Sunday, November 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'Future Man' - Josh Faces the Morality of Killing Someone Who Hasn't Done Anything Wrong in 'A Riphole in Time'

Hulu's Future Man - Episode 1.03 "A Riphole in Time"

Tiger and Wolf decide it's time for Dr. Kronish to die. Josh reluctantly agrees to help - but when he realizes he can't go through with it, he finds himself caught in Tiger and Wolf's sights instead.

There is a sense of inevitability ringing throughout "A Riphole in Time" that keeps the episode from ever really being all that enjoyable or surprising. Yes, there are some genuine beats that are shocking. Twists occur that should create some interesting complications in the future. However, it's inevitable that Tiger and Wolf are going to fail in their mission to kill Dr. Kronish. It's inevitable because it is way too early in the season to kill off the main antagonist who seemingly sets the world on the path towards this dystopia. Plus, the episode gets bogged down in the morality of killing people. Yes, it's an important discussion to have. Tiger and Wolf are able to justify it in saying that they are soldiers. They are traumatized by it. But even that is largely a ruse in order to manipulate Josh into doing what they want. This is a show where the main characters have already killed people. It's barely had any consequences to it whatsoever as well. It did generate a little story with the police officer back in 1969. But that really wasn't central to the action either. It didn't really affect Josh, Tiger or Wolf in a personal way. Certainly not to the extent to get them to question the ethics of killing someone. Josh wants to have moral superiority because he can make an argument for Dr. Kronish not having done anything wrong just yet. He hasn't found the cure for herpes that will lead to the eradication of all diseases. He wants to have this moral quandary - even though Tiger and Wolf are right to point out that they tried things Josh's way in 1969 and they didn't ultimately pan out. So now, they are willing to do things their way with Josh continuing to get in the way of that. All of this is slightly amusing but still building to that inevitable outcome where they fail to make a difference once more.

And so, the trio return to 2017 where everything is seemingly the same. Of course, it isn't. They made some huge changes to history. That was bound to carry some ripple effects. Some of those are easy to determine. The Futturman household now proudly has a gun. They display it on the wall. Sure, Gabe doesn't really know how to fire it. But he remembers the night back in 1969 where three people broke into the house. He doesn't remember Josh's face at all. Instead, it turns out he has become slightly more racist as well. Meanwhile, Josh suddenly remembers that he left his iPhone back in 1969. And so now, Antwan is the creator of that technology. Everything is now called Black Apple. That's a significant change to history. But it has a nice cause-and-effect understanding to it as well. Other differences aren't so simple - especially when it comes to Josh's workplace. Ray the security guard has just vanished. Jeri is now seemingly a secretary instead of a scientist. And most importantly, Dr. Kronish and Dr. Camillo are now partners. It's clear that Camillo is now the one leading the charge in this endeavor even though the company is named after Kronish. That's a change that seems random. But it also tracks with the changes Josh made in the past. Josh showed Kronish up in a dance battle. After that, he was kicked out of his fraternity and went on a sexual walkabout throughout the world. That's how he eventually got herpes. But it also explains why he may no longer be as confident as he once was in his business. So now, Camillo is his partner who is very demanding and eager to make a profit on this cure.

All of these changes have an effect on Josh while doing nothing to impact Tiger or Wolf whatsoever. "A Riphole in Time" does more to explore their shared history as well. It opens with the scene of them leading the resistance into the building to retrieve the time travel device. It's a mission where the audience already knows the outcome. Tiger is still blaming herself for the deaths of her comrades. Wolf was the only other survivor of that mission. And yet, it was important for them to go back in time to find the savior. Seeing the actual events of this story mostly just helps reinforce the dynamic that Tiger and Wolf have with each other. They are from the same time and have the same customs. They re-charge after a failed mission in front of Josh. That means they are having sex with one another not knowing just how personal and intimate an act that is suppose to be. But more importantly, Tiger sees herself as the commanding officer in the field. She's the one always making the calls about what to do in any given situation. Tiger and Josh are stuck waiting outside the Kronish building. Josh doesn't seem to be following through on the plan. So, they have to find their own way to infiltrate the building and find Kronish. They do so by pretending to be members of a focus group. That's a sequence that probably goes on for too long. Yes, it has an amusing payoff with everyone in the group wanting to kill Kronish after Wolf says it so many times. But it also highlights the brutality on display in this mission. They ultimately don't care who they hurt as long as they complete their mission.

