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Solos - Season One - Review

16 Jun 2021

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While the show doesn’t come without its hurdles, all in all, Solos is an inspiring, thought-provoking show with a cast list that brings in all kinds of fans. 

Each episode presents a different “what would you do?” kind of premise, and a single actor (save for the finale and AI) depicting a scenario to go along with said question. 

Whether or not we come away from the episode learning a lesson, there’s no doubt it will initiate deep conversations and thoughts surrounding your life. 

What if you died and it was your fault? What do you do with the time you have left? Do you have time left? Solos makes us ask ourselves all of these questions and more. It shows us that not every action, life, or story, plays out in black and white. 

I. Leah (Anne Hathaway) 
If you travel to the future, can you escape your past? 

In a bold introductory episode, three Anne Hathaways show us the limits a daughter will go to in order to save her mom and herself. 

This episode shows us Leah, a wildly determined scientist trying to successfully time travel to the future. Claiming that she just wants a cure for her mom’s ALS, it’s later revealed that Leah simply wants to rest. The doctors gave her mom five years, and if she can just get there… she’ll be free. 

At least, that’s what she thinks. 2039 Leah tries to tell her that this won’t fix things, but present Leah doesn’t listen. 

This episode – the whole series, but this episode in particular – leans fully into the idea of letting your emotions control your past, present, and future. 

Leah knows that telling her past self the calculations she discovered to successfully time travel will cause ultimate unpredictability, but she does so anyway. It’s admirable, selfish, and selfless, all at the same time. 

Future Leah (pronounced like Princess Leia, by the way) warns her that if someone is meant to die and they don’t, it could be catastrophic. And maybe it will be. Maybe Leah herself dies. Maybe her mom dies the very next day or eventually for another reason. But watching something spurred by pure emotions, not logic, taken to the very end, is something you rarely see. 

The script leans towards being a bit hollow – with repeated phrases constantly reminding us that we’re supposed to be in the future – but regardless, the message stands tall: what would you do for your loved ones? 

II. Tom (Anthony Mackie) 
Imagine meeting yourself. Who do you see? 

In Tom’s episode, Anthony Mackie delivers an award-worthy performance as he walks his clone (!) through each stage of grief in under 30 minutes. 

This episode is fantastic. It’s a bottle episode within a bottle episode. The directing is precise, Mackie knocks it out of the park, and the writing invokes deeply personal questions. 

In the second episode, where we’re still reeling from Leah and her mother, Mackie’s Tom takes us on a journey through his five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Denial comes in the form of Tom not believing his clone is actually his clone. He says they look different, talk differently, and act differently. Then his anger: he did the work and paid $30K for this clone only for it to not look like him at all? His kids will never believe that. His wife will never be comfortable with that. 

Bargaining is when he tries to send the clone back and get another one. When he realizes the clone is the only one with the security code, as Tom forgot, he realizes that yes, he really does want this clone for him and his family, it’s what’s best for them. 

Depression makes itself known as he’s telling us about his life; you can see clear as day how much he’s going to miss his family. He even says that despite how ridiculous it sounds, he’s going to miss his wife’s farts. 

Then, finally, nearing the end, Tom’s clone tells him that there are only a few more minutes left until the clone has to go and not return until Tom is dead. This is when we see Tom finally accept that he has to go, but despite that, someone will be there to love his family. 

It’s an extremely heartfelt episode that makes you think of your own mortality and the people in your life who will be affected by it. 

Here’s my one problem: to buy a clone of yourself to be you, your children’s father, your wife’s husband, it’s only $30,000? That’s not a small amount, but for a clone? If I had created the technology, I’d probably be charging way more. 

But maybe it’s a testament to whoever created it. Maybe this is their intended purpose, so they wanted it to be somewhat affordable. Maybe it was Leah, whose mom became someone else and she didn’t want that for other people. 

