Justin Roiland burst into geek culture with the success of “Rick and Morty” as a cult hit. It was clear that Roiland’s absurdist view of sci-fi and pop culture could yield special results. It’s no surprise that Roiland cashed in some of his chips on the wholly unique “Solar Opposites” on Hulu. While it attempts to set up its unique world, the new series does not always find its footing. The resulting series flashes brilliance on occasion but often leaves the audience alienated from its characters.
“Solar Opposites” follows an alien family that escapes planetary destruction, only to land on Earth. Korvo (Roiland) hates Earth and tries to take over the planet. Terry (Thomas Middleditch) loves everything about the planet, especially its pop culture. Children/replicants Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) and Jesse (Mary Mack) navigate school with its vicious students and teachers. Finally, the cute, violent, and silly “Pupa” offers them a chance to rebuild their planet.
“Solar Opposites” shines brightest when focused on Middleditch and Roiland. The two banter with ease and fulfill the title’s promise by playing out of type. Roiland provides some distance from his other characters with Korvo. He brings a unique blend of frustration, excitement, and determination to the role. Meanwhile, Middleditch gets to portray the polar opposite character of his “Silicon Valley” role. The fairly lazy, pop culture obsessed Terry provides the series with a needed optimistic voice. Mack and Giambrone also showcase strong chemistry but feel fairly isolated in their storylines. Even though this allows them to shine, they are at their best when mixed and matched with Korvo and Terry.
The animation and character design draw from the “Rick and Morty” style, perhaps to a fault. While “Solar Opposites” certainly has potential, the writing takes too long to find its groove. The jokes are seemingly more outlandish than Roiland’s first series but lack the same punch. If the show did not crib so heavily from the “Rick and Morty” formula, “Solar Opposites” would feel fresh. To its credit, “Solar Opposites” progresses immensely in the second half of the season. Yet the visual and tonal similarities make it difficult to evaluate Roiland’s newest show on its own merits.
Something that will hurt “Solar Opposites” will be extreme violence on screen. The blood and guts far exceed even the goriest animated shows on today. Over the first handful of episodes, the bloodlust expands from our core characters to side-narratives that build over the season. The recurring violence makes it difficult to dismiss it as a one-off event.
There’s a bizarre, “Escape From New York” subplot that expands in scope over the season. The sequences feature an all-star voice cast, including Alfred Molina, Christina Hendricks, Nat Faxon, and Rainn Wilson. While the core “Solar Opposites” characters directly create the setting, it feels like a completely different series. While “The Wall” will elicit emotion, you may wish to spend the alien family instead.
For a new animated series, “Solar Opposites” certainly provides ample reason to be excited. For stretches of the show, you will become enraptured. Yet due to a misallocation of narrative resources, some will find it offputting. While Roiland and his team’s creativity shines through, there’s room for growth. With a second season already ordered and the considerable improvement in the back half of the season, “Solar Opposites” has a bright future.