting used to (WHY ARE THEIR LEGS SO LONG?), the rest of the show looks gorgeous and, like TRON: Legacy, the “shots” are really well put-together (as the above screenshots show). You can tell Disney didn’t cut corners on this series; sadly, this may have ultimately led to its demise. But we’ll get to that.
Next week we’ll be covering episodes 7-12, and trust me, shit gets intense. But I don’t want to spoil the reason why, so – see you next week!
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