This SOLAR OPPOSITES review contains spoilers.
Solar Opposites Episode 5
Something that’s always nice is when separate sitcom plots are still tied together thematically. “The Lavatic Reactor” is one such episode, centered around education, as Terry and Korvo enroll in a junior college and Jesse and Yumyulack attend what they believe to be summer school. There’s a third, smaller plot about Tim and the other shrunken humans trapped in Yumyulack’s wall and their attempt to steal food from the Duke, the self-appointed leader of said wall, but this plot is not about education, which makes it lame.
No, that’s not really why the wall subplot is weak, though I suppose it’s part of the problem in that it’s a bit slight and seems to have been inserted into the episode mostly to remind us the Mad Max wall stuff is still ongoing. Unlike the first big exploration of the wall in the third episode, this look inside doesn’t add much in the way of interesting character moments or development of the dystopic wall society. It’s also not where the best jokes are. There’s a decent gag about Elliott Gould, but the longest joke sequence concerns a guy’s dick getting blown off in an explosion. Some of it is funny, but it drags. Essentially, this storyline serves to push along the rivalry of Tim vs. the Duke some.
It’s not that the stuff going on in the wall is bad; it’s just that the aliens are a lot more entertaining in this episode. Terry and Korvo’s junior college adventure is teed up by Terry as though it’s going to be like Van Wilder, PCU, or one of the other crazy college party movies he name-drops (the pop culture referencing in this one is off the charts). However, as is so often the case with Solar Opposites, it deviates drastically from the formula and instead goes all crazy sci-fi and a whole lot of people die.
Still, some of the college stuff that’s in there is hilarious. The way Terry discovers the people in his class aren’t into partying because they’re elderly students who just want to go home afterwards is a funny, realistic representation of adult schooling. And the fact that the class is called “Theoretical TV/VCR Repair 101” is an ingenious reference to old-ass ads from the nineties for a learn-from-home “school” that offered, among other vocations, the ability to study TV/VCR repair. I love the sad professor who doesn’t know how to repair DVD players but wishes he did. The other standout feature of this storyline is Korvo turning dumb after Terry zaps him a lot with a dumb ray. It’s fun hearing Justin Roiland’s serious alien voice excitedly talking about ordering everything off the McDonald’s menu and watching all the Resident Evil movies.
However, easily my favorite plot in “The Lavatic Reactor” is Jesse and Yumyulack’s. It’s such a weird and funny idea that they have no idea what summer break is so they continue to occupy the empty school, assuming it’s a psychological test (a la the Academy-Award winning film, Suicide Squad). The first day where they dutifully attend their classes and go to lunch despite everything being empty is such a comically eerie sequence. And it gets better from there as the replicants then start playing teacher to each other, Yumyulack modeling his teaching style on Dead Poets Society while Jesse takes the Dangerous Minds approach, teaching Shakespeare and science by way of rap. How many current shows have a reference to Sisqó in them? Not many, I’ll bet, and Solar Opposites deserves an Emmy simply for that.
Though I love Rob Schrab’s voice, I’m a little less into the ongoing jokes about his principal character and a teacher (voiced by Kari Wahlgren) having sex on school grounds. I find most of it to be boring gross-out humor. But otherwise I like the replicants’ plot the best.
“The Lavatic Reactor” is a good episode, though a little less consistently funny than some others, mostly because of the wall storyline being a little weak. But the aliens’ plots are very strong and everyone gets a satisfying arc where, in this education-centric episode, almost nobody learns anything, except Terry, whose arc is blatantly mentioned often enough you’re tricked into thinking he’s not going to have any character growth, so it’s a nice surprise when he actually does. I also need to give special mention to the joke in which Terry accidentally zaps a book of Molecular Biology with the dumb ray and it transforms into a Bible because it made me laugh harder than anything in Solar Opposites thus far.