Solos, Amazon Prime’s newest sci-fi anthology collection, payments itself as a present that ponders what it means to be human in an more and more atomised, technologically superior world. From this vaguest of premises, it tells the tales of eight individuals throughout seven episodes, every set a while within the close to future.
It additionally boasts one of the distinguished casts ever assembled for tv, together with Oscar-winners Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and Anne Hathaway. Aside from the ultimate instalment, the actors are largely remoted and successfully carry out a half-hour monologue. Two issues swiftly turn into obvious: that these are a number of the most interesting performers working right this moment, and that the fabric doesn’t fairly match their abilities.
The numerous worlds of Solos are underpinned by futuristic applied sciences, from extraordinary fertility therapies to reminiscence transplants and time journey. Every episode begins with a query from Freeman in voice over, saying a central theme. These are invariably the kind of factor you possibly can slot into the trailer for a forgettable, mid 90s blockbuster: when you journey to the long run, are you able to escape your previous? Is the menace exterior higher than the one inside? How far would you go to search out your self once more?
If these queries are supposed to impress some soul looking out within the viewer, they don’t obtain it (although for the file, my very own solutions are not any, no and anyplace however Surrey). Most of the time, the episodes that comply with them boil right down to parables with easy classes like “cherish your loved ones” or “make your voice heard”.
Regardless of this, the forged is ready to conjure some engrossing performances, and a few tales present extra promise. Watching Peg (Mirren) reminisce concerning the one which bought away on a journey by means of outer area, for example, and Jenny (Constance Wu) give a tearful account of the worst day of her life is often heart-breaking.
The spotlight of the collection is Sasha’s (Uzo Aduba) story: 20 years after coming into an idyllic “keep dwelling” throughout a lethal pandemic, she doesn’t belief her digital assistant’s assurances that the surface world is now secure. The numerous allusions to covid-19 are a blended bag – generally they really feel poignant, however at different instances they appear like an affordable, cynical technique to mine emotion from the viewers.
There’s fortunately levity amongst all this anguish, however too typically Solos falls again on popular culture in-jokes which might be certain to age like milk; a chronic dialogue of the Sport of Thrones finale in Hathaway’s episode is a specific low level. It additionally shows a peculiar must name-drop right this moment’s applied sciences, as if trying to attract a transparent line between its universe and our personal. We don’t even make it out of the primary episode earlier than Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is talked about, and buyers ought to take notice that whereas Zoom persists for a few years into the long run, TikTok will seemingly fall by the wayside.
Amid this jumble of latest references, it isn’t clear what level Solos desires to make about expertise, if something in any respect. Black Mirror, one other tech-focused anthology present, has been criticised for the vagueness of its themes prior to now (author Danny Lavery memorably described it as “what if telephones however an excessive amount of?”), however a minimum of it has all the time had compelling visuals and a darkly comedian tone to fall again on. Solos has neither of those blessings.
Now we have by no means spent extra time watching screens than we now have prior to now 12 months or so. Nor have we ever had so many TV reveals to select from. Solos is a slickly produced, star-studded collection, however past its forged – and an ethereal rating from composer Martin Phipps – it has nothing to supply that hasn’t already been mentioned, and mentioned higher, by another person.
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