Thursday, November 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Future Man' - Josh, Tiger and Wolf Travel to the Future for the Most Ridiculous Mission Yet in 'Pandora's Mailbox'

Hulu's Future Man - Episode 1.07 "Pandora's Mailbox"

Josh, Tiger and Wolf jump into the future to steal the fuel they desperately need to continue their mission. But when they arrive at their destination, they are confronted by an unexpected enemy.

The joke that filmmaker James Cameron was the one who discovered the substance that could be used as fuel for the time travel device was just great. It seems so completely random while in line with the oddball sense of humor and storytelling that Future Man is going for. And now, the show extends that bit for an entire episode that is a sendup of James Cameron and the films that he makes. It's very specific in its references while also being very imaginative with a not-so-distant future. Josh, Tiger and Wolf make their final jump to 2023 in order to retrieve more fuel so that they can go back in time to kill baby Kronish and stop all of this from happening. Again, it's a complete ridiculous plot. And yet, there is just so much more personal resonance and emotional depth to this episode. It's especially funny with its over-the-top references of this very particular world. As such, it's the most successful episode of the series to date because it's not afraid to just go to the extreme with this setup. The premise works because of how committed the creative team and the actors are to it. But it also works because this adventure in the J-C-C (James Cameron Compound) forces the main trio to also reflect on their own personal motivations and stories as they are looking to the end of this mission and what their lives could possibly be afterwards. It's a time for them to remain committed even though they are surprisingly forming relationships with people they never thought they would previously.

Of course, Josh is still reeling from all of the details Jeri shared about the Biotic Wars of the future and the kind of tactics that the resistance has implemented. Plus, he's traumatized by the woman he had a crush on exploding right in his face. Sure, he and his friends did a solid job with the cleanup - though not a perfect one based on what the biotics eventually find in his room. But it's enough for him to continue to doubt the side he is fighting on in this war. He gives the information to Tiger and Wolf right away. They make the jump to 2023. They know exactly where James Cameron's house is going to be. They can get into it through the time travel device. They are fortunate that way. But Josh is still trying to understand the resistance and why he should fight for them. He's heard the story about why they need to fight so many times as the prologue to the game. But the true horrors of this war are so much more profound than that. Tiger needs to actually understand that this is more difficult for Josh because he didn't grow up in the same circumstances as she and Wolf did. Just like they are struggling with how they feel about the lives they could live outside of this war. But Tiger does just enough in explaining how the government chose to stop fighting the resistance in favor of sterilizing them. It was a bleak moment of oppression and this mission is the only reason they had any hope at all. So now, Josh is the savior. He's been incredibly helpful. But they all recognize the sacrifice he has made for the mission as well.

And yet, the more emotionally resonant story of this episode comes from Wolf finding a kindred spirit in 2023. When the trio land in James Cameron's house, they are immediately greeted by his smart home named SIGORN-E. She immediately buys into their cover of Josh being Tom Arnold's 10-year-old son, Jax, with Tiger and Wolf as his babysitters. It's amusing to see what areas this technology allows them to access. But it's even more impressive once she figures out that these three aren't who they claim to be. At first, it's full-on lockdown mode. She's simply following protocol. Intruders have broken into the J-C-C and need to be dealt with by James Cameron personally. And yet, this show does such a remarkable job in humanizing this technology. She forms an immediate personality in the scope of this one episode. That's just so impressive. It all connects back to Wolf's lingering feelings about the potential he has inside of him that's just waiting to burst out. The world conditioned him into being a soldier. But now, he has experienced family and freedom. He's been given the opportunities to explore other pursuits and discover what he is actually good at. He feels trapped because of the duty he has for the mission. He feels so under-appreciated by Tiger as well. He can't properly express how he's feeling because she doesn't want to hear that. And that's exactly how SIGORN-E feels as well.

