Praise the divine and benevolent bow of Jesse!
It's time we talked about the penultimate episode of Solar Opposites' debut season, which is now streaming on Hulu. After six episodes of Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) shrinking people down and trapping them in the terrarium system built into the wall of his and Jesse's (Mary Mack) bedroom, the side plot of a developing mini-society (one that subsists on rations of candy and Polly Pocket clothing) reaches its bizarre — albeit wildly entertaining, epic, and meta — crescendo.
***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Solar Opposites Season 1, Episode 7!***
Sneakily titled "Terry and Korvo Steal A Bear," Episode 7 has nothing to do with ursine exploits, at least not overtly. We see brief snippets of that story play out in the periphery, but the real focus is on the Snowpiercer-esque revolution fomenting in the lower levels of the Wall's caste hierarchy.
The clever little bait and switch brings to mind "The Ricklantis Mixup" episode in Season 3 of Rick and Morty, and that's not entirely surprising. That's because Solar Opposites was conceived by Rick and Morty vets Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan, both of whom spoke with SYFY WIRE ahead of Solar's premiere.
"That was something that we had planned always from the beginning," Roiland tells us. "We had always loved the idea of slowly putting in the Wall stuff and having a story developing in the background of the show. Like a C story in one episode, maybe a B story. And then we always loved the idea that eventually, we build to a full-on complete episode in the Wall."
"For me, [the show is] almost like a combination of Frasier for the comedy side and then The Wire for the Wall side," McMahan says.
The fact that all of Season 1 premiered at the same time (instead of on a weekly basis, which Hulu usually employs for its original television programming) was a purposeful decision meant to encourage viewers to binge their way up to and be surprised by Episode 7. Serialization, which isn't all that feasible on Rick and Morty, was the name of the game here.
"Even in our pitch, we were like, ‘This has to all drop at once. We need people to be able to watch the whole thing at once, so we get to guide them on this unexpected journey,’" McMahan reveals. "That was a really big important part of it."
"I just love the idea of someone watching an animated show about aliens and suddenly, they’re watching a completely different show about a society that’s almost kind of post-apocalyptic," Roiland says. "Having to restructure humanity and figure out what [it's gonna be]. Is it gonna be totalitarian? Is it gonna be a democracy? What are we gonna use for currency? What are our rules? Who enforces those rules? That’s all the sh** that Yumyulack wanted to see when he was putting people in the Wall."
Inspired by famous genre classics such as Game of Thrones, Mad Max, Escape from New York, and a smattering of more obscure stuff like Vincenzo Natali's Cube and Hugh Howey's Silo book series, the "Wall War Episode" — McMahan's loving term for it — finds Tim (Harley Quinn's Andy Daly) and Cherie (Mad Men's Christina Hendricks) leading a rebellion against the Wall's demagogic leader, the Duke, voiced by Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark).
The cliches are familiar: the reluctant "Chosen One" who will lead the common folk to freedom, the tragic death of a mentor figure, the shocking betrayal of a loved one, a humble worker joining a cause bigger than himself, etc. Episode 7 takes these platitudes and distills them down to their core essences so that the subplot of a mouse milk farmer (The Office's Rainn Wilson) losing his beloved rodent companion becomes a perplexingly genius mixture of the strange and the emotional.
"It’s your Walking Dead kind of scenario or any one of those kind of things where it’s humans in a very weird unnatural scenario en masse, and there’s no more governing body," Roiland explains. "There’s no more rules, regulations, or anything. They have to fend for themselves and figure out, as a big population, what is the new normal?
"And I just think it’s so funny that we do that in the body of this goofy alien show," he continues. "It’s like a Trojan Horse... I’m really excited to hear what people think. I would be totally shocked and blown away by it [as an audience member]... We were so excited about doing that and the cast is incredible that we got. It’s so funny, but we got an actual orchestra to score it and it’s super heavy-handed and dramatic. I f***in' love it, I’m really proud of it."
"The thing that got me excited was getting to tell and write a genre story in a context with comedic characters and then getting into this kind of hot and cold, like, ‘Oh, we’re in a comedy story for half the episode and now we’re in a genre story for the other half.’ And building a world as if it’s its own show in a show," McMahan says. "That’s easily my favorite thing about [Solar]. I love writing this, but then, I’ve never gotten to do anything serialized or even partially dramatic before... As we were writing each episode, we had vague designs, but then as we were getting into it and as we were building the world, it was becoming more and more rich."
So, what happens next?
Well, the Duke is still alive in the outside world and could shatter Tim's fragile new regime if he were to ever return. Because Solar Opposites was initially picked up by Hulu with a two-season commitment, the show has the freedom to continue telling more stories from the Wall. And that's exactly what the creators intend to do.
"It’s just a totally different show within a show and there’s a lot of really awesome, fun ideas that are happening in the Wall for Season 2," Roiland teases. "It’s interesting because we’ve talked a little bit about what do we do after Season 2 if the show goes a bunch more seasons. And we’ve got all these crazy ideas. It’s Schrodinger’s Cat and we haven’t really 100 percent opened that box all the way, but we’ve talked about a few things that are really insane. I don’t wanna say anything because it’s just so far down the road. But the Wall is definitely a part of it."
McMahan adds that the Wall won't be the only thing to carry over into next season.
"We’ve taken everything we love from [the] first season and we’ve pushed it. The stories with the family, with the aliens, are even funnier and even crazier," he says. "And, by the way, there’s serialized stuff from [the] first season because the Nanobot Man [voiced by Alan Tudyk] is out there, the Red Goobler [voiced by Roiland] is out there. We aren’t just leaving those hanging, we are seeing where those characters are again."
That said, he's most excited about diving back into the Wall's pint-sized civilization, whose hard-earned freedom is currently built on a lie.
"I’m not gonna tell you specifically, so it’s a surprise, but we’re treating it like a built world," McMahan says. "With the Wall, our big priority was [that] every season we’re following these characters serialized in the Wall as dramatically [as possible] with a bit of a comedy tinge to it, but really trying to treat the story for them like it’s serious for them."
He continues: "The type of story [in the] first season that we told about the Wall was about the haves and the have nots and rising up and making the world a better place; and betrayals; and this kind of War of the Roses. Second season, [we have] the same Wall, same characters, same timeline. It’s gonna keep moving forward, but a different type of dramatic storytelling. You’ll have to tune in next season to see [that] if we did War of the Roses first season, where do we go next season?"
"It might be even better than first season," he concludes. "It’s crazy."
"Terry and Korvo Steal A Bear" was written by Dominic Dierkes (The Mick, Workaholics) and directed by Andy Thom (Ultimate Spider-Man, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!).
Jeannie Elias (Green Eggs and Ham), Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain), Phil Lamarr (Samurai Jack), Miguel Sandoval (Sharp Objects), and Rob Schrab (Creepshow) co-star.