Sunday I binged through all eight episodes of Solar Opposites, a new cartoon from Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan. It was originally created for Fox, but shelved. Now it’s on Hulu, released just last Friday (May 8).
Roiland is well known to Rick and Morty fans as, not only half the creative team (along with Dan Harmon), but as many of the voices, in particular both of the titular main characters. (Apparently considerable drinking and ad-libbing goes on during voice recording.) In Solar Opposites, Roiland restricts himself to just one main character.
If you like Rick and Morty, you’ll probably like Solar Opposites.
Both shows have similar emotional tone (funny, irreverent, biting, socially aware, disdainful) as well as similar animation style (the comfortable colorful 2D drawings shared by many shows).
Both shows are quite excellent science fiction written mostly by people who are long-time fans. Both shows are filled with SF references, parodies, and pastiches. As such, both shows are a treasure for long-time SF fans with a left-handed sense of humor.
Both shows offer a great deal of cartoon violence and gore. The animation style takes away a lot of the impact — often making it pretty funny — but there are literally rivers of blood and flying body parts in both. Both shows have their body horror moments.
Both shows stick a toe in nudity or sexuality, but are for the most part fairly coy on the sex axis. Per the prevailing mores, violence is mostly okay whereas sex, or even naked people, mostly aren’t.
Both shows involve a family of sorts, each member with their quirks and flaws. Within that, both shows center on two male stars.
In one case, mad genius scientist Rick Sanchez and grandson Morty have most of the adventures, while daughter Beth, husband Jerry (Chris Parnell), and grand-daughter Summer co-star. Five humans.
Here the shows diverge. Solar Opposites stars five aliens who escaped a dying planet (an asteroid hit it). The five aliens are members of an assembled team, one of 100 teams sent, not an actual family. They just pose as one. (It’s maybe a bit of a reference to 3rd Rock From the Sun.)
The two “adults” of the family are Korvo (the blue grumpy guy, voiced by Roiland) and Terry (the smiley green guy).
Korvo is the leader and captain of their crashed spaceship (which he’s constantly trying to repair — perhaps a nod to My Favorite Martian?). They were supposed to land on an uninhabited world to colonize, but (for reasons we haven’t learned) they crashed on Earth.
Which is all too inhabited, much to Korvo’s extreme distaste.
Meanwhile, Terry loves Earth and pretty much every aspect of it. His main duty on the mission is taking care of the fifth member, The Pupa — a mysterious yellow blob-like creature with weird, occasionally deadly, habits. The Pupa was assigned to the team; apparently it is important.
The remaining two members, Yumyulack (that’s got to be a Coneheads reference) and Jesse, are the “teenagers” who have to deal with going to the local high school.
The implied genetics here is interesting. Korvo and Yumyulack are blue with normal mouths. Terry and Jesse are green with mouths that protrude beyond their face (which gets commented on at one point). Meanwhile, The Pupa is a yellow blob.
Although these seem to be the only aliens on Earth, no one (let alone the government) seems particularly interesting in their being aliens. When it’s noticed at all, it’s treated almost as a racial thing. In other cases it’s more of a “you’re so weird” thing like you might do to anyone.
It’s kind of a funny mode.
Yumyulack, with some participation from Jesse, has an unfortunate habit that creates an entire sub-story within the main story.
These aliens naturally have ray guns. One gun makes you smarter; one gun makes you dumber (go ask Alice).
Yumulack has a shrink ray, and woe betide any human who so much as even slightly pisses off this adolescent male alien (who thinks Earthlings are pretty stupid to begin with).
Some kids have ant farms or sprawling hamster habitats. Yumyulack and Jesse have a wall of little people that have, in one way or another, crossed their path the wrong way. (In one case Yumyulack shrinks a guy only because he is wearing a red shirt, and Yumyulack doesn’t have one of those.)
There are, by now, quite a few people in the wall, and they’ve developed a cut-throat society of their own to survive. Sometimes the show jumps to their story, part of which involves that guy with the red shirt.
I really enjoyed it and burned through all eight episodes in one sitting. For now I’ll give it a strong Ah! rating.
Typical of some of these shows, the dialog and action is fast-paced. They need to pack a lot into their 20+ minutes, so the episodes are dense. It probably bears a second watching. I’m sure I missed stuff the first time around.
As an aside, the other creator, Mike McMahan, was one of the first writers hired for Rick and Morty.
He’s also the creator of the upcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks (which is the first Star Trek in along time that’s caught my interest).
The episode was so internally self-referential I’m surprised it didn’t collapse into a black hole. (Actually, come to think of it, maybe it did.)
I really enjoyed it (and will have to watch it several more times to squeeze out all the delicious juice), but it has the perhaps suspect property of requiring, not only having followed the show closely, but being familiar with co-creator Dan Harmon and his “story circle” theory of storytelling (and as the episode’s title indicates, some familiarity with internet memes).
This is one of those cases where knowing a lot about the artistic context greatly informs the work. The downside is that it makes the art exclusive — it excludes those not in the know and who haven’t put in the time. On the other hand, it rewards those who have.
I’m okay with that, at least here, although I generally hold art should be inclusive. It should stand on its own as much as possible. (Some art does a good job of putting a foot in both worlds. Stuff for the initiates; stuff for the novitiates.)
Rick and Morty is a little on the intense and dark side. Not so much directly on the surface, but the more you think about everything that’s going on, the more intense and dark it gets.
Rick isn’t a destroyer of worlds — he’s a destroyer of universes. (In some cases, he uses them as car batteries.) It seems to stem from being the smartest of all the Ricks in all the multiverses.
So a definite thumbs up on Solar Opposites, and major props to Rick and Morty. Great episode (and we waited so long for a new one)! It gets a Wow! rating.
With streaming creating such a demand, we seem to be in a golden age of new shows, many of which are animations. Some of those are science fiction shows, so it’s quite the smörgåsbord.
If only all of them were as good as these. Sturgeon’s Revelation always applies.
Stay solar, my friends!