The Roku Channel’s new series delivers a surprisingly poetic take on multidimensional longing and acceptance.
You ever have a really great orgasm? Like so strong it sends you into an entirely different dimension? Now imagine that’s not a metaphor. Welcome to the premise of creator-writer-director-star Zoe Lister-Jones’ Slip.
Mae Cannon (Lister-Jones) has entered into the kind of comfortable rhythm everyone thinks they want until they have it. She has a great job curating a museum alongside her longtime best friend, Gina (Tymika Tafari). Her marriage to Elijah (Whitmer Thomas) might not be all sparks and fervent heat, but they share a sweet chemistry that often reads more as “new couple learning each other’s rhythms” than “established couple so over it.” However, with comfort comes complacency. With complacency comes thoughts of, “Is this all there is?” And telling baristas, at length, of her sense of existential ennui.
On the night of her newest exhibition opening, Elijah begs off early, leaving Mae to start talking to musician Eric (Amar Chadha-Patel), who’s been “featured on Obama’s last three summer mixes.” One thing leads to another and she experiences her first orgasm from oral sex in his bed. The next morning she wakes in a new life, married to Eric and unhappy in a different way.
And so it goes. Mae careens, meanders, and otherwise staggers her way into new orgasms and new lives with the likes of bar owner in recovery Sandy (Emily Hampshire) and loathsome financial bro Nick (Dylan Taylor). Given how little time Mae spends in each world, the storytelling about each place is impressive in its efficiency. Without lapsing too deeply into cliché, Slip captures the tightly wound progressivism of Brooklyn, the bridge and tunnel made wealthy types of SoHo, or the ridiculously rich celebrity class of the Upper West Side.
The sex scenes feel similarly well-observed. They’re filmed to be aesthetic, but they also capture the elements of sex less often portrayed on-screen: the awkwardness, the (consensual) aggression, the unscripted dialogue of very distracted people, and so on. Mae’s likely having sexier sex than you, but, as with the rest of the show, the acts are grounded in a recognizable sense of reality.
Mae’s likely having sexier sex than you, but, as with the rest of the show, the acts are grounded in a recognizable sense of reality.
If the above were all Slip was, it would be a good time on your small screen. However, Lister-Jones has bigger plans for the show than that. Mae and Gina are both adults who grew up in the foster system. They’re friends forged in that oft-chaotic world. It isn’t an accident that there are two constants no matter the world Mae wakes up in. First, she’s friends with Gina. Second, her white slip-on shoes are waiting by the door. Ask anyone with experience living or working in the foster system about the importance of shoes, and they’ll be able to immediately relate an anecdote—if not four. Seek data on successful foster graduates, and one will find, over and over, how important it is to have one relationship that remains strong regardless of where the child is living or with whom.
Yes, Slip tells the tale of the socially and financially comfortable waking up to the reality that even comfort takes work to hold on to. However, in a larger sense, it is a cosmic expression of what it feels like to grow up in the foster system. You’re you, whether in a group home, with a family considering adoption, or one of eight with a couple more interested in collecting a check than you as a person. However, each home, each world if you will, forces you into different boxes, different ways to be.
After years of that, it gets easy only to feel comfortable with the unsteady. It gets reflexive to greet stability with skepticism. For Mae, every world isn’t as bad as it could be but will never be as good as another might. They’re just like foster placements, temporary stops with short-lived connections that leave you feeling increasingly alone.
Even as the series brings us along for the ride, there are moments where you can’t help but mourn aspects of what Mae must leave behind to get where she thinks she wants to be. For example, there’s a particular moment where Lister-Jones describes her love for another character she’s just met. She starts haltingly but builds steam, falling in love with the other person for real as she speaks. It’s a wonderfully sweet moment immediately cut by sadness. If Mae leaves this world, as she feels she must, she will never know that character in this way again. Yes, she’ll remember. But in all other ways, their bond will have never existed.
Where Slip ends up honors all these complex feelings. It surely could’ve given the audience a more feel-good conclusion. Perhaps one that would send most away feeling satisfied. However, it rejects those easier choices for something not ambiguous so much as ambivalent. It’s an ending the show earns. It helps you realize it is the only honest conclusion.
Slip slides into view on The Roku Channel April 21.