III. Peg (Helen Mirren) 
How far would you travel to find yourself again? 

While not one of my favorite episodes, Peg’s episode really hit me hard. Peg, like Sasha (see Episode IV), is speaking simply to an AI interface that’s part of the spaceship she’s on (Dan Stevens, see Episode VII). 

She’s traveling alone, but she speaks to the AI like an old friend. Every sentence is a sort of cliffhanger, we’re eating up her words, and asking more, more, more, without really asking it. 

Peg speaks of missed opportunity, missed love...regrets. I don’t know a single person who can’t relate to at least one of those. Peg speaks for all of us – she voices opinions we have but won’t say and feelings we feel but are afraid of. 

Peg is convinced she’s the only one dealing with this when half the world misses, forgets, regrets, wishes they had more, less, etc. just as much as the next person. 

Peg tells herself – and her AI – that she’s unimportant, but if anything, of all six stories shown, Peg’s is the most important. She’s at the end of her journey – quite literally – in a spaceship with no destination, and she’s realizing she wants to go back, but she can’t. 

Peg is not a real person, except at the same time, she is. I’m Peg. My best friend is Peg. My mother is Peg. 

She is fictional and yet wrapped tightly around all of us, telling us to be bigger, be louder, love until it hurts. Helen Mirren delivers a spectacularly resounding performance of Peg that I will remember for years to come. 
IV. Sasha (Uzo Aduba)
Is the threat outside greater than the one within? 

Where most of the people in the other episodes are willingly by themselves, Sasha takes it to the extreme. An airborne disease ravaged the Earth and killed millions, so Sasha moved into her own personal home. 

Her pleading AI (Jack Quaid) isn’t enough to get her out of her pod before she’s stuck, and that’s when this episode becomes one of my favorites. 

Eventually, because she’s been in her pod for over 20 years, she starts forgetting things. Not integral things like shouting to her best friend the day they went into lockdown, but mundane things. When the last time was that she spoke to said friend, what day it is, what story is real and what story is fake? 

It’s heartbreaking to watch someone lose who they are because of seclusion – chosen seclusion, at that. 

The ominous feeling you get once you realize what’s happening is like watching a horror movie for the first time: slow, slow, slow, then all at once it comes together. 

What helps this the most is the music and Uzo Aduba herself. The way the whole house is shaking, it’s a dire moment – is she about to die? – and yet, Sasha constantly has your attention. Not just because she’s the only one in the scene, of course, but because Uzo as Sasha is so centered, you couldn’t look away if you tried. 

There’s a clear parallel between the airborne disease in Sasha’s life and COVID-19 in ours. COVID forced us to quarantine in our homes for months on end, for some it’s still ongoing, and with that came panic and terror. 

When isolation started, we saw a jump in gun sales, so-called “doomsday preppers” were becoming more prevalent, and it began a marriage boom

People were taking drastic measures in the form of protection. Sasha was just protecting herself. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if they hadn’t introduced vaccines so quickly. And even those are still not being fully offered to BIPOC communities. 

Sasha’s fear became so deeply ingrained in her that she chose to not leave her house for twenty years. While it seems dramatic, even crazy to some people, it’s really not. I’ve been fully vaccinated for over a month and I still wear a mask everywhere I go. I probably will for months, maybe years to come. 

Do we feel bad because she’s completely alone now? Does she deserve it? Did she choose her own fate or was this done to her? 

So many questions fly through my mind after seeing this episode, but the emotion I felt most was dread. At the beginning of the episode, we think she’ll either leave, or become infected, but then the complete opposite happens when she’s trapped. She’s simply left alone with her fear, her love, and her hurt. 

But at least there’s a swimming pool. 

V. Jenny (Constance Wu) 
Do you wish you could take back the worst day of your life? 

I have been trying and trying and trying to write about Jenny, and I am finding it so hard. 

Jenny’s episode introduces us to Constance Wu’s Jenny, a woman stuck in a place she doesn’t know, yearning to be a mom. She and her husband have been trying for a while and she thinks this is it. No period. IVF. She’s got this. 