As such, all of the baggage of time travel ultimately rests on Josh's shoulders. He's the one who cares about the actions being taken. He's the one reflecting on his own life and the prospect of needing to live an existence pretending that he understands the life he has lived up to this point in the timeline. He's an outsider to this world but he's still treated as someone who has been a part of this life for a long time. It's still comforting to Dr. Kronish when he interacts with Josh. Josh is trying to find an alternative to killing him because Kronish hasn't done anything wrong yet. He's learned the lesson that is outlined in Minority Report. But also he can't just look someone in the eye knowing that they are about to be killed. Instead, he tries warning him that he needs to run away and abandon this research. But Kronish just doesn't take those threats seriously because people are always calling for his death. His research has affected a lot of animals. That's not appreciated throughout the world. It just serves as an explanation for Kronish not doing anything in the face of death. Moreover, the show really hasn't done enough to explain why Kronish needs to die. Keith David is an amusing performer in this show. But Kronish isn't a nuanced character yet whose villainy needs to be punished as soon as possible. It's just a lot of information being thrown at Josh without him actually experiencing it himself.

All of that changes by the conclusion of this episode. Tiger and Wolf go rogue because they no longer believe they need Josh's help. He just serves as confirmation that Kronish is in the top floor of the building instead of the bunker where they usually find their targets. That's a case of Wolf's instincts ultimately being proven right. So, he may be adapting to these times much more quickly than Tiger is. Josh is freaking out because he sees the literal target on Kronish's back. This is an episode that is mostly defined by Josh flailing around trying to stop his new friends from creating chaos in his regular life. Of course, this isn't his regular life. So, he's a little too confused and not exactly sure what he should do. But instead, Tiger and Wolf are unable to complete their mission because they are attacked by biotics. That's a surprising reveal. It proves that the biotics may be traveling through time as well. If Tiger and Wolf could get their hands on a time travel device, then so could the biotics. It could complicate this war in some very interesting ways. But then, there is the twist that the biotics are actually humans. And in this case, they are humans that Josh actually works with. That sets up the expectation that literally anyone could be a biotic. That's a fun new tease to throw into this narrative. It ensures that Josh can never really trust anything that is happening in the world around him. But it's still a little too frustrating to see how slowly he is adapting to all of this. He's going through some standard morality questioning. But it's being elongated in a way to fill an episode without really ensuring that it all has a purpose. He's ultimately right to avoid killing Kronish. But his actions inadvertently get him to release his research to the entire world to streamline the process as well. So, Josh may just be bringing about the end of the world much more quickly.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Riphole in Time" was written by Henry Alonso Myers and directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg.
  • Josh could only hopelessly pine after Jeri in his prior timeline. And now, he's having an actual conversation with her in this new one. It ultimately becomes a discussion about the end of Back to the Future and how that would actually play out in reality versus the happy ending the film depicts. That's interesting while ensuring that Josh is changing as a person because of this mission too.
  • It's amusing that Diane feels the need to thank "Antwan" - the Siri of the Black Apple smart phone of this timeline - for his help. It shows that nothing has really changed with her because of Josh's actions in the past. She is still overly loving and caring. But there's so much more potential for Josh's life to be changed than there is for the rest of the abstract world.
  • It also feels very true that the Futturmans become gun people who don't really know how to use a gun. They are still peaceful and lovely. Now, they just have a gun mounted on the wall with no clue how to use it or if it's even loaded. Of course, that's probably setting up the expectation that it will need to be used at some point this season.
  • The focus group sequence is tedious because it seems inevitable that Tiger and Wolf will grow impatient about Kronish not showing up. It's then weird how chaos reigns in that corner of this building. And yet, no one else seems to know or care about the rampage elsewhere for a long period of time. It's still business as usual with no update as to what happens to those people from the focus group.
  • Dr. Camillo is going to have more significance at some point, right? That seems very likely simply because of the casting of Haley Joel Osment. Of course, it's perfectly fine right now just seeing Camillo and Kronish clashing heads over their difference of opinions. Camillo doesn't seem to have changed at all in this new timeline. He just happens to be more successful.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.