This week Hulu’s adult animated sitcom Solar Opposites returned for its fourth season of irreverent alien hijinks, and today I watched through all eleven installments. Below are my thoughts on this new batch of episodes.
When I was a kid, the creator of one of my favorite cartoons, The Ren & Stimpy Show, was ousted from running the series and voicing one of its main characters by Viacom and Nickelodeon, the basic-cable network on which it aired. A similar thing happened about six months ago with the very public firing of Justin Roiland from Adult Swim’s Rick & Morty and Hulu’s Solar Opposites, both of which he co-created. Solar Opposites is the first of those two series to return for a new season without Roiland, who voiced Korvo– one of five aliens living in suburban America as they wait until it’s time to terraform the planet Earth. As a performer, Roiland’s familiar voice has been replaced by the dulcet tones of British actor Dan Stevens (of Legion, Downton Abbey, and Beauty and the Beast fame), and while there are some jokes in the fourth season premiere about him being a particularly jarring substitute, the rest of the episodes coast by with nary a mention of this change. I don’t know if that means most of the season had already been created before Roiland was fired and Stevens was merely brought in to ADR over his lines, but it doesn’t really matter in the end. The big question is whether or not the show is still entertaining without the presence of one of the central masterminds whose comedic and animated sensibilities are still fingerprinted all over Solar Opposites.
And for right now I would say by and large the answer is ‘yes.’ Naturally it took me a few episodes to get used to Stevens’s voice coming out of Korvo’s mouth instead of Roiland’s, but once that difference settled in I was able to appreciate the show on essentially the same level as I did seasons one through three. This go-round opens with the premise that Korvo and his mate Terry (still voiced by Thomas Middleditch) have gotten boring office jobs at a rake company in order to get them through their humdrum lives and make them seem more normal, but soon they become obsessed with the idea of their boss buying a ping-pong table to improve morale for the staff. This is a pretty funny premise, and an unusually grounded way to ease us into the new status quo of the series, though things take a unmistakably Solar Opposites turn by the end of the episode. Other adventures include a return to the tree-based city that was created by alien technology earlier in the season, an extremely meta trip through the stock-photo universe, and another conflict with the Gooblers. The alien ship’s artificial-intelligence A.I.S.H.A. (yes, still Tiffany Haddish) also finally gets her time to shine, and I particularly enjoyed the one-two punch of the penultimate episode, in which Terry and Korvo accidentally turn themselves invisible, and the very funny season finale, in which the entire alien family begin to transform into humans because they’ve spent too much time on Earth.
I would be remiss not to mention the fact that Solar Opposites season four also continues the saga of the ever-growing collective of humans who have been shrunk down and placed inside the terrarium-like bedroom wall of alien replicants Jesse and Yumyulack (Mary Mack and Sean Giambrone, respectively)– with that society now divided into two sections… those that worship Jesse as a god, and those that don’t. There’s also an entire interlude episode about the SilverCops, the galactic law enforcement agency whose adventures seem entirely inspired by toys and action figures from the 1980s like the SilverHawks, Battle Beasts, and Super Naturals– anyone else remember those? But that’s what I mean about Justin Roiland’s 80s-kid sensibilities still being all over Solar Opposites. I absolutely understand the reasons why the Disney-owned Hulu streaming service felt the need to distance themselves from Roiland in the aftermath of his personal issues this past winter, but it's going to be tough to remove his DNA from the show entirely, and Rick & Morty probably even moreso. Regardless, this season remains just as manic, freewheeling, and extraterrestrial chaos-wreaking as the previous three, so as long as the voice change doesn’t bother you too much you should still be able to enjoy it. With the series already having been renewed for a fifth season, I guess we all just have to accept the fact that Korvo is British now… at least Terry seems to be into it.
All four seasons of Solar Opposites are available to stream exclusively via Hulu.