Until she gets her period. 

Then she goes off the deep end — drinking too much and causing a scene that ends with Jenny accidentally hitting and killing the neighbor’s child she used to babysit. In the end, we see that Jenny herself is actually in a coma. Given that she’s not actually dead at the moment, this could insinuate that she’s in purgatory. 

In Jenny’s story, one thing you almost always feel is sympathy. Then, though, she reaches the end and you’re not sure. The man downloading her memory seems to not want to toe this line, jumping right to complete judgment in calling her a kid killer. 

This was interesting because most of the other episodes of Solos allow you to unbiasedly sit with your own thoughts, feelings, reactions. This one allows that for 20 minutes — and in the last few minutes, shows Jenny displaying an act that is truly unforgiving. 

Drunk driving is completely avoidable, and you’d think in the future, services like Lyft and Uber would be even more popular. 

This is what makes this episode stand out. While some episodes give you clues into the story’s surroundings, this tells you what happened, when, where, and even why. They explain to us what she did and leave almost no open-ended questions. 

The irony of Jenny wearing an angel’s costume shouldn’t be lost on viewers. 

VI. Nera (Nicole Beharie) 
 Who decides who belongs in the world? 

Ultimately, Nera’s story leaves me the most confused. The episode sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all of the others. If I were asked what Nera’s story is about, my honest, and only answer would be facing life head-on. 

Tom is facing his own death, while Leah is facing the death of a loved one, so if Nera brought in the question of facing life, it would make sense. This episode didn’t resonate with me as much as the others, and as a result, it’s my least favorite. 

With Nera, the question being who decides who lives and who dies, we must factor in a child born almost completely alone, and having exponential growth within the first day. 

Nera’s episode allows us to think about her having a son and loving him despite him not being “perfect.” It sparks the conversation about parents who expect their children to have zero flaws in their eyes. While any disability isn’t a flaw, some parents see it that way, but Nera loves her son wholly — despite the radical differences he has. 

Out of all seven episodes, this fell extremely flat for me. Had it been more than 23 minutes, it would have been better. 

VII. Stuart & Otto (Morgan Freeman & Dan Stevens) 
Who are you if you can’t remember who you are? 

While the writers made sure to connect some episodes with a comment here or there, it loses its balance in the finale. You have two phenomenal award-winning actors and a wobbly script. 

The idea that Otto imports the stories we’ve seen into Stuart makes sense to him for his plan – get Stuart to talk about the memories Stuart stole from Otto – but is that not, in itself, a way of stealing memories? 

It’s clear that some episodes take place in the same universe as others, maybe it’s all one, and I would’ve liked seeing that expanded on instead of one man getting all (Some? It’s unclear.) of their memories. It was a bold ending that unfortunately, didn’t pay off very well. 

Had we gotten more direct references, more direct correlations, and conversations that showed us how each person connected in the end, instead of the extremely broken way they were all connected, it would’ve made the series a lot better to leave. However, this ending that’s supposed to link everything together kind of disjoints it even more. 

The people in Solos are consistently facing death and life. Teaching your clone who you will bring you one step closer to death. You can bring life into the world and have it vanish within 24 hours. 

The show is a steady stream of life lessons — and death lessons. Some are simple, like, have no regrets and don’t drink and drive, while others are harder to decipher because they hit too close to home: it’s okay to trust other people, you can’t give up your life for someone else. 

Overall, given the lineup of award-winning actors, Solos had to be at least kind of good. But as each actor put their whole hearts into the roles they played, everything that wasn’t them seemed to falter. 

Otto berates Stuart for stealing his and others’ memories, but by injecting Stuart with those of Leah, Tom, etc. is he not also weaponizing memories? 

That may be the ultimate message of Solos. There is no hero, and there is no villain. There is only us: you, me, and the people we love.