Two weeks after debuting Full Circle on HBO, rising star Steven Soderbergh returns Order Z, an eight-part comedy series about wormholes, ontological paradoxes, and the necessity — and limitations — of using small steps to bring about transformative action on climate change. Running approximately 95 minutes in total, and available exclusively to purchase at director’s website (where he notes that all proceeds from the $7.99 deal will benefit Children’s Aid and Boston University’s Anti-Racism Research Center), it’s an overtly activist work targeting those on both sides of the political aisle. At the same time, he delivers goofy laughs through his point-time-travel idea.
Created by Kurt Andersen, Sam Lowry, and Larry Doyle (and “recommended” by Andersen’s book Evil geniuses), Order Z plays like a witty riff on 12 monkeys in Soderbergh’s own manner Contagion, focusing on three working class characters on a mission whose importance is as serious as their success is up for debate. In 2053, Sam (Roy Wood, Jr.), Jamie (JJ Maley), and Emma (Chloe Radcliffe) report for duty in their “office”—a dingy room accessed by a spiral staircase in the floor.
Every day, they reach for a yellow anti-pollution suit that protects them from an outside world eroded by all kinds of environmental destruction, especially intense floods that have led to structural (and, presumably, cultural) segregation. Decorated with oxygen tanks, radiators, and a makeshift kitchen, this dour space is dominated by three armchairs facing a giant screen showing various video feeds. That display is their main focus, since it is the platform through which their boss communicates.
Sam, Jamie, and Emma have been brought here by Kerning Fealty (Michael Cera)—or, rather, the giant face of an AI version of Kerning, since the flesh-and-blood billionaire was lost years earlier during a flight to Mars. Kerning reveals that he has a possible solution to today’s problems: use a wormhole created in 2023 to travel back to that “inflection point” in time (July 17, 2023, to be specific) to make an impact on major figures. right their course, repairing the ongoing disasters of the Earth. This wormhole, which will only remain open for another 10 days, is located in a high-tech clothes dryer, and also requires the simultaneous use of a colored cord headset and the ingestion of some gross liquid. Humans cannot travel directly through this portal, however; users are put into the mind of anyone previously inoculated with nanobots, which—in one of the Order Zmany inspired gags – spread to the public not through COVID-19 vaccines but, instead, through hand hygiene.
A clever mix and match of fact, fiction and conspiracy theory, Order Z Jamie begins to experiment with this new technology, giving her the de facto voice in her target’s head. Unsurprisingly, her first trip almost leads to her host – who thinks he’s going mad – to commit suicide, although it works better during subsequent trials. In each of these cases, the trio’s objective is to convince a climate opponent to change, even if Kerning makes it clear that “change” is a verb in this enterprise.
Among other things, they set their sights on an oil company bigwig (Mike Houston) who is planning to relocate himself and his family to a luxurious underground bunker, where the rich and powerful will survive the environmental apocalypse. to come; and a mogul in the financial industry (Liev Schreiber) who is incredibly cold-hearted, except when it comes to his dog Benny.
Order Z cut in bite-sized installments, and which benefits his humor, which nicely married socio-political sharpness and jaded absurdity. The coolness of the show is reflected by Cera’s omniscient AI, whose motives are questionable, his enthusiasm for putting off, and his general attempts to be human and desirable – such as his recurring attempt to come up with an initial jingle and / or phrase to express . to come on the screen. Meanwhile, Sam, Jamie, and Emma embody the show’s overarching cynicism, whether it’s regarding billionaire titans like Kerning (who helped force civilization into its current dire state), the ability of men and women to fix their impulses and flawed behavior, or the feasibility of their mission. Their credibility is then reinforced when Kerning and his computerized assistant Alice (Claire Kenny) inform them that, having triumphantly fulfilled their objectives, they have made little global improvement.
During his brief and intimate story, Order Z he asks whether such monumental works are worth extracting small profits from—a question she tackles in a playful way, allowing him to make witty commentary about conservative immoral greed and liberal self-destructive insanity without resorting to ever preach. The villainous passion of corporations for profit, the knack of social media to foment violent dissent, and the fanatical self-interest of organized religion are all wrapped up in the bullseye of satire. At the same time, it makes sure to evoke light fun in itself. The final episode’s text cards, for example, inform the audience that they can learn more about time travel by watching The Terminalabout climate change by looking Soylent Greenor about dogs enjoying themselves Snoopy Come Home.
It is best when Order Z the interplay of its stars is continued, Jamie’s innocent naivety blending nicely with Emma’s angry trustworthiness and Sam’s life-long attitude; Sam’s desire to finish this gig in time to take an underwater vacation from Houston to New Orleans reflects both his (and Jamie and Emma’s) blue-collar condition, and imaginatively fleshes out this ruined reality. Soderbergh’s direction is snappy, fun and effective, and so are the series’ scripts: Their ideas about how commercial, industrial and technological progress can go off the rails – as a VR suit designed for comfort and community provision, and instead caused a Civil War-grade division – they are funny precisely because they are believable.
Order Z a vision of tomorrow thoroughly trained by today, his fantasy insisting that the only way to save the planet, and ourselves, is to make whatever change is possible, and by whatever means found (without murder, much to Sam’s chagrin). It’s a call to arms that’s all the funnier for being so prescient—except, at least for now, for the mockery of the future annual “DeSantis Day Parade.”