What is a teenager’s worst nightmare? What’s the one thing that irritates them and they wish it could completely disappear from their life? While there are a number of problems that young adults have to face in their budding years, it is the controlling nature of adults that frustrates them the most. They wish their parents could just stop nagging at them; they wish the adults would stop hovering; they wish more freedom was bestowed on them; and, if only, their parents could trust them more with making decisions of their own. While some kids succeed in coming to an understanding with their parents, there are others who have to sail through these times with much-needed patience. So yes, considering everything, we can say that control is the one thing that teenagers don’t want to give up.
Over the years, there has been a boost in the young adult genre, with stories like ‘The Hunger Games’ resonating with teenagers like never before. What do all these YA stories have in common? They all have rebellious teenagers as their protagonists, fighting against the corrupt system established by the adults. Of course, the stories are highly multi-dimensional, but boil it down, and it comes to a teenager not ready to let the adults control them. Hence, being controlled is their worst nightmare. Netflix explores this territory with the addition of the Australian show, ‘The Unlisted’, to its library. Targeting children and teenagers, the show has a set of twins leading the charge against an oppressive regime in the making. If you haven’t seen it yet, head over to Netflix.
Summary of the Plot
Dru and Kal are inseparable. Being twins, they have been together through thick and thin, and are an unstoppable force. Dru is the intelligent one, the one who comes up with all the plans and has the solution to every problem. But that doesn’t mean that Kal is any less important. He is Dru’s rock, and his fierce loyalty to his twin is something that has saved Dru’s hide a number of times. They live in Sydney in a family that has their loving parents, a cheerful sister, the enthusiastic Dadi (grandmother), and their friendly Bua (father’s sister).
One day, in school, children are rounded up for a routine dental check-up. Due to a dentist nightmare that Dru happened to have the previous night, he pleads Kal to take his place instead. Soon after, Dru realises that there is something off with all the other children, including his brother. When a new teacher comes to their class to assess them, they suddenly start behaving like robots, and when they come back to their senses, they have no idea what happened to them. Dru is the only one who doesn’t lose consciousness and cannot be controlled. He traces this back to the dental check-up and comes to the conclusion that something shady was done to them in its guise.
Meanwhile, a company called the Infinity Group comes to light due to its association with the Global Child Initiative, a program under which all the children in the country are being enrolled, and the one that conducted the dental check-up.
What is the Global Child Initiative?
As Dru and Kal starting pulling at the thread of this wild conspiracy, they come to realise that everything points towards the Global Child Initiative. All this weird stuff started happening after they got involved with their school and god knows what they have planned for them. A little bit of digging shows them that a number of rich people have invested in this scheme and the puppeteer of this program is the Infinity Group. So, what do they want and why are they doing this to the children?
By the end, it becomes clear that the Initiative wants to create an army of young people who are ready to push themselves to extremes in order to do the labour required of them. With the diminishing resources, the companies need manual labour and they want dedicated and loyal people. They want workers who will not get tired and will be available day and night to do their bidding. Basically, they want robots, but I guess, they are scared of an AI revolution, so they want to turn kids into their work machines.
In order to do so, they need to exert control as early as possible. There are different stages in a person’s life where they grow, and their mind and body changes accordingly. The first stage is the infant years, when the child learns everything- walking, talking, etc. Obviously, the Initiative can’t control children at this stage. Even if they do, it wouldn’t be of any use. What labour can a five-year-old do?
The second learning stage comes when a person hits puberty. Body, mind, hormones, ideology- everything begins to shift and by the end of teenage, their personality is sharply defined. Hence, if you want to do something about it, you better start at the beginning. The Initiative is well aware of it, which is why they target the children who are twelve years of age. They could have brainwashed the children and let them believe that they are made to labour till their death. But there is no guarantee in this. The rebellious age is just around the corner; so, you can’t expect them to give in easily.
What works better and more effectively is mind control. Implant a chip and not only do you have complete access over their brains, but you can also keep them under continuous monitoring and control them however you want. Since no parent would ever agree to this, they cover it up with things like better education and a brighter, more secure future. Who wouldn’t want their child to be a part of a leading multinational company? They use the guise of dental check-ups to go forward with the implant without the consent of children and that of their parents.
What Does the Implant Do?
The ones who receive the implant become compliant. Bit by bit, the Initiative takes over their brains, until all control is finally relinquished. The only upside of this condition is that the children become stronger, faster and smarter. With the implant, they have basically turned into a robot, whom you can level up with various updates. If you want them to speak Mandarin, you don’t have to spend months teaching them the intricacies of the language. Just make a quick update and they’ll be as fluent as a native speaker. If you want them to be able to run faster than Bolt, you don’t need to spend hours and resources training them. One update and all records are ready to be shattered.
