Saturday, November 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Future Man' - A Madcap Adventure Defines Josh's Latest Mission to Stop Kronish in 'Operation: Fatal Attraction'

Hulu's Future Man - Episode 1.09 "Operation: Fatal Attraction"

Convinced he knows how to stop Dr. Kronish once and for all, Josh commandeers the time travel device and leads the team on a mission into the past. But when Wolf goes missing, they have to split up, forcing Josh to carry out his insane plan alone.

"Operation: Fatal Attraction" is a zany, madcap episode that takes its inspiration from Fatal Attraction. That's not a bad place to start for an episodic story set in the 1980s. However, it also feels like there are a lot of chaotic things happening throughout this episode that just seem to be included because they would only increase the absurdity more. And yet, the show doesn't push things far enough. It all feels a little too tame and elongated. This is a story that could have really used some more tightening. All of it does have a purpose and is funny. But there are some really awkward and weird moments as well. It seems like the creative team just wanted to get Josh Hutcherson into that ridiculous outfit for an entire episode. That's basically all there is to that central joke. That is not enough. Nor is it appropriate for the show to treat Dr. Kronish being a lifelong, closeted gay man as a big, shocking twist. Again, it's unclear what the show is trying to say with these circumstances in the story. On one hand, it just feels like the show doesn't want any kind of depth or nuance whatsoever. It just wants to be big and ridiculous without wanting the audience to think more deeply than that. On the other hand though, the show has produced some of its best moments so far when it embraced the personal stories of this world. Things really connect when the narrative focuses on how this mission has changed Tiger and Wolf. But this episode mostly just wants to be fun and ridiculous. Again, that's not inherently bad. It's just not as rewarding while airing so deep into a season that is clearly just creating a bunch of problems for itself before it reaches its conclusion.

It also seems like the show is at least aware that all of Josh's plans to change the future without killing Dr. Kronish are all too complicated and don't ultimately work out. This is the third time that he has tried it this season. It failed when they went back to 1969 to stop him from contracting herpes. It failed when he tried to get Kronish to abandon his work in 2017 to avoid being killed by Tiger and Wolf. And now, it has seemingly failed when he tried to get Kronish to leave on a boat to embrace life with his greatest love, Leslie, in 1984. This event was just introduced in a very clunky way during the previous episode. But it filled Josh with new purpose in this mission. Tiger and Wolf no longer needed to go back to Kronish's birth to kill him. Instead, they could travel to Kronish's biggest regret in his life and make sure that he never pursued this research again. It's again something that Tiger is incredibly skeptical about the moment she hears Josh's plan. She's completely justified in stomping him. This is an absolutely ridiculous plan that seems very unlikely to actually work. Josh's only argument in giving it a try is that if it fails they can still just go to Kronish's birth to kill him as a baby. It's an effective argument. But it also sets up the expectation that this mission is going to fail for Josh in a spectacular way.

And of course, that's exactly what occurs. As such, it makes it all seem a little too predictable. There isn't a lot of genuine twists to this story that make it seem refreshing and new. It's just a case of mistaken identity that keeps intensifying the more people enter this house. Josh is left all alone because Tiger and Wolf abandon him in this mission. It's not because they don't believe in it - even though they don't. It's because Wolf gets distracted with other pursuits from the 1980s and Tiger needs to track him down. And so, it's up to Josh to dress up as Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction to take pictures as a woman in order to destroy the Kronish marriage. He believes it will be such an easy job because the two of them are already cheating on each other. They just need to realize that. But it's a much more difficult mission than Josh could have imagined. It again all revolves around the reveal that Leslie is actually a man. It's something that the show treats as a big reveal because so much of this narrative has revolved around Kronish getting herpes from a woman. It's then treated as a big joke that Josh thinks his plan is going better than expected only for him to get stuck underneath the bed as Kronish and Leslie have sex. There is just nothing all that funny or new about that setup. It's a story that has been told before and in much better ways. Sure, there is a cat who enters the scene and is quickly killed as Josh tries to get it away. That's the beginning of a part of this madcap adventure. But again, the true connection to all of this is severely lacking.

