This is a spoiler free review.
“All right guys, time to save the world again.”
“Fish out of Water” is a popular storytelling trope where a character gets pushed outside of their comfort zone and Future Man’s first season certainly subscribes to that device. Future Man Season 2 is more like a “Fish out of Vodka” story where the characters are in a new substance that lookslike water, and they can swim in it, but it’s fundamentally notwater.
Future Man Season 2 dabbles with alternate timelines that are both familiar and substantially different than the norm. Additionally, science fiction is experiencing a bit of a Renaissance at the moment, but while so many TV shows and films are eager to show the advancements of the future, Future Man paints its future as a regressive place that’s nearly prehistoric in many regards. It’s these unique subversions that help make Future Man Season 2 even more of an accomplishment than the first and help solidify this show’s status as classic, fearless piece of sci-fi comedy.
After the events of the first season, Future Man Season 2 begins with the characters returning to their future and hoping to coast on the rewards of their fixed timeline, but things unfortunately seem to be even more broken than before. It looked like Josh, Tiger, and Wolf were successful in their mission to protect the Earth from their powerful herpes cure from getting out, but all they did was alter events so that it’s Stu Camillo (Haley Joel Osment) who creates the cure and takes control of mankind.
Future Man was already a deeply complex comedy in its first season, but this year strives even harder to mix up its formula and push the show’s already unchartered territory to even more unchartered places. Time travel itself is always a very tricky, problematic plot device. This is something that Future Man explored to great degree in its first season, but year two (or rather 2162) goes out of its way to show how complicated time travel and its pesky side effects can be. Alterations in a timeline are one thing, but this season introduces things like clones, sleeper time terrorist organizations, android dopplegangers, and plenty of new obstacles. It’s as if this season sees the damage that can be done to a timeline in Back to the Future and Terminator 2 and is like, “Hold my beer.” This feels like the sequel film rather than simply the continuation of what started in season one.
Another way in which Future Man’ssecond season challenges itself is by removing its secret weapons and forcing itself to build new ones. One of the best things about this show is the chemistry between its cast, so naturally this season splits the core trio up and gives them all their own unique stories and problems as they try to reunite with each other. This is true both in a physical sense, but also on an emotional level, as each character is still reeling from some major breakthroughs that took place at the end of the previous season, such as Tiger’s knowledge that she’s part Biotic.
As painful as it is to lose the ensemble aspect of the show, Future Man becomes better for it. This season takes its time and builds a strong foundation through its first half of episodes that makes the fallout in the season’s tail-end work all the better. It establishes the different factions that exist in this new world as well as who is stuck where. Everyone has their own distinct mission that correlates to the greater goal of “fixing” things, which may not even be possible. This allows a level of catharsis that wasn’t present in the show’s first season since Josh and company almost always worked as a team. This new strategy allows for fresh characters to shine and it makes any interaction between Josh, Tiger, and Wolf resonate even more.
As fulfilling as it is to see Josh and company mature in new ways, these are still very much the same characters and this cast still gives some of the best, most committed performances out there in a comedy series. They’re all even more comfortable in these roles, but they also get to explore new sides (or literally new versions) of their characters to hilarious effect. The season explores some deep questions about the nature of identity and destiny that helps these characters continue to evolve and gain depth.
Wolf’s attempts to come to terms with adopting a “laid back” lifestyle with a family while he still entertains his more aggressive impulses makes for a particularly enjoyable personal journey for the character. It’s entertaining to watch all of these characters try to adjust to each of their respective new normals, but the dichotomy present in Wolf’s new life just never stops bearing fruit. The series tapped into something special when it plopped the character into the 1980s last season and allowed him to acclimate. That magic and the character’s more freewheeling attitude are never far away this year, especially when Wolf comes to terms with his role as a leader in the New Above Ground (NAG).
Tiger faces decidedly different dilemmas as she has to play against a bizarro version of herself for most of the season and it really allows Eliza Coupe to remind everyone of her excellence (this year she also gets a musical fantasy sequence that’s a season highlight). Tiger is also the one that Stu is always playing off of and the character is essentially part of the core cast now. Believe it or not, you may actually grow to give a shit about this weirdo and Future Man carefully plays around with whether Josh and company (and the audience, by extension) should trust and care about Stu and his plan to relocate humanity to Mars.
Josh also gets a chance to truly grow into the hero that Tiger and Wolf convinced him that he was last year. Sure, he had a handful of honorable moments in the show’s first season, but this year he actually seems confident and independent in his quest. It’s only after Josh learns how to get by without Tiger and Wolf that he’s able to get them back on his side. His position in this new world also fundamentally robs him of his humanity and reinvigorates his drive to survive.
Future Man is a show that wants to push itself to work harder rather than get comfortable with any set storyline, as ridiculous as it may be. Accordingly, this season does spend a lot of time setting the table for the new obstacles that face everyone, but even during the show’s most melodramatic moments, it never stops being funny. However, those that are hungry for more world-building and a deeper dive into the universe’s mythology will be especially satisfied. It’s a little ridiculous just how intricate this season’s storyline becomes.
There’s a beautiful sequence this season where the complex nature of time travel becomes so intense that timelines are literally tripping over each other as the concept gets pushed to its limit. Hulu’s decision to drop the entire season at once to take advantage of a binge-friendly approach is definitely the right move here. Future Man’s become an increasingly serialized show and the season culminates with a conclusion that’s genuinely suspenseful and truly goes all out.
The series is still able to find many unique perspectives to make fun of the future and what lies ahead for humanity. This season tells an even more layered story that has an even bigger payoff at the end. Just when you think things have been worked out, matters get messed up in a completely new and unexpected way.This year has a lot of fun as it keeps the audience unsure about what’s actuallyreality. Granted,while this season absolutely constructs more adventurous and intricately plotted episodes, nothing this year rivals the James Cameron-palooza that was “Pandora’s Mailbox” from season one (although there isa glorious extended riff on Homicide: Life on the Streets). The ideas are still absurd and razor sharp, but this year does feel like it’s serious just a little more than it is purely silly. I suppose that’s fair in a growing show that literally has a mounting body count, but the series always works hard to make sure that its unabashedly bonkers energy is never gone.
Future Man Season 2 takes bigger risks, delivers larger laughs, and does incredible work with these characters and their bond. This is a show that is clearly having so much fun and it’s incredibly encouraging to see them rise to the occasion and avoid a lull in their sophomore year. The season ends in a pretty amazing way, which once again totally reinvents the show and hints at a very creative direction for season three. Hopefully the show will get many more years to defy expectations and blow up time itself. In many ways it feels like Future Man is just getting started.
This review is based on all thirteen half-hour episodes of Future Man’s second season.
All thirteen episodes of Future Man’s second season will be available to stream on January 11th, only on Hulu.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.