Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan’s Hulu series looks at human folly from an alien—and fittingly cynical—perspective.
Humanity is looking pretty bleak these days. Whenever we (hopefully) get to other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still have that whole human-made climate change thing to deal with, not to mention all of the genocide, racism, and war that’s plagued us since the dawn of our species. So, a show like Hulu’s Solar Opposites, about a family of aliens who come to Earth to destroy humanity and remake the planet in their own image, couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland and former Rick head writer, Mike McMahan, bring a similarly macabre sci-fi fever dream to their latest animated show. Solar Opposites may not surpass their previous effort, but it’s still gruesomely funny and inventive in its first season. The “opposites” in Solar Opposites refers to the dynamic within the family of aliens who find themselves crash landed on Earth after their own planet is destroyed by an asteroid (hilariously recounted a little differently in the opening of each episode).
One half of the group, Korvo (Roiland) and Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone), tends to focus on the negative aspects of humans. They two even see them as sacks of meat to be tossed around and used for experimentation, like when Yumyulack shrinks people who offend him for any reason and tosses them into a terrarium in his bedroom. The other half, Terry (Thomas Middleditch) and Jesse (Mary Mack), is more optimistic when it comes to the earthlings and don’t mind enjoying their insatiable consumerism. Meanwhile, there’s also the adorable little Pupa, who will one day blossom into its grown, terrifying form and consume the planet. Until then, it just wants to eat a lot of chocolate bars.
The show could easily have been a series-long version of The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” segments starring Springfield’s favorite alien overlords, Kang and Kodos. However, it manages to dodge that trap by combining the antipathy towards the human race found in those Simpsonsshorts with genuine emotion that grounds our alien friends into likeable characters, even when they treat humans like flesh puppets.
In one episode, Korvo and Terry unleash microscopic nanobots into the town’s water supply in order to enter the humans’ blood stream and track their innermost secrets. It’s okay, though—it’s just because Korvo and Terry are scared their neighbors don’t like them and want to know what they can do to get them on their good side. The fact that the nanobots combine to become a sentient being that then runs to be president of the neighborhood’s Homeowners Association sums up the hilariously insane limits the show is willing to push.
Fitting that well is the cast of voice actors, which leans into the show’s maniacal energy with a freewheeling, improvisational vibe. This is especially true of Middleditch, who talks 1,000 miles per hour as the hyper but loveable Terry. Mack, on the other hand, channels the sweetness of Kristen Schaal’s Mabel in Gravity Falls to become the moral center of the series.
Sometimes the graphic nature can be too much, but it’s outrageously grotesque in a way that might make sense to a generation raised on kid’s shows like Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life.
There’s also an effective show-within-a-show that runs throughout the season about the unfortunate souls that are shrunk and trapped in Yumyulack’s human terrarium. The tiny ecosystem showcases Solar‘s mastery of genre blending by depicting a hellish setting that shows what would happen if John Carpenter had directed Downsizing. The people have already developed their own dystopian society where civilians hunt each other with toothpick bows and arrows and exchange old copies of Playboy for medicine.
Both in the little world and the big world, the show is not afraid to use body horror or disturbing, Lovecraftian imagery for comical effect. Sometimes the graphic nature can be too much, but it’s outrageously grotesque in a way that might make sense to a generation raised on kid’s shows like Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life. But even though Solar Opposites makes a strong case for why humanity should be extinct, its hilariously disturbing visuals and over-the-top sci-fi antics may be the catharsis humanity needs right now.
Season one of Solar Opposites zaps onto Hulu and straight into your eye sockets this Friday, May 8.