Is a roster of extraordinary performers enough to set up a series? In the end that is the question that leaves floating in the air ‘Alone’, A quirky seven-part Amazon Prime Video experiment planned during lockdown and that insistently attacks the issues on which we have reflected so much in the last year or so (not necessarily in terms of science fiction).
This is: isolation, family, loneliness. ‘Solos’ wants to talk about all this and uses science fiction as a plot excuse to trigger emotions very human. Sometimes she does it in terms that bring her closer to ‘Black Mirror’ (the episode of Anthony Mackie encountering an exact replica of himself seems like the narrative reverse of the one in which a woman received a replica of her deceased husband) but overall , ‘Solos’ has its own style.
Solos plays with the premise that all its interpreters – except for the last chapter, where Dan Stevens and Morgan Freeman are found – are going to be alone, and they are going to talk about what has led them to that situation. Sometimes they will speak to the camera, like Constance Wu, sometimes with artificial intelligence, like Helen Mirren or Uzo Aduba. Only in the mentioned last episode or in that of Nicole Beharie – which is both the most narratively conventional and the most cryptic in meaning – there is interaction with others.
And in the same way, sometimes science fiction is a key element, like Anne Hathaway’s time travel or the accelerated growth of Beharie’s son, and other times it is a background rumor, like the final twist to it ‘ Twilight Zone ‘by Constance Wu or the fear of the effects of a pandemic that has already passed from that of Aduba, undoubtedly the chapter that resonates the most today, despite taking place in the distant future. The element of gender is between the cosmetic and the useful, but the truth is that it is never seen as superficial.caught by the hair.
Humanistic science fiction, the last frontier
But here what David Weil has come to talk about is feelings and humanity. A bit what he did in ‘hunters’, which in principle was sold as something so genre, almost grindhouse, as is the story of a team of Nazi hunters today, and it ended up being a drama about people with a lot of trauma to tell. Here the same, and It is what ends up giving the series its personality, but possibly also what makes more than one viewer disconnect.
Because you have to go through a fair amount of plagues, tantrums, tantrums, fits of rage and, in general, interpretive exhibitionism: there is not one “light” episode among the seven. They all speak of loneliness, yes, but of traumatic loneliness, total isolation, terminal illness, memories as the last stronghold of what makes us human. The series is full of existential drama, and uses all the resources of the genre (machines that steal memories, time travel to cure diseases, pandemics that rob us of humanity) to underline it.
The global computation, how could it be otherwise, is irregular: there are no horrendous or magnificent episodes, but they all have a time when a little less intensity would have been appreciated. It is clear that ‘Solos’ is built around the actors, but the series seems to be so proud of it that it continually remembers it, facilitating the moments of brilliance. And it almost always works, because there isn’t a single bad performer, but they don’t always come naturally.
In the end, in ‘Solos’ the details count: the sci-fi elements that make the Beharie episode special and haunting; the sobriety of Helen Mirren’s composition, which gives a lesson to the rest about how in this case, less is more; the very slight interconnections between episodes, which enrich them; the ironic twist at the conclusion of the Wu episode; the humor that Hathaway injects, laughing a little at his own image … in the end, it is estimable that someone does science fiction distancing themselves from the noisier side of the genre. Although the result was not perfect.