Anthology series have my heart. There is something about stories being told on their own but with a common theme that just hits differently than a full episodic plot. Anthologies can showcase one them across multiple storytellers in ways that unearth various elements of empathy and connection. That’s what Solos does. A science fiction anthology and Amazon Original, Solos asks why do you make the choices you do? How do you want to be remembered? How do you define who you are? How do you deal with the lowest parts of life? And ultimately, what would happen when you get the chance to interrogate yourself, face to face?
Solos boasts a stellar cast, which is necessary given that each episode is focused on one actor. And each of the actors plays versions of themselves from alternate timelines, or a clone taking their place before death, but in every single one of these vignettes for 30-minutes, we see stories about humanity. While the writing is important in doing this, it’s the acting that sells the emotions and carries the viewer to where they need to go. Starring Anne Hathaway, Anthony Mackie, Morgan Freeman, Uzo Aduba, Constance Wu, Nicole Beharie, Helen Mirren, and Dan Stevens as the center of each of these stories, Solos packs its storytelling with emotion.
Beyond that though, Solos succeeds in the hardest part of any anthology series. It ties all of its vignettes together into a cohesive world. Each vignette is focused on different themes and pieces of science fiction, like space travel, time travel, motherhood, dementia, mortality, and even COVID. They maintain a clear voice that makes them stand out. That said, they all come together to show a cohesive science fiction world. This happens by small pieces of tech appearing as references or directly across each one and playing into the larger picture. Solos succeeds because it uses the individual themes and subgenres of each vignette to build a larger narrative. Choice, identity, and humanity connects each and every one of these as much as the future tech does and it makes Solos stand out as a must-watch.
Now, like Monster Land, it should be noted that this anthology isn’t happy. But unlike last year’s best anthology, Solos isn’t mean. Instead, the tragedy in this series is well-thought-out and serves a larger purpose. How do we, as humans, deal with the choices we make, and how do they change us. The standouts in the series are the openers, “Leah” and “Tom.” In the former, Hathaway plays Leah, a brilliant scientist who discovers time travel only to have her reasons questioned by versions of herself. They push her to uncover why she really wants to travel to a different timeline and ultimately it causes her to reflect on the hardest point of her life and how it shapes her. In “Tom,” Mackie plays the titular character, preparing his replacement bot to take over his life. And while it’s a simple narrative, it’s an emotional one. It’s one that gets at how we want to be remembered, how we love our family, and how short our time on Earth can be.
The only vignette that doesn’t fit is “Nera.” Where the others lean into hard sci-fi, this one dances with horror and does it beautifully. The difference from the rest of the vignettes isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it breaks up the storytelling format beautifully and Beharie‘s performance is stunningly powerful.
There is a sad beauty to Solos that makes this series one of the best that Amazon has produced so far. But while I haven’t mentioned the other performances, largely in order to avoid spoilers, there isn’t a weak one in the bunch. Each performance is captivating. Whether it’s Wu as Jenny on the brink of breaking down after trauma, or Mirren remembering her life on earth while she floats through space as Peg, or Aduba as her fear of the world consumes her as Sasha, each one is moving.
The only critique I have is that some genre tropes are too relied upon, and some stories are too easily solved. That said, these are small nitpicks for a truly amazing series that you should watch not just for the actors but also for the humanity they showcase. Overall, I want more from the world created in Solos. I want to see more stories told this way, with one strong performance driving each vignette. With strong stories and even stronger performances that captivate you for the entirety of each episode, this is a must-see. I would welcome a season 2 with open arms.
Solos is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime now.
Overall, I want more from the world created in Solos. I want to see more stories told this way with one strong performance driving each vignette. With strong stories and even stronger performances that captivate you for the entirety of each episode, this must-see.