At the end of the last season our heroes were in a futuristic prison with their antics supposedly responsible for trillions of deaths and a “Time travelling Bin Laden is knocking down buildings that aren’t even built yet”. All was not as it seemed though (as I’m sure most guessed), and the big reveal at the end of the episode was that they’re now taking part in “The Diecathalon”, a Battle Royale / Running Man style competition where they need to kill to survive.
For anyone who’d forgotten what had taken place there’s a cute trailer for the Diecathalon which reintroduces our characters and recaps their stories, with Seth Rogen back as Susan, the host and producer of the show who provides the wry voice over. Initially we then follow Susan as it’s established just why the reality tv show is so important to him as if he’s successful he’ll be allowed to keep his robot wife and hologram daughter, and there’s some smart if slightly disturbing jokes about his family life including a strange but great gag concerning the different false teeth that he owns.
The rest of the episode then mostly covers Tiger (Eliza Coupe), Wolf (Derek Wilson) and Josh (Josh Hutcherson) taking part in the Diecathlon, though we only see glimpses as it quickly becomes clear that something strange is afoot as Tiger and Wolf have their memories wiped each day and only Josh is aware that they are constantly having to fight time and again, with that being due to his almost dying on each occasion, though thanks to a nanobot filled goo he’s able to just about survive.
The show’s at it’s best when Tiger and Wolf are being violently extreme and this gives them the chance to wallow in such circumstances as they kill unicorns, krakkens and all manor of other fantastical creatures as this is a future with the technology to create such creatures. They’re happy with their lot too, with Wolf explaining to a confused Josh “Do you know how many times we’ve turned a death sentence in to a life paragraph?” in what for me was the best line of the episode.
Watching Josh almost die over and over again never gets old either, and the plot is kept nicely intriguing by the fact that while recovering in the tub of goo he hears an almost Werner Herzog-esque voice who wants to help him, even if Josh is initially confused as to what’s happening and whether it’s either a) God, b) a sign he’s going mad, or c) something else entirely. We don’t learn the truth in this opening episode but it does set up the ending where the repetitive nature of their lives is finally ended.
A problem with past seasons is that with a thirteen episode length there’s always tended to be a fair bit of filler but hopefully with this truncated eight episode run that will no longer be an issue. Certainly this first episode is nicely paced, filled with a lot of absurdity and has some fantastically strange but very funny moments, and while the show has been so inconsistent over the years that I’m not quite ready to suggest all of it’s problems have been solved, it definitely hints that this final season could well end up being a lot better than what’s come before.