The vision of humanity threaded throughout “Rick and Morty” is wild, strange and, occasionally, deeply empathetic. Since its 2013 debut, the Adult Swim show has engendered a fiercely devoted fanbase as it spins off to the furthest reaches of time and the galaxy with its odd couple pairing of a belching genius and his dweeby grandson, whose adventures in space often end in existential disaster and/or sudden slashes of terrible violence. It’s neither quite as brilliant as its most devoted acolytes insist nor as base as its frustrated detractors claim, but at the very least, there’s nothing else quite like it.
“Solar Opposites,” from “Rick and Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland and producer Mike McMahan, can’t quite claim the same. For one, it feels remarkably similar to “Rick and Morty,” albeit from the perspective of aliens trying to understand humans rather than humans who keep messing with aliens. And yet, over the course of its first eight episodes, “Solar Opposites” proves to be more about leaning into slapstick abandon than finding anything particularly revelatory to say beyond the fact that humans are pretty weird and annoying (which, well, is fair enough).
The series follows Terry (Thomas Middleditch) and Korvo (Roiland), two aliens who fled to Earth after their own home planet became uninhabitable. Much to their horror, the planet they believed would be devoid of life was instead crawling with billions of human beings, a species that delights Terry and confuses and infuriates the hell out of Korvo. As they find ways to waste their days in the suburbs and use their advanced technology to get legs up on their annoying new neighbors, their de facto children Jesse (Mary Mack) and Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) have to navigate the confusing hellhole that is their local high school. Rounding out the family is a blobby yellow Pupa, which has more to it than meets the eye, but in the meantime, mostly acts like a bilthely murderous Maggie Simpson. Of all of them, the cast’s true standout is Mack, imbuing Jesse with a constantly breaking lilt as she tries to be the family’s closest thing to an optimistic voice of reason.
For the most part, the storylines are generally slight enough to be confined to any single episode, usually ending in gushes of viscerally gory set pieces that quickly lose their shock value. The exception to the rule is an ongoing narrative about all the humans unlucky enough to get caught on the other side of Yumyulack’s shrink ray. After getting zapped for offenses ranging from Nazism to messing up a takeout order, these humans end up in a labyrinth of terrariums in Yumyulack and Jesse’s bedroom wall. As the aliens have obliviously kept going about their lives, their human collateral damage has formed an elaborate new society that depends on whatever’s in the pockets of newly shrunken people and has gotten vicious, quick. (Think “The Borrowers” meets “Mad Max.”) With a villainous head of state called “The Duke” (Alfred Molina) terrorizing a formerly nebbish waiter (Andy Daly) and fearsome Benihana server (Christina Hendricks) who just want to make things better, this plot explicitly sends up just about every apocalyptic movie while having palpable fun making its own rules. It’s extremely silly, and not especially original by virtue of its referential framework, but it’s nonetheless surprisingly interesting and clever in some of the ways the main alien story rarely is.
“Solar Opposites” premieres May 8 on Hulu.