So, it's actually incredibly powerful to see Wolf form this connection with SIGORN-E and allow her to aide the team on their mission. Once again, the show proves that this team just being honest about what they need to do is actually much simpler than the elaborate lies that they come up with. As soon as SIGORN-E knows that the team is from the future looking for the fuel for their time travel device, she is very helpful. It's because that bond is formed with Wolf. Plus, the show highlights how oppressive it can be to work for James Cameron because it is literally programmed into her that she needs to make puns about his movies and embellish his personal and professional attributes as well. It's just so amusing to watch SIGORN-E casually mention that James Cameron is a prolific filmmaker and noted philanthropist who is a good husband and taller than the average man. And then, there is some truly biting criticism about how much time was spent developing the language from Avatar only for Wolf to learn it in an hour. And then, Tiger has a really funny recurring joke about how every kind of mood lighting in this house is just a different kind of blue. And then, SIGORN-E and Wolf make a very solid criticism about there being enough room for two people on the door from Titanic. This is an episode that isn't especially kind to the filmography of James Cameron. But it's so specific in just the right way to make it all seem worth it in the end.

Plus, it's meaningful that Josh is the one who has the big heroic moment in needing to salvage the fuel from an improbably complicated containment. He's the one risking his life for the good of the mission. That proves just how devoted to the cause he really is. Sure, it's aided by him being the only one who can actually swim. But he still risks his own life for the good of the mission. That proves that he is just as committed as Tiger and Wolf. Plus, the show does a nice job in subverting the expectations and romantic connotations of Tiger needing to perform CPR to revive Josh. That's an inherently dramatic and familiar setup that is the big climatic moment of this story. It's a time for character development as they embrace their true feelings for one another. But it's also just a really amusing moment where Tiger and Wolf are incredibly grossed out about the thought of touching rat holes. The final punchline of Josh being revived but Tiger throwing up a moment later is incredible. The show commenting on this being an appropriate time for more development within the character relationships was perhaps a little too on-the-nose. But it's also a fair critique of the films the show is inspired by - which includes many from James Cameron. Moreover, the actual resolution with Wolf needing to say goodbye to SIGORN-E by taking her offline is so surprisingly moving. He only just met her. But they gave each other the confidence to explore what they truly want. Wolf has that confidence now and is giving SIGORN-E the only escape she can have from the world of James Cameron. It's moving while still being incredibly funny as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pandora's Mailbox" was written by Jessica Conrad and directed by Brandon Trost.
  • How do Josh, Tiger and Wolf know the exact spot in Los Angeles where James Cameron will build his house in 2023? There isn't even a throwaway line saying that the site is a noted landmark in the future that Tiger and Wolf come from. Of course, that would imply that they know the personal significance of Cameron to history. That would make the story of the past few episodes seem even more pointless in the context of the season. So ultimately, this is just something the audience has to go along with.
  • The joke about Josh's room in 2017 being covered in semen is just a really lame and sophomoric sequence. It lingers for far longer than it should. It's again the type of humor that this show has frequently done. However, it's not as specific or revealing as the rest of the story of this episode. So, it stands out in particular because it's bad.
  • Of course, it's also ominous that the biotics storm the Futturman house. It's a tense way to start this episode. Josh, Tiger and Wolf are already gone. They are carrying out their new mission. But Gabe and Diane are left behind. They are asleep but the biotics do stumble upon them. So, that's definitely cause to worry in the future.
  • Tom Arnold really does have a son named Jax who was born in 2013. So, that's a really specific joke that the creative team obviously had to research. Josh thinking that Roseanne is Jax's mother is an nice, educated guess as well even though it is completely wrong. It's all so random but it all completely works in the context of the show.
  • Josh and Wolf really are the characters of immense personal growth across this season so far. The show is struggling in that regard with Tiger. As such, it tries to heighten the significance of her sending her DNA in to get tested. It's a moment where the show lingers for more than it should to highlight how this curiosity is something that will be important to her moving forward.
  • Tiger is also completely willing to have Josh leave the mission once they return to 2017. It's not because he has done anything bad that compromised the mission. She just doesn't see the need to risk his life any further. She does it out of sympathy for him. He sacrificed his life. He now deserves personal happiness in his own time. He just needs to find out when Kronish was born first.

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.