Solos‘ star-studded cast –including Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, and Constance Wu– promises more than the plot actually delivers. With mostly beautiful visuals and strong performances, Amazon’s anthology series puts the inescapable theme of loneliness on display and aims to make sense of how humans attempt to find their place in this universe. With the COVID-19-pandemic-induced isolation that we now all are so familiar with, it is easy to see where the creators came from with the core idea. More than ever, people everywhere understand what it’s like to be alone and to feel lonely.
Solos‘ cast features (in order of appearance) Anne Hathaway, Anthony Mackie, Helen Mirren, Uzo Aduba, Constance Wu, Nicole Beharie, Dan Stevens, and Morgan Freeman. The trailer’s premise can make the audience assume the characters share some deep, transcendental connection that will be unveiled throughout the episodes –something like Black Mirror meets sense8. Although they barely do.
Even if the ending episode makes some sense of how they are related, it feels anticlimactic. We didn’t get enough cues beforehand, which were needed for the final reveal to be fulfilling.
Something great about Solos is that it poses profound philosophical questions about our existence. We see both the bad and the good in being alone, as these characters keep reminiscing on the times when they were the happiest, or whenever they felt the most. The experiences they regret and the ones they long for. We gain insight into the raw emotions that burn inside these eight humans.
It could be a challenge, however, to harness the attention of a large audience considering there’s not much that holds the plot together nor anything else happening each episode besides the monologues. Solos‘ creator David Weil told The Times about this: “the way I first fell in love with storytelling was listening to scary stories around the campfire with my brother, or hearing my grandmother share memories.” As he mentions, there’s also a power latent in not showing flashbacks visually or having only one setting each episode. Almost everything we know and learn is through their monologues.
On a brighter note, some individual episodes did stand out above others, which is why I will quickly rank them so you know when to devote your eyes to their stories:
Uzo Aduba’s Sasha (episode 4)
Through Sasha, we get to see from an outside perspective the toll the pandemic might have been taking on us. We get to see her desperation, the conspiracies she overthinks, the worry, the desire for life to be as safe and enjoyable as it once was. Besides the astonishing scenery –which was my favorite out of the seven– Uzo’s performance really gets the point across. Even someone in an alternate reality where COVID-19 never came to be, could have felt what she felt.
Sasha distrusts her only company, a virtual assistant, since she believes the operative system is designed to lure her outside her home. After the trauma the pandemic has caused her, how can she leave now? For those who can, staying locked inside in the comfortableness and safety of your comfort zone, promises a perfect escape you wouldn’t want to leave, and this is the case for Sasha.
Helen Mirren’s Peg (episode 3)
“How far would you travel to find yourself again?” says an ominous voice at the beginning of Peg’s episode, where we see Mirren alone in a spaceship far away from our planet. Mirren showcases pure talent when carrying out her nearly 20-minute monologue. Nearly because she was talking to a virtual assistant –her only companion in outer space who was yet another version of Siri or Alexa– but she did manage to convey many intense emotions throughout by having a conversation with herself. Peg had felt invisible for most of her life, she couldn’t get past her overthinking. Hers is both a hopeful and a harrowing story.
Anne Hathaway’s Leah (episode 1)
It is definitely an entertaining and moving one to watch and useful if you want to get a gist of how the series will progress. Hathaway plays Leah, who is devoted to find a way to time travel. The writing can be a bit weak at times, but Hathaway’s charm and range seem to overshadow this. Quite frankly, my favorite part was the stunning cinematography by far, alongside the vivid color palette used, which together certainly set the series’ tone and standard for the rest of the season.
Nicole Beharie’s Nera (episode 6)
In Nera’s story, Solos merges sci-fi with the thriller genre in the life of a mother that seeks the help of futuristic science to finally conceive a child. The thriller is wonderfully set up as she goes into labor right as a horrid storm rages outside her house, leaving her alone and secluded with her newborn son –who ends up being anything but a normal child.
Constance Wu’s Jenny (episode 5)
Through Jenny, Wu achieves an enticing level of vulnerability as she reveals many personal, terrible events that happened to her.
Morgan Freeman and Dan Stevens’ Stuart and Otto (episode 7)
Here we get to learn how all these stories were tied together, and even if that might not reach expectations, Freeman and Stevens onscreen together are interesting to watch.
Anthony Mackie’s Tom (episode 2)
A Black Mirror-type of story that follows Tom, a man that will soon die of a terminal disease but wanted to leave a clone of himself to take care of his family. Mackie’s episode had the flattest plot of them all which could make it seem a very long watch.