Like software, every update makes these children better, in every field. They can work as translators, they can do hard labour, they can give elegant speeches on cue, and they will do all this without any resistance. Since the children are giving up their control, their consciousness deteriorates because of this. When they are in the robotic mode, they don’t remember what they are doing. As time passes by, this trance extends from a couple of seconds to hours, which later stretches to days, and eventually to their whole lifetime.
Who Are the Unlisted?
Even if the Initiative is very smart in their approach, even if no one is looking while they commit this grave crime, glitches are bound to appear; if not due to their foolishness, then by the simple stroke of luck. Everyone else in the school receives the implant, but Dru doesn’t. It is not because he knows what is happening or that he doesn’t trust the school. It happens just because he is scared to go to the dentist, while his twin isn’t. Similarly, there are a number of other things that can keep children from being implanted. Either they bunked school that day, or they called in sick, or they were in the library, or because they don’t go to school at all.
There are countless things that can prevent children from this fate. This means they don’t become a part of the system. The Initiative has no control over them, they can’t track them, they can update them. These children are the Unlisted. Dru, Rose, Kymara, Gemma and Jacob didn’t get the implants because they got lucky. Dru goes undetected because Kal gets his implant. He isn’t implanted but there is a record that says that he is, which is why no one pays attention to him.
The others, however, don’t have the luxury of a twin. They stand out like sore thumbs when they don’t show up on the database of the Initiative. At the beginning of the series, when we find them running from GCI, it is because the Initiative has pointed them out as discrepancies. They have been rounded up to fix the mistake; they will be implanted. Luckily, they escape from this fate.
What Happened in China?
In the middle of the season, a foreign exchange student is introduced to the class. His name is Jiao, and he has come from China. He has been implanted too and Dru and Kal instantly become suspicious of him. Later, it is revealed that he is just like them. He has also succeeded in dodging the implant and going unnoticed. However, his trick is riskier than theirs. He did go through the procedure, but something went wrong. It wasn’t properly put into place, and either came out on its own or, with some effort, Jiao succeeded in getting rid of it. He knew they would seek him out if he destroyed the implant, so he secured it in a locket and always kept it in close vicinity. This way, he stayed in the database while not becoming a puppet of the Initiative.
Since the program had not been perfected back then, the implant didn’t react well with the other children’s bodies. They fell severely ill, and in order to cover it up, the Initiative told everyone that it was the result of a mysterious disease. Since Jiao was one of the kids who didn’t fall sick, he was brought to Australia. Here, the program has been more refined and children are responding to it better than they did in China. Once the true intentions of the Initiative are brought to light, the implants are removed and children go back to normal.
The Unlisted Ending: What’s Next for Dru and Kal?
Despite all the hurdles, the twins succeed in bringing down the GCI. For a while, Kal’s mind is completely taken over by Infinity, but Dru succeeds in reaching out to his brother, and they even succeed in fooling their enemies. They become the face of a rebellion that allows other Unlisted children to seek them out and help them. They destroy the mainframe of the system and even expose Emma Ainsworth by live-streaming her evil rant on social media. This results in legal action against the company. The Infinity Group refuses any knowledge of the program and the blame rests entirely on Ainsworth. She and other investors are arrested and it seems like the Unlisted have won after all.
In the final scene, when Kal and Dru call it a day and go to sleep, spider-like robots crawl into their ears. This confirms our suspicion: the Initiative isn’t done with them yet. Obviously, we didn’t believe that Ainsworth was the mastermind behind this grand operation and her employers had NO IDEA what she was up to! They were involved in this, maybe were even the instigators of this. Perhaps, they put Emma in charge, and it is acceptable that she might have come up with the idea. But to do everything so covertly, to receive the backing of so many investors without the knowledge of her superiors doesn’t seem right.
This also means that they have allowed the world to think that they are done with the Initiative when indeed, they are using this opportunity to not only clear themselves of any blemish but also of moving their plan forward while correcting their mistakes. This time around, they have a better understanding of the situation, and more importantly, they are aware of the threats on their program. Kal and Dru are the heroes of children all over the world, but this has also brought them under the spotlight. Hence, it only seems logical that the Infinity Group will try to get rid of them first. This is why they sent those microrobots.
What remains to be seen now is how they will counter this challenge. Previously, Dru pinpointed the problem because he was on the outside. He was not under the effect of the implant. But this time, both the twins have those spidery things wading around in their brains. So, someone else will have to be the hero of the second season. It could be their sister, or their aunt, or their grandmother, who comes to see the changes in them and realises that something is wrong. Their friends, which also includes Regan, might also notice these changes. Or perhaps, they too could fall prey to this new scheme.
We don’t know if Dru and Kal were specifically targeted or if all the other children have the same problem. Moreover, we don’t know how this new implant will work. If it is more advanced than the previous one, it could give more superpowers to children while also making them more vulnerable to the ones controlling them. One thing’s for sure, the danger will hike in the next season of ‘The Unlisted’, and the twins will need much more than their Dadi’s samosas to win again.