Review: ‘Slip’ takes an ingeniously experimental trip through a multiverse of melancholy
The multiverse is all the rage these days, but even if you’ve grown tired of witnessing fractured timelines and alternate realities set up shop on your device of choice, The Roku Channel’s upcoming series Slip – which premieres tomorrow, April 21 – is much more Everything Everywhere All at Once than the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Created, written, directed, starring, and executive produced by Zoe Lister-Jones, wearing so many hats at the one time can often lead to concerns over the end result being a vanity project. Suffice to say, that isn’t the case here; taking an ambitious and experimental journey through parallel universes that never loses sight of its emotional core, don’t be surprised if Slip ends up dominating the conversation in a few months when it comes to discussing the year’s most unsung televised gems.
Lister-Jones headlines as Mae Cannon, an assistant museum creator who leads a life that’s as inoffensive as it is borderline unsatisfying. She has a stable job, a stable marriage to Whitmer Thomas’ Elijah, and a stable circle of friends. Things are comfortable, but far from exciting. Although their union isn’t quite on the rocks, it’s easy to see something is amiss, with the spouses running the risk of becoming yet another couple that stays together for the sake of staying together.
Making her first “slip” of the title, Mae ends up sleeping with a stranger she meets at her local bar, only to discover that she’s vanished from her own reality and appeared in another one overnight, where her one-night stand is now her husband. Naturally, panic sets in when our intrepid protagonist wraps her head around the situation, opening the door to the notion that normalcy isn’t so bad after all.
It’s a neat central premise that’s both familiar and fresh at the same time, with the arthouse crowd being just as satiated with tales of multiversal misfortune as those who prefer effects-heavy blockbuster epics. Journeying from existence to existence in an increasingly frantic dash to discover somewhere she truly belongs, the unending trials and tribulations bring alcohol, drugs, chaos, meltdowns, melancholy, sex, lust, self-awareness, and plenty more into the mix, but it never becomes overbearing or overstuffed.
Given her multitude of credits on Slip, the majority of the credit deserves to go to Lister-Jones, who avoids leaning into the overly-comedic or broader aspects of the performance that arguably would have been easier to play, but her fiercely committed turn still holds the whole thing together with style and substance in equal measure, ensuring that nobody will accuse the series of being a one-trick pony that’s got a cute gimmick with nothing much going on under the surface.
Calling it a sci-fi dramatic comedy with an ever-so-slightly absurdist bent would technically be somewhat accurate, but also doing it a huge disservice. Lister-Jones’ creativity shines through in each installment; it might be a show about the multiverse, but it’s about people first and foremost, with the smaller moments a great deal more important than the broader trappings of a conceit that presents literally infinite narrative and character-based possibilities.
Cringe comedy has been on the up and up in recent times, but even though Mae as a central figure is darkly hilarious – as evidenced by the fact she utters the immortal words “I think my p*ssy is a wormhole” with a completely straight face – the humor never aims for the cheap seats, with the laughs perfectly in keeping with the style and tone of Slip as a whole.
That’s a testament to the creator’s understanding of the in-built universe and how the main character fits in, but the pacing is propulsive enough from episode to episode to ensure that it doesn’t reach overwrought or saccharine levels either, which could have been an easy trap to fall into when the underlying message is essentially “are things really that bad after all?”
Slip never holds back for a second, which is one of its greatest strengths. There’s an air of rebelliousness in its approach to everything from sex and sexuality to identity, gender, self-worth, and plenty more in between; sure, these are all thematic touchstones that are everywhere you look in live-action media, but rarely have they been tackled together in such strikingly unique fashion.
The Roku Channel may not be deemed as one of the heaviest hitters in the ongoing in-demand wars, but if there’s one production that has the potential to change that sentiment, then Slip is the strongest contender yet; easily bingeable, eminently entertaining, and destined for cult favorite status.
Zoe Lister-Jones takes a trip through the multiverse and comes out on the other side with what's destined to be one of the year's unsung small screen gems.