This SOLAR OPPOSITES review contains spoilers.
Solar Opposites Episode 8
All the really serious shit on Solar Opposites happens inside the wall, which got its own dramatic season finale last episode. But the real main characters are a family of stupid aliens being stupid. Terry, Korvo, Jesse, and Yumyulack aren’t characters going through huge developmental arcs. They’re pretty much the same characters they were at the start of the season: petty fools who sort of love each other and are far too eager to resort to busting out their overpowered alien technology at the drop of a hat, leaving death and destruction in their wake. So, what does “Retrace-Your-Step-Alizer” do to differentiate itself as a finale when compared to the sci-fi misadventures we’ve seen thus far?
Unsurprisingly, not a whole lot. In a series where the principal focus is dumb alien jokes, it’s fitting that the season finale is just another goof. Still, this episode does break new Solar Opposites ground by piling increasingly extreme conflicts one atop the other like a soap opera finale and also by introducing time travel into the show’s universe… except not really. “Retrace-Your-Step-Alizer” is actually something of an anti-finale. It aggressively resists going out on a climactic note by revealing in the end that just about everything took place in the characters’ minds. It’s a funny concept to subvert the finale like this; where most shows would pull out all the stops, Solar Opposites does an episode in which the characters technically do almost nothing.
That’s part of why it’s not one of my favorite episodes of the season. They get away with it all by introducing the pretendo-deck early on and by making the whole episode a self-aware one that acknowledges how impossibly over-the-top things are getting, but, still, when you get down to it this is still a “it was all a dream” episode and those almost always feel like a bit of a cop-out, no matter how they’re handled.
Of course, even with the episode’s events getting dismissed as figments of the characters’ imaginations, some truths about who they are still come through, so that everyone gets an emotional journey. Well, sort of. Jesse and Korvo learn they might dislike a lot about each other, but they’re still family and would certainly rather have each other than a douche like Vanbo (Jason Mantzoukas). It’s a little more confusing with Yumyulack because we appear to learn that, despite being a jerk to her, he wants Jesse to like him, but it’s later revealed he’s the only one (well, and the Pupa) who wasn’t in the pretendo-deck, meaning his character’s whole journey was entirely Jesse’s delusion… I guess? This is where it gets a little messy and highlights why I’m no fan of this “all a dream” stuff.
But I’m being a stickler about what is still a pretty funny episode. There have been funnier this season, but I still got some decent laughs out of “Retrace-Your-Step-Alizer.” I love that Korvo’s time-travelling shoes light up while Terry’s don’t, as well as the fact they’re those ridiculous Pump sneakers from the early nineties. “Where’s your donkey, Blue Shrek?” is a very good line. As usual, there’s tons of great pop culture references, including a Darth Maul-esque battle, a Simpsons x Space Jam crossover, and a great joke about David Cronenberg’s goofily-titled eXistenZ. Also, I love all that weird nonsense about turning people into Game Boy cartridges.
It’s also a funny reveal that the only real thing that does happen is the Pupa’s plot in which it infiltrates an old woman’s mind and uses its powers to grant her wish to see her mother’s face one last time in order to get its hands on a battery-operated Harry Potter whistle. This plotline is a treat because, if you’ve been conditioned by Rick and Morty to expect the worst like I have, the Pupa’s story is presented as though it’s going to culminate in some unspeakable tragedy, but instead it ends on a silly, wholesome little gag.
“Retrace-Your-Step-Alizer” is one of season’s weaker episodes because “it was all a dream” plots are always a little lame, but, for a show as willfully stupid as Solar Opposites, it makes sense to do a complete about-face from the melodrama of the previous episode to end on a throwaway wank of one. This series has already been renewed for a second season, and I’d happily watch Terry, Korvo, Jesse, and Yumyulack bumble around and murder a lot of people at least eight more times, so here’s looking forward to that!