Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen star in this poignant study of life and love.
Quietly released without much marketing behind it, for good reason, Amazon's "Forever" is a treat to the existential senses. Starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen, the show teeters between smart laughs and eluding, meandering thoughts on life.
It's hard to divulge too much about the show without revealing what makes the show work: the clever twists in the plot. But, once you're in, you're in. The first three episodes are the most important in setting up the series, allowing for a steady structure and familiarity with the style of comedy.
The basic plot revolves around Rudolph and Armisen's June and Oscar and their long-lived marriage. Thick in routine, which includes Oscar's beloved home-cooked meals and the typical set of weekend activities, June initiates a change to the norm by suggesting the couple take a weekend ski trip, instead of their usual trek to the lake. Oscar, though out of his comfort zone, jumps at the idea to make June happy.
At the end of episode one, an unexpected event changes the course of show. The same thing happens at the end of episode two. Again, it's hard to truly review without spoiling, but the way the show's creators, Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard, have chosen to reveal the story is every bit as delicious as binge-watching should be these days. You're going to want to watch all 8 episodes in as close one sitting as you can and they provide a unique opportunity for that to happen without feeling like you've wasted the moments to sit and ponder. It's an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind trope told through the lens of humor and sass.
The true meat of the show belongs to Rudolph, whose June is skeptical and questioning. Despite her unhappiness in her life and her marriage, she's a good sport, allowing the intimacy between her and Oscar to flood into even the most awkward and disheveled moments of their lives together. Fans of "Saturday Night Live" will appreciate the natural chemistry between the show's stars, who first found fame on the variety sketch series, often playing off each other. Those same riffs show up from time to time, but that familiarity with each other also allows for the opposite. June and Oscar know each other so well that the level of disappointment in a misunderstanding or a quiet argument sting even more than your typical on-screen couple's problems. There's something real about the way the characters are painted. Rudolph, especially, wears her performance on her sleeve, delivering an authentic portrayal of a person in search of meaning, even beyond the day-to-day.
The supporting cast offers an enlivening bit of comic relief and dramatic intrigue, with Catherine Keener, Noah Robbins, and Kym Whitley the notable standouts. A delightful recurring appearance by Julia Ormond gives the episodes a bit of an elegant lift.
The overall scope of "Forever", from episode one to episode eight, is much bigger than the first few minutes let on. In fact, the overall scope is almost too big for this one season to handle. But, just when it feels like it's in over its head, the show revels in a deep, quiet moment that is both entertaining and profound. An entire episode devoted to another couple, played by Hong Chau and Jason Mitchell, is not only one of the best pieces of this project, but stands as one of the best pieces of scripted television in the past few years.
Yang and Hubbard have built quite the unique opportunity to expound on this world even more. Though the story finishes somewhat open-ended, it also feels complete. It's that enigma that allows for fresh conversation with other viewers about what it all means. It also leaves room, of course, for more dissection of the lives of June and Oscar. "Forever" is a morality tale that feels at once progressive and also at ease with knowing part of life is never knowing what lies into our forever.