Two men and three fish spend years in a geodesic dome after a nuclear holocaust. If this sounds like a set up for a joke, then it kind of is. Billy (Louisiana’s own Mark Duplass) and Ray (Sterling K. Brown) are - as far as anyone can tell - the last remnants of the human race, just as Sam, Diane and Woody are the last of their piscine cousins. Hilarity ensues. Er, sort of.
The why is the first reveal. Turns out Billy was a red-button-happy President (of the United States), and Ray his right hand man, his childhood friend-turned-consiglieri. Ray had built the dome just in case of the apocalypse and WHOOPSIE it was a good job he did. We join them a number of years into the situation, and they’re living like a couple of college roomies, playing video games, maxin' and relaxin' and just wholesomely bro-ing out, man.
The fish reproduce and provide fresh food sustainably, and so when ‘Sam’ dies and is the main star of that night’s fish fry dinner, it’s no biggie. Only they realize just before dessert that it‘s actually Diane who went fins up, which puts a freshly-urgent spin on humanity’s present and future, such as they are.
What transpires is kind of a Black Mirror-esque buddy comedy as the leads deal with immediate and existential threats. How will we eat now, and oh, a strange green light appears in the completely black sky of the nuclear winter, and is starting to grow.
The lifelong dynamics of Billy and Ray start to emerge. Billy is impulsive and kind of a goof, Ray is scientific but open to the mysteries of the unknown. They have Odd Couple-type fights about personal privacy, video game hacks and their different recollections of a childhood magic show. It’s mostly fun times given the circumstances, but with the sudden ecological and evolutionary pressures, a lot changes very quickly.
Directed by first timer Mel Eslyn (who co-wrote the script with Duplass), some interesting ideas are explored. Given the lack of diverse settings and microscope of the dome, though, it’s hard to misdirect, and so the developments at times feel like they’ve been foreshadowed with a slightly heavy hand. It’s not hard to keep a step ahead of the script if you’re paying attention.
Duplas and Brown are charismatic, and bounce off each other charmingly. We are mostly unencumbered by hard sci-fi problems or thoughts of everyone that they ever loved having been vaporized, though if you had a two-person dome set up in advance, then presumably you’d already reconciled yourself to them not making it.
I won’t spoil the main conceit though you’ll work it out early on. It does throw up some fun conversations and slapstick moments, but I left feeling like it could have worked well as a one-hour episode in an anthology rather than a 100-minute feature. Bereft of the distraction of other characters, there’s a limit to where you can go (thematically and geographically). The future of the species being in the hands of two petty men who mainly like to argue about The Super Mario Brothers isn’t without its amusing moments, though. (PO)
Biosphere is playing at Prytania Canal Place
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