They’re back, and now more self-referential than ever: Solar Opposites, the animated Hulu series from Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty) and Mike McMahan (Star Trek: Lower Decks) drops its second season this week. With it comes an amplified array of surreal, raunchy, and razor-sharp aliens-stranded-on-Earth shenanigans.
Not that Solar Opposites is working with a lot of plot arcs to begin with, but you don’t need to have seen season one to enjoy season two (though you will be depriving yourself of a lot of enjoyment if you skip those first eight episodes). At any rate, anything that carries over from the first season gets explained, like the ongoing spaceship troubles that are keeping Schlorpian refugees Korvo (Roiland), Terry (the suddenly not-so-funny Thomas Middleditch), Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone), Jesse (Mary Mack), and the Pupa (who doesn’t talk much, but when he does, it’s with the voice of McMahan’s young son, Sagan) trapped on a planet overstuffed with gross humans.
The aliens’ backstory — that their home planet was destroyed by an asteroid and they were sent to find a new one to terraform and take over — is incorporated into the show’s opening credits. And any character or bit of plot drama that returns is quickly rehashed for anyone who can’t recall the finer points of a series that premiered almost a year ago, just as the pandemic was starting to dig in its heels. That includes the goings-on in the Wall, the highly developed but also rather Escape From New York-esque society of tiny humans — all victims of Yumyulack’s cavalierly wielded shrink ray — who’ve been deposited into an ant farm-like chamber hidden in his bedroom.
Last season, the Wall provided a poignant parallel plot to the aliens’ often goofy antics, and the same holds true here; rumblings of the recent rebellion are still being felt as a serial killer starts artistically ripping tiny people apart like a wee Hannibal, and a war hero whose normal-sized human existence included a stint writing for Bones (Sterling K. Brown) is tapped to investigate. The seriousness of the Wall story contrasts perfectly with the creative ways the shrunken characters repurpose normal-sized objects to suit their needs — a shard of a ring pop becomes a sword; Magic Shell ice cream topping becomes a cement-like torture device — making these scenes some of the most clever in a show already filled with a wealth of visual gags.
By the way, that Bones dig is not a standalone; inside-baseball Hollywood humour and skewering well-worn tropes are big themes across Solar Opposites this season. The aliens experience an inspirational sports narrative, an episode that winds from “we’re going to summer camp” to “we’re lost in the wilderness” to “we’re makin’ our way in the big city,” a Hangover-style bachelor party, a being-bullied-at-school plot…the list goes on. The sheer number of pop-culture references (The Lake House! Big Dick Energy! Sigourney Weaver! The Devil Wears Prada!) that appear in any single 22-ish minute episode can be breathtaking, but the show also has just as much fun ripping into more mundane stuff, like dinner parties and Apple products.
The meta-snark has been quite amped up this season; the Schlorpians have taken to referring to themselves as “the Solar Opposites” as well as breaking the fourth wall to specifically call out Hulu whenever the opportunity arises, to the point where it feels forced (which is absolutely intentional). We’re also reminded over and over how the characters, especially Korvo, try to control their fates using their “sci-fi stuff” (as the aliens themselves call it) that’s both wondrous and inevitably disaster-prone. Meanwhile, there’s the ticking-clock knowledge that one day, the Pupa — who spends most of the season snacking, watching RoboCop, playing on his phone, and popping up randomly to save the day — will evolve and destroy the tacky-arse planet the Schlorpians have come to love and hate in equal amounts.
With a third season already confirmed, Solar Opposites ends its second batch of episodes with momentum and a couple of cliffhangers. There’s some unexpected character growth (Korvo gets multiple sex scenes!) but mostly everyone stays in their lane — with one of the biggest underlying lessons of the season being that this unconventional family is at their best when they’re a united front…making fun of everyone else.
Solar Opposites season two will air on Disney+/Star in Australia. Stay tuned for a confirmed release date.