Solar Opposites debuted on Hulu last May when the coronavirus pandemic had forced millions to quarantine to stay safe. Who could have predicted that what would happen in the real world over the next year would be more insane than the wild sci-fi antics of four aliens who are waiting to terraform the planet and claim it for themselves?
Thankfully, the second season of Solar Opposites is arriving this weekend, and it brings back all the deranged hilarity that we loved the first time around, but it also takes things to a new level with even more gnarly monsters, extremely specific sci-fi gadgets, the next phase of the Pupa’s evolution, and an entirely new genre of storytelling inside The Wall.
Solar Opposites is more meta than ever in the second season, kicking things off with an attempt to re-pilot the series and the Schlorpian ship that has left them stranded on Earth, effectively putting them back in the exact place they found themselves a year ago. But this time, Korvo (Justin Roiland), Terry (Thomas Middleditch), Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone), and Jesse (Mary Mack) aren’t quite so stuck at home. There are plenty of wild adventures outside of their suburban neighborhood that prompt each of the characters to say “Looks like the Solar Opposites are [going somewhere or doing something wacky].” It’s a repeating gag throughout the season, and it’s one of a handful of recurring bits that come close to overstaying their welcome. But that’s not to say this season is any less funny than the first.
The second season of Solar Opposites is undoubtedly more of the same twisted sci-fi comedy that we got the first time around. However, the lighthearted sitcom side of the series has taken a bit more of a dark, cynical turn. The sitcom formula still lingers, with stories ranging from Korvo being annoyed about not being invited to dinner parties to the replicants being sent off to summer camp, and they always have that warped comedic approach that co-creators Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan delivered so well the first time around. Korvo ends up figuring out a way to make dinner parties illegal and is appointed as the head of a small police squad to enforce the new law, and summer camp turns into an epic saga of a failed American dream for the four aliens as they each get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a forest metropolis that they sprout in the wilderness with one of their sci-fi doohickeys. The scope also expands with trips to London to meet another group of Schlorpian refugees, two stints in prison, and a certain time travel device inspired by The Lake House, the movie starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.
However, as the second season goes on, the Solar Opposites characters feel like they’ve become more bitter, hateful and generally mean-spirited. It doesn’t make the series any less funny or satisfying, but it does lose just a bit of its charm. While the first season featured plenty of destruction and mayhem that resulted in many deaths, it all felt a little innocent because these aliens were just being reckless and still figuring out life on Earth. But here, it feels like the aliens really have it out for humans in some of the episodes, including the dinner party episode where Yumyulack releases monstrous dogs who eat humans and shit them out as bottled wine.
That’s not to say there aren’t still moments of cute levity between the horrifying deaths of humans brought about by the careless sci-fi hijinks of this makeshift alien family. Terry and Korvo get several sweet scenes where they embrace as quasi-parents, the Pupa has started to talk (voiced by young Sagan McMahan), and there’s even a moment where the opening sequence of Pixar’s Up gets recreated in Solar Opposites fashion. The only problem is that the sitcom lessons that the family often learned in the first season start to become a little repetitive, and the aliens could use a little more of a serialized arc to keep things a little more engaging. The mishap-of-the-week formula allows for maximum comedy, but it could use a little more direction, something that Rick and Morty does well.
Those who enjoyed the endless pop culture references the first time around certainly won’t be disappointed with the second season either. On top of the increased mention of Hulu in a variety of ways throughout the season, there are very funny gags involving The Shawshank Redemption, The Hangover, Eyes Wide Shut, RoboCop, and, believe it or not, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. Terry’s t-shirts are still dorky as hell, and he can’t help but continue to be obsessed with movies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles popsicles with the gumball eyes. Plus, I can’t help but feel personally attacked with the mentions of weird flavored snacks such as M&M’s with olives in the middle and Buffalo Snickers.
But where Solar Opposites again shines the brightest is inside the miniature post-apocalyptic society known as The Wall. The setting introduced in the first season unfurled a growing, epic story within Solar Opposites that focused on humans shrunk down by Yumyulack and placed into a wall-sized hamster enclosure. The humans created their own civilization full of revolution, corruption, and betrayal, culminating in an episode that takes place entirely within The Wall. That story continues throughout the second season, and Roiland and McMahan waste no time digging into the concurrent storyline. Without spoiling anything, The Wall is dealing with a conspiracy murder story that feels akin to something like The Wire, with Sterling K. Brown as the central character uncovering a sinister secret within. The dangling threads from the first season are tugged in another episode that takes place entirely within The Wall, and it sets up even more to come in season three.
Overall, Solar Opposites season 2 is a fantastic sophomore effort for the animated series. Though it loses just a tad of the charm that made the first season so good, it makes up for it by getting bigger, crazier, and even more confident. There’s still room for improvement, especially when it comes to the progression of Terry, Korvo, Yumyulack and Mary as characters, but the comedy is strong enough that it doesn’t keep the show from being entertaining or fulfilling. It’s clear that Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan know where they’re taking The Wall story within the series, but I think they need to carve out a path for the aliens to evolve as a family unit outside of the evolution of the Pupa. If not, at least there’s plenty of fun to be had, including what seems like a genuine promise of a holiday special of some kind when all is said and done. You’ll see what I mean when you get around to the end of the second season of Solar Opposites, which is undoubtedly worth your time.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10
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