Hulu’s Solar Opposites: Season 1 Review

Solar Opposites is caught between a rock and a hard place as it makes its debut on Hulu. Undoubtedly the series’ biggest selling point is the fact that it’s created by two Rick and Morty veterans – Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan. That inevitably leads to certain expectations about tone and overall writing quality. But that also means Rick and Morty casts a looming shadow that Solar Opposites is hard-pressed to escape. The series is an enjoyable diversion, but one that’s best enjoyed on its own merits rather than as an extension of its bigger, better cousin.It’s not as if Solar Opposites makes it easy to ignore the Rick and Morty connection. There’s the fact that Roiland voices one of the main characters, playing him as a slightly crankier and less competent Rick Sanchez. The series’ art style is basically identical, right down to the fact that many characters make that weird, droopy lip expression whenever they’re confused or befuddled. Heck, the end credits even use the exact same Rick and Morty font. Again, the series does itself a disservice by flaunting its similarities to Roiland and McMahan’s other adults-only, animated sci-fi/comedy romp.In many ways, Solar Opposites is a much more traditional animated sitcom in the vein of The Simpsons and the Seth MacFarlane oeuvre. Calling it a mash-up of American Dad, Coneheads, and Invader Zim wouldn’t be far off the mark. The series revolves around that tried and true nuclear family dynamic, only in this case, said family is a group of alien refugees biding their time on Earth until their infant pupa reaches adulthood and conquers the planet. In addition to Roiland’s stern patriarch Korvo, there’s his carefree partner Terry (Thomas Middleditch) and two youngsters Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) and Jesse (Mary Mack) – plus the aforementioned pupa, who fills the twin roles of impossibly precocious infant and super-intelligent pet that are basically requirements in these types of shows.

What follows is an amusing but disappointingly broad and straightforward fish-out-of-water comedy. With Rick and Morty, you can strip out all the comedic elements and still be left with a very clever, high-concept science fiction series. Solar Opposites can’t always fall back on its sci-fi elements or clever plotting. Most episodes revolve around more predictable conflicts, like the main characters’ inability to comprehend gender politics and 21st Century American culture or the fallout when one of Korvo’s inventions runs amok. To be fair, the humor and dialogue are enough to spice up these predictable storylines, but the show too often feels like a cookie-cutter offshoot of Fox’s Animation Domination block. At best, the freedom afforded by Hulu allows the series to skew a little darker and more risque than most.

Where Rick and Morty hinges on high-concept storytelling and an emphasis on constantly pushing those plots in bigger and wackier directions, Solar Opposites has a much more laid-back feel. You can sense that even in the Roiland-narrated intro sequence. There’s a point in the intro where Roiland as Korvo briefly stammers and moves on, and each episode’s intro wraps with a different monologue of Korvo ranting about his hatred of human culture. This echoes those Interdimensional Cable episodes of Rick and Morty and that “we’re just making this up as we go along and not bothering to do second takes” approach. If anything, the series might have benefited if it leaned even more into that improvisational quality and allowed for more moments of spontaneity.

Season 1 does improve somewhat over time, mostly because the focus starts to drift away from the Odd Couple dynamic of Korvo and Terry and onto their “children” and other ancillary characters. While the voice cast is uniformly strong, Giambrone and Mack are easily the standouts in Season 1. Mack, in particular, brings a lot of personality and energy to her role. And it’s with these two that the cultural assimilation angle feels a bit more meaningful and not just a platform for broad situational comedy. For the asexual inhabitants of the doomed planet Shlorp, gender is an entirely social construct, and it’s actually pretty interesting watching these two characters navigate their new lives and try to bond with each other in their newfound sibling roles.

Hulu’s Solar Opposites: Season 1

Episode 7 is definitely the standout installment of the season, which is pretty telling considering how little the main characters actually appear. Similar to the Community Season 2 episode “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking,” there’s an entire subplot that only plays out in the background of the episode, with the main focus shifting to a group of miniaturized humans living inside a glorified ant colony in Yumyulack and Jesse’s room. Those captive humans represent the only real serialized storyline in Season 1, and this episode pays off on that thread surprisingly well. The bizarre setting and the over-the-top, faux-Lord of the Rings approach to the plot really help this episode stand out in a way its predecessors don’t.

The finale also delivers a relatively stronger finish to the season. This episode shows a greater willingness to embrace the absurdity of the series’ premise and push the characters in weirder and darker directions. The finale even crams in a couple unexpected but very welcome guest stars for good measure.

The general upward trend of Season 1 at least suggests there’s plenty of room for the series to improve when Season 2 comes along. More so than with most comedies, animated sitcoms tend to take a while to really find their groove, so it could be argued that an eight-episode first season really isn’t enough to show us what Solar Opposites has to offer.

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