Three episodes were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
There’s a scene in “Bad Seed,” the fifth episode of FXX’s riotous new ‘toon Major Lazer, part of the network’s Animation Domination lineup, when the title character is battling a giant weed boogeyman named Mr. Mary-Jane and becomes snared in his opponent’s vine-like clutches. “I’ll keep growing back, Major Lazer, you’ll never kill me!” The creature snarls. Blissed out as always, the Rastafarian soldier replies, “Why kill weed, when I can smoke weed?” Activating his lazers, Major Lazer proceeds to literally smoke Mr. Mary-Jane to death. It’s that kind of toked up madness that both characterizes Major Lazer and almost makes it beyond my mere powers of critical comprehension.
You see, I could tell you that the insanity of Major Lazer is based around the eponymous, ganja-loving superhero in a futuristic, dystopian Jamaica, fighting to protect the free-living people of his nation from decidedly un-groovy bureaucratic supervillains President Whitewall and General Rubbish. Or that he’s joined in this quest by the comely teen Penny and a curious little tech whiz named BLKMRKT (don’t question it), for both of whom a world populated with vampiric spring breakers, supervillains jacked up on cough syrup and moments of comically horrendous violence is the norm. Or that the entire series is an incredibly weird and wildly entertaining showcase for the reggae dancehall beats of the actual band Major Lazer (a collaborative musical project by American DJ Diplo).
But none of that would really communicate the gleeful, bohemian craziness of Major Lazer, which is what most makes it worth watching. In the three, approximately 10-minute episodes that were provided for review, the show nimbly leaps between a trio of entirely self-supporting, batshit-crazy plotlines connected most by the series’ cheekily good vibes and absolutely limitless ability for innovation.
In “Double Cup,” Major Lazer’s Free the Universe Party is sabotaged by the titular villain, a lackey of General Rubbish who taints Lazer’s Splurt soda supply with promethazine. In “Vampire Weekend,” that band’s Ezra Koenig guest-voices as an angsty, romantic vampire visiting Jamaica on spring break whose bloodsucking buddies get annihilated by old-school vamps while he falls in love with Penny to the catchy strains of a song titled “Vegan Vampire” (I’ll say this for Major Lazer – its music, including the title sequence, is the real deal: relentlessly fun and impossible to get out of your head). And in the aforementioned “Bad Seed,” Penny gets way, way too high and floats into the clutches of the sky-stationed Mr. Mary-Jane.
That the series can accommodate so much creative variety is a pleasant surprise, and the compulsively danceable beats of Major Lazer’s music in the backdrop (and often, as well, front and center, as the characters jam out and communicate plot points through song) smoothes over any rockier moments when the stoner humor runs a tad thin. The stacked voice cast also helps in that department, with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Lazer, J.K. Simmons as Whitewall, John Boyega as BLKMRKT, Riff-Raff as Double Cup, Angela Trimbur as Penny and Koenig as the vampire Ryland all slaying their voice-roles. It’s a particular riot to hear Simmons, a recent Oscar winner, having as much snarky fun as he does here. In terms of animation, too, Major Lazer is a blast, with its familiar style mimicking the old ’80s G.I. Joe cartoons that’s both appealing and oddly in keeping with the free-floating spirit of the show.
It’s hard to say whether Major Lazer is a quote-unquote good television series by traditional measurements of quality. But it’s wacky, weird as hell and also kind of wonderful – and that’s more than enough for me to go along happily with its chilled-out, amped-up flow.
Both as a showcase for the artist's reggae dancehall sound and as its own product, Major Lazer is a chilled-out and amped-up creation - wacky, weird as hell and also kind of wonderful.