Those conspiracy theories spouted by crazy, drunk old men angrily shaking their fists at the sky? They’re real. The world is controlled by the shadowy elite and shape-shifting lizard people. The stock market is manipulated through blood sacrifices. The JFK assassination? Done to keep his mishap with an alien at Roswell from breeding out of hand. The Minions from Despicable Me? There are dark subliminal messages when their gibberish is played backwards. To ensure everything is kept secret to the world at large, they are all governed by the organization Cognito, Inc. But even all of this is just a cover for the very adult animated series Inside Job. The true premise chronicles the misadventures and social life of one of the employees, Reagan Ridley.
Reagan is a technical genius who is quite ambitious and takes her job so seriously that it edges her closer to becoming a psychopath. But while she’s good at her work, her people skills are in the toilet. As a result, management has forced her to share leadership of her team of unruly misfits with yes-man Brett Hand. Brett’s desire to always be liked by everyone is so great it brings to light how badly naive he is over what he is getting himself into. And while that’s enough of a headache for Reagan to deal with on any given day, she is also having to house her father Rand, the former CEO and co-founder of Cognito, Inc. whose unrelenting paranoia had gotten him fired for nearly exposing the Deep State as well as getting divorced from her mother.
Almost right off the bat, there’s going to be inevitable comparisons between Inside Job with Rick and Morty. Visually speaking, Inside Job follows along the recent path from some adult animated programs by looking as simple and as clean as possible so as to make the series as a whole rather pleasant on the eyes to watch. This also allows for more emphasis in surprising audiences during moments design for shock value. They are wisely not as often used in the show so that the impact hits just right in bolstering the narrative. And when they do happen, the animation is quite top notch. This is showcased in such scenes like one where multiple clones that are released from storage then begin to mutate and merge into a massive monstrosity.
The thing that really makes the look of Inside Job stand out from other shows is the visualization of the conspiracies at the heart of the show’s lore. There’s a combination of the familiar and spinning to the conspiracies each episode highlights, from the JFK assassination to the moon landing and beyond. In finding that middle ground to present something different, it’s an opportunity to spin them further visually. The moon landing conspiracy creates a fascinating approach that results in unique designs to take advantage of the unexpected twists. The episode also shows something that could conceivably be built towards later, displaying just a glimpse at how the Atlantis legend is played with. This adds an interesting appeal to refreshing ideas.
But while the visual approach to the conspiracies is fascinating, they take a backseat to the actual narrative, merely serving to highlight a specific obstacle Reagan faces in her social life. Exploration of the JFK assassination being the backdrop to her tasked with determining who in the company she should fire. An important social event with shape-shifting lizards bringing to light Reagan’s discomfort with hugging. The moon landing is the basis for her wanting to literally create space between herself and her father. With this much focus on Reagan, it means that the weight of the show hinges on how well she is developed throughout the series. In all honesty, Reagan ultimately comes off as one of the most fun characters I’ve seen in recent years.
To say Reagan is socially awkward would be underselling just how damaged she really is beneath the surface. While she progressively becomes open-minded to being more outgoing than she is introduced as, she has passed the point of no return in her ambition to eventually be in charge of Cognito, Inc. thanks in no small part to terrible parenting by her father and even her mother. The result is an amazing hodge podge of a personality that is equal parts megalomaniacal and equal parts endearing. Even at her worst there’s a feeling of wanting to root for her to overcome so that she’ll feel somewhat better at the end of the day. Reagan’s appeal is further enhanced by an outstanding vocal performance from Lizzy Caplan at the top of her game.
There is a downside to this. As great as Reagan turned out to be, all of the other characters have on the whole not been developed all that well. The team of misfits are essentially just there and don’t seem to have much purpose. This is certainly the case with Gigi, who heads the media manipulation, and Andre, the biochemist who gets off on the drugs he makes. There are attempts to examine Glenn, a human-dolphin hybrid super soldier, and Magic Myc, a psychic mushroom-like organism from inside Hollow Earth, but these are brief, secondary, and less interesting. There’s also JR, the current CEO who comes off as a duplicate to Stephen Colbert, but he too is limited to merely bossing Reagan and only slightly has a secondary plot near the end.
Brett and Rand have managed to get some legs as far as their development goes, though much is to do with their voice actors giving some great performances. Brett’s arc of being the a goody two shoes adapting to a work environment dedicated to deceiving the general public is slow and lacking actual progress. His only purpose seems to be to bring out a caring side to Reagan. If not for the vocal performance of Clark Duke emphasizing the naivety in a charming manner, the character might come off more of an annoyance. For Rand, it’s all about the vocal performance by Christian Slater. Putting a spin on the crazy old man act results in some of the most hilarious antics on the show and is quite fun to watch butting heads with Reagan.
While this review covers the first ten episodes that were available as of writing and that perhaps a lot more can be done once additional episodes are made, I can’t help but feel a strange sense that there was some rushing in the making of the show aside from the care that clearly went into developing Reagan. Creator Shion Takeuchi was a writer on shows such as Regular Show, Disenchantment, and Gravity Falls, so she has a good sense for storytelling. And she has the support of Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch, who serves as an executive producer and co-wrote an episode. In general, the writing and how the episodes are shaped is good. But there’s a lot to take in and maybe too much focus on Reagan to allow other characters to breathe.
Inside Job is a show that is worth checking out. The animation is very nice and there’s some great spinning of the conspiracies toward fascinating directions. It features one of the most fun characters in Reagan Ridley despite a personality that is as much conceited as it is appealing. But because there’s an absolute focus on her, most everyone else take such a backseat as to be greatly unimportant in the grand scheme of things. The hope is that Inside Job will get more episodes and time will be allowed to develop the other characters a lot more as well as further explore the conspiracies so that there is a proper balance to Reagan’s development. There’s great promise to this series and is one that Netflix will hopefully not cover up.
Approx. Avg. 30 minutes
Created by Shion Takeuchi