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Incompleteness: Series Review

Poster for the series Incompleteness

Incompleteness aims to be the next big philosophical dramedy, but falls flat with a plot that lacks conviction.

It’s been a brilliant year for philosophical, psychological dramedies. Series like Severance and Beef have captivated audiences, presenting beautifully conceived plots with endlessly fascinating characters that have the ability to make you think about life’s biggest questions one minute and then laugh out loud the next. It is clear that David Ash’s Incompleteness aims to enter this league of carefully constructed stories, but the series, more often than not, fails to find its own heart

Incompleteness takes place in present-day Minnesota, following three relationships intertwined by the making of a film. The first relationship centers around Alex (Matt Bailey), a filmmaker who is too caught up in the goal of completing his film before he succumbs to his late-stage cancer to pay attention to his pregnant wife Jodi (Bethany Ford Binkley). The second relationship follows the film’s screenwriter Paul (Clarence Wethern), who has secretly been developing a DNA algorithm that will make human beings immortal, as he meets Kayla (Katie Willer) an aspiring singer but current barista. The final relationship Incompleteness follows is that of the two lead actors in the film, Emily (Christine Weber) and John (Juan Rivera Lebron). 

There is a heavy focus in Incompleteness on the concept of control and free will. Oftentimes, dialogue is said by one couple and then repeated later on by a different couple. Similarly, throughout the 8-episode series, the characters find notes left for them by seemingly no one in particular that help guide their actions and play key factors in the decisions they make. While this serves as an interesting aspect of the series, setting it apart and giving it a real sense of identity, it ultimately goes nowhere and is never clearly explained. 

The series has an obsession with famed mathematician Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem that states every closed system, such as mathematics or the universe, must assume the existence of a variable outside itself to explain itself. This plays out in many ways throughout the series. Alex thinks about this theorem as he struggles to come to terms with his belief in God at the end of his life. Paul is particularly infatuated with the theorem as he believes no one is truly in control of their life and there is no such thing as making a decision for oneself because everything is predetermined.

Incompleteness does not lack imagination or directions to go in. The series presents several very compelling concepts and plotlines, but it does not commit to any of them in a meaningful way. While the show has several (very similar) monologues trying to emphasize the importance of the Incompleteness Theorem and its relation to the plot, there are some episodes where this concept is almost completely ignored. Additionally, said monologues also are often long-winded, repetitive and seemingly unrelated to the conversation they stem from. 

loud and clear reviews incompleteness series 2023 show
A still from Incompleteness

Alex and Paul are obsessed with the concept of control and who has it which serves as the biggest point of contention within their relationship. Paul cannot be present with Kayla because he sees everything as meaningless because he cannot change what is predetermined to happen. Alex is so caught up in his own mortality and how life will go on after he passes that he cannot be present and see that Jodi is struggling. 

The best part of the show is Jodi. She feels at times like a vessel for the audience and voices the frustrations of the show’s unrelenting obsession with control. She constantly begs Alex to be with her in the moment and to pay attention to real-life, not theoretical, things that are happening but he refuses to see past himself- similar to how the show refuses to move past the ill-explained importance of the Incompleteness Theorem. While there is an interesting backstory for Alex and the potential for him to be a complex character, it gets completely glazed over in favor of dialogue that focuses on the lack of control humans have in life, which by episode three feels completely overindulgent.

While it is more than clear that this series wants to analyze humans’ relationship with control and things that are bigger than us, it doesn’t really have anything to say about it. Ash’s series goes in a million directions but doesn’t stay anywhere long enough to lead to anywhere that actually makes a statement. 

Season 1 of Incompleteness was screened at many festivals in 2023. A release date has not been announced yet.

Incompleteness: Trailer (Dave Ash)
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