Review: ‘Solar Opposites’ is definitely worth the watch

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“Solar Opposites” won’t have the cultural impact of “Rick and Morty,” nor are its best moments as iconic. However, being an underrated gem may be beneficial for the series.

Hulu’s “Solar Opposites” will undoubtedly be compared to “Rick and Morty” as Justin Roiland’s second adult animated sci-fi sitcom. The two share surface-level similarities, but “Solar Opposites” is more distinct than it first appears.

Following the destruction of an alien planet, its remaining inhabitants scatter the universe in groups of five – two adult leaders, two replicant children cloned from their DNA, and one Pupa capable of terraforming a new homeworld. One such crew lands on Earth, and tomfoolery ensues as they attempt to fit into the American suburbs, guarding the Pupa until it kills them and transforms Earth for their descendants.

As the crew’s leader, Korvo (Justin Roiland) strictly adheres to traditions and complains about Earthling idiocy, but Terry (Thomas Middleditch) is enamored with pop culture and traveling to new locations. Their respective replicants, Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) and Jesse (Mary Mack), share those viewpoints with more extreme consequences; to Jesse’s dismay, Yumyulack uses his shrink ray on irritating humans and keeps them as pets in a miniature society called “The Wall.”

Fans of Roiland’s previous works will likely view “Solar Opposites” as a lesser “Rick and Morty,” given the similar animation style and the common genre of sci-fi sitcoms. While “Rick and Morty” runs sci-fi concepts to their logical extremes and contrasts them with the protagonists’ broken family, “Solar Opposites” rarely explores concepts with the same depth. Its stories are equally twisted, yet the show is content with standard episodic storytelling.

The comparison is valid, especially during season one, when the series is uncertain of its identity. However, even if the art style remains similar, “Solar Opposites” distinguishes itself tonally after enough episodes. This is a common trend among adult animated sitcoms, which often have recurring creators. Perhaps the best way to frame this is that “Solar Opposites” is to “Rick and Morty” what “American Dad” is to “Family Guy.”

When “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane made “American Dad,” comparisons were drawn between their writing. These shows are distinct nowadays, with “American Dad” focusing on character-driven comedy without the iconic, but overused cutaway gags from “Family Guy.” Likewise, “Solar Opposites” finds its voice by season two; while the cerebral elements of “Rick and Morty” are inseparable from its family conflicts, “Solar Opposites” is a straightforward sitcom with a sci-fi backdrop.

Since “Solar Opposites” lacks the deeper moments of its sibling show, it ends up being more lighthearted and whimsical. There’s rarely a dull moment, with situations escalating to an increasingly comedic extent every scene. The cast is enjoyable and gives enthusiastic performances that elevate the writing, and there are a number of recurring gags that never cease to entertain. That said, while the show is consistently amusing, it’s not flawless.

One inconsistent element is how much power the aliens have over humans. In some episodes, Korvo has the technology to rewrite time and fly across continents, or Yumyulack can shrink anyone he has a problem with. However, one unsatisfying episode, “The Apple Pencil Pro,” features the family being framed for a crime they didn’t commit, and they’re incapable of stopping their arrest or proving themselves innocent.

While the comedic tone is distinct from “Rick and Morty,” this element feels like a more inconsistent version of how Rick is portrayed. Rick’s central conflict is that, despite having godlike knowledge and power over the multiverse, his genius intellect and nihilism can’t solve his depression or make his family genuinely love him. If “Solar Opposites” wants conflict based around control, it needs a consistent expectation of character dynamics.

References are much weaker than in “Rick and Morty,” a show that parodies sci-fi franchises only when it serves to explore those stories’ concepts philosophically and comedically. Since Terry loves pop culture, he frequently name-drops brands with no real punchline other than name recognition. Occasionally, the references are funny, but most of them are about as meaningless and out of place as the thousands of cameos in “Ready Player One.”

“Solar Opposites” has repetitive elements, but these can mostly be attributed to earlier episodes in which the show hadn’t found its identity yet. Season two is stronger overall with a faster pace, snappier comedy, and more outlandish scenarios. Even the weaker episodes throughout both seasons are still mildly entertaining, so although “Rick and Morty” ends up reaching greater highs, “Solar Opposites” never reaches its predecessor’s horrific low points.

Additionally, the show has an engaging subplot in the form of the Wall. Yumyulack’s shrunken humans form a hierarchy that leads to unrest, betrayal and revolution, all while Yumyulack, Jesse and Pupa observe. If “Rick and Morty” is a show that combines its sitcom scenarios and serious concepts, “Solar Opposites” separates them into what are essentially two different shows, and somehow, both of them work well together.

The Wall subplot takes itself seriously to a melodramatic degree, which makes for a hilarious contrast with the aliens’ shenanigans. Scenes in the Wall are juxtaposed by cutting back to the Solars, showing just how little impact the humans have. Both seasons’ penultimate episodes act as a separate season finale for the Wall, but are comically given regular episode titles and descriptions focusing on Terry and Korvo’s offscreen hijinx.

“Solar Opposites” won’t have the cultural impact of “Rick and Morty,” nor are its best moments as iconic. However, being an underrated gem may be beneficial for the series in the long run. Without elements that popularized “Rick and Morty,” it won’t attract the rabid fanbase that permanently damaged that show’s trajectory, and therefore won’t bend to the standards of Redditors who think “Pickle Rick” is humanity’s magnum opus.

It’s not the best adult animated sitcom out there, but “Solar Opposites” is definitely worth a watch. Despite its weaker elements and inconsistencies, the show is finding its own voice instead of living under the shadow of Roiland’s other work, and there’s enough to enjoy its own merit.

“Solar Opposites” seasons one and two are available to stream on Hulu. The show is rated TV-MA and is intended for mature audiences.

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Sean Mullins
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