Farts stop, away in the future. So he suggests Alone, the latest sci-fi show on Amazon Prime. Even if their characters deal with everything from time travel to pride to memory theft, they still have gas. No less than three times, Peg, played by Helen Mirren, talks about her old woman toots. (Everyone greets Queen Elizabeth Number, ahem, Two.) Elsewhere, Anthony Mackie’s Tom describes, in celebratory detail, the bombshells smelled in his wife’s code. Twice! In fact, do it three times. Breaking the same memory into the finale, the great Morgan Freeman refutes the stench.
What Alone it was done during a global pandemic, a moment of endless sitting with ourselves and our smells, makes a certain olfactory sense. Looking at him is hard to hear, if he doesn’t see it, then he sniffs. But as any gastroenterologist will tell you, excess gas usually points to a deeper, more chronic issue. To diagnose it, then – this diegetic dyspepsia – a complete examination of the patient must be carried out.
Amazon has been exploiting the science-fiction program for years, and it varies, on the smell-or-meter, from the odious sole to the harmful clear right – a floating flatulence. Initially, the company was primarily Philip K. Dick, first with an adaptation of Man in the High Castle and then with Electric Dream, an anthology series based on the author’s short stories. The first fell at the right time, and the second has never been more than off-brand, more difficult Black mirror, but at least no one has tried to speak to our guts.
With Alone, Amazon is leaning towards a fake condensed science that is like us, farts and everything. As in Electric Dream, each episode is self-contained, but the show squandered every advantage that the format has – as a playground for ideas – by focusing on people. On his so-called “humanity,” as David Weil puts it. He is the creator of Alone, and what he creates, he says, is “human connection.” It doesn’t matter that, to establish it, it resorts to an embarrassing development of the world, stage melodramas, and characters that are, in any case, full of shit.
Sorry for the potty’s mouth, but the fault lies with Amazon, whose fake science practically outweighs bodily discharge. Enjoy the animated vomit, in Canceled; in Upload, computer-generated pee dance flows. Even the studio’s most artistic test in an adult drama, Tales From the Loop, occasionally finds his head in the bathrooms. A spice of Our City of tomorrow shifting its focus from one sad human (or robot) to another, the show really plumes the depth. In the worst scene, an elderly man passes number one, misses his target, and has to clean up the mess. The chamber cuts to the yellow droplets and all. Poor Jonathan Pryce, an actor of distinction, potentially angry. When his character falls dead a little later, he seems less of a health complication than of shame.
Shame, too, is what we the public feel, to look at. As these fictitious future humans connect with us through the most universal of processes, expulsion, our very stomachs begin to boil and ache. Is that all we are? Bags of grotty, leaky, mucking up clean meat, utopian futures? At Amazon, no shit. Humans have urgencies and needs, and Amazon exists to satisfy them. In fact, if you keep watching it, it will also show you how.