Has the show really given the audience a reason to be invested in this main mission? Sure, Tiger and Wolf keep talking about the dystopia they come from and Kronish's role in creating it. But the actual character of Kronish is still just a one-note plot device used to put so much of this story into motion. He's the target that Tiger and Wolf are eager to take out. Josh has moral objections to killing Kronish. That motivation largely comes from his belief that killing is wrong and not because of some grand, personal connection to Kronish. Sure, Josh and Kronish have interacted a lot over the decades of this story. He's inserted himself on multiple occasions to change the outcome of his life. It has failed. Those failures define Josh, Tiger and Wolf as they continue to pursue this mission. But it does nothing to paint a better picture of Kronish. Why should the audience be invested in his fate? Why should we want Josh to be successful in keeping Kronish alive and stopping Tiger and Wolf from killing a baby? The show really hasn't provided a sensible explanation for these questions. Instead, it just wants to have zany adventures where Josh is trapped in this house and struggling to avoid being seen. He gets lucky for the majority of this episode. He is able to stealthily walk up and down the hallway without being seen. And then, everything comes to its climatic moments once he is discovered. Kronish believes Josh to be the male prostitute that his wife has gotten him for his birthday. It's a sign that she knows the truth about him. That's enough for him to stay true to his marriage. That's not the outcome Josh wants. So, he works overly hard to continue to destroy this relationship. But none of it really has an impact whatsoever. It's just a case of more characters coming into the scene and making the message even more confusing for Kronish.

Things are much more successful when the show explores Wolf's further doubts with the mission. He's not wavering because he believes it to be pointless to continue fighting this war after failing so many times in the past. Instead, he's walking away from the mission because he's finding a new place for him to belong. He really connected with life in 2017. He was allowed to pursue other passions. He discovered new things about himself and what he liked. And now, the show basically proves that Wolf is a man who should have been alive during the 1980s. This is the time where he truly belongs. He is able to completely get swept up in this day at the beach playing volleyball with a bunch of guys just like him. It's the show being homoerotic in a way that is actually amusing and hyper-stylized. It's funny because of how seriously everyone treats it. Wolf quickly falls in love and never wants to leave. Tiger once again has to be the killjoy because she is completely committed to the mission. She gets differing opinions on how much freedom to give Wolf. In the end, she decides she needs to control his perception of his own freedom because she's the one with all the power in their dynamic. It's a realization she comes to after talking with Kronish's wife. But ultimately, it's all pointless. Instead of getting him back onto the mission, he quits for good. That's an episode-ending twist that actually resonates because of everything that has been building in Wolf's story throughout this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Operation: Fatal Attraction" was written by Dan Mirk and directed by Michael Weaver.
  • It's going to be very annoying if the show introduces a character played by Parker Young and doesn't make him a biotic in disguise. This narrative has established that the biotics of the past are the most attractive and perfect humans. That would seemingly define Young and how his character quickly forms a bond with Wolf. If it doesn't happen, then I'd be surprised. 
  • Of course, it's also funny how Blaze talks about envying this dog that has just booked a national commercial only for Tiger to point out later on that Wolf cooked the animal for all of his new friends. That's startling and unexpected but it's a great punchline too. No one suspected it at all until Tiger recognizes Wolf's own work.
  • The cat that Josh inadvertently kills is named Bunny. It's all a part of an even more absurd situation where Leslie believes that the next-door neighbor is the pimp to the female prostitute who later on shows up and gets tied up by Josh. It's a strong case of comedic miscommunication. It's really absurd and leads to the final punchline of Josh putting the dead cat in a pot on the stove. But that payoff isn't all that great either.
  • There's also just a completely random moment where Tiger shows up to actually help with Josh's main mission. She just walks straight into the house through the front door and has a conversation with Kronish's wife. Again, she doesn't care about doing anything subtly. But then, she doesn't actually stick around - which should cause more confusion about the prostitute Kronish's wife believe she got for her husband.
  • The creative team is really amused by the fact that Josh now apparently has a comically oversized dick. It's not proportionate with the rest of his body. It means he needs to have a visible bulge when he puts on the skimpy outfit. He plays into that fact as well in proving that he's a successful prostitute. But again, it's something the show is much more amused by than I am. 

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.