If there’s one thing you can tell about Amazon’s “Solos,” it’s that it is the ideal kind of TV show to film during a pandemic.
The new science fiction anthology series (streaming now, ★★ out of four) from David Weil (“Hunters”) is an interesting thought experiment, a collection of short stories starring one or two characters (or multiple iterations of the same character). It’s hard not to think, when Anne Hathaway talks to versions of herself from alternate timelines, or Anthony Mackie has a meet-and-greet with his robot self, that these stories are apt for filming in an era when safety protocols require as few people on sets as possible.
Anne Hathaway stars as Leah, a physicist trying to travel to the future. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/Amazon Prime Video)
It would perhaps be a little harder for thoughts of Hollywood set troubles to infiltrate while watching “Solos” if the series’ seven half-hour episodes were more engaging. Each stars a different actor (or in one case, two) in the indeterminate future confronted with problems of technology, family, personal demons or all of the above. The packed cast includes Hathaway, Mackie, Uzo Aduba, Nicole Beharie, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Dan Stevens and Constance Wu.
Dan Stevens (as Otto) and Morgan Freeman (as Stuart) recover old memories in "Solos." (Photo: Jason LaVeris/Amazon Prime Video)
Like with other anthology series, including Netflix’s “Black Mirror” and Apple TV+’s “Little America,” the quality of the individual episodes varies. Hathaway, as a physicist trying to travel to the future out of the confines of her stressful life, is aptly cast in one of the better episodes, in which the emotions align with the sci-fi in a smart and surprising way. But that’s followed up by a dull half-hour featuring Mackie talking to a bland robot version of himself.
Wu gets to chew on a nearly 30-minute monologue in a mysterious outing as a woman stuck in a waiting room with a fuzzy memory, which has the best twist ending of the series. Aduba spends a frustratingly obtuse episode in a smart house she refuses to leave because of an unnamed virus, arguing with the Alexa-like interface.
The season ends with a so-so episode in which Stevens and Freeman star together as a young and old man, respectively, recovering old memories.
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Sometimes the episodes are intimately connected – Mirren plays Mackie’s adopted daughter 70 years after his episode – but other times completely disparate. The stories are talk-heavy, clearly appealing to the A-list talent the producers were able to cast, and meditative. There is no action or adventure here, just people talking about possibly having it. In many ways, each episode feels like a play you might see at a small, trendy New York theater. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Helen Mirren stars as Peg in "Solos," tying back to Anthony Mackie's episode. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/Amazon Prime Video)
“Solos” endeavors to ask big questions without offering any big answers (or really, even feint at big answers). It has shades of the warning against technology that colors “Mirror” but doesn’t have an overarching theme that ties it together other than a general sense of melancholy. And a mood does not make a whole story.
Much like its underwhelming episodes, “Solos” feels like a TV show that will flicker and then fade. There’s simply not enough memorable about it.
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