A Poignant, Experimental Series From Zoe Lister-Jones
Mar 17, 2023
At some point in our lives, everyone has succumbed to thinking about how their life would be different if they’d made some small change — married a different person, taken a different job, maybe questioned your sexuality a little bit. But for as much as we’d like to imagine that things might be better, that we’d be happier with something new and shiny instead of the love-worn things we have, Zoe Lister-Jones seeks to challenge that idea with her new series, Slip, about what happens when one person has to travel infinite universes to find her way home.
Written, directed by, and starring Lister-Jones, Slip follows Mae Cannon, an assistant museum curator bored with the life she leads, one of perfect though mundane stability with her husband, Elijiah (Whitmer Thomas). Though they both live comfortably, it’s easy to see that neither of them is truly happy, having fallen into patterns too dismal to escape, ones that make Mae reconsider what she wants out of her life, and whether marital stability is really what she wants out of life.
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She quickly receives her answer when she “slips” and sleeps with a stranger at her local bar (Amar Chadha-Patel), only to wake up and find herself married to him, seemingly having slipped (ha) through the cracks of the universe and into a different one. It’s an unhappy discovery, despite the fact that she’s gone from living a small, boring life to an immense one filled with fame and fortune, and immediate panic sets in. Mae quickly realizes that she no longer knows who she is without the normalcy she once knew.
Image via The Roku Channel
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Thus begins Mae’s journey to find her way back to where she belongs, traveling through existence after existence, spouse after spouse, each more chaotic than the last. Laced with drugs, alcohol, and the kind of chaos she never could have imagined for herself with Elijiah, Mae’s trip through infinite possibilities is spike after spike of dry humor, a wild adventure in the vein of Everything Everywhere All at Once as her sense of self-awareness warps, each spouse (and concurrent version of herself) making her question who she is and why she was dissatisfied with her life in the first place.
While this sounds like the makings of the next Matrix movie, or maybe some cheap entry into the MCU by way of rom-coms, Slip is anything but your average story. Perhaps it’s appropriate that the series landed with The Roku Channel, whose buzzy offering Weird: The Al Yankovic Story reflects the same kind of zany, experimental creativity. Slip pushes the envelope to bursting with its examination of what it really means to love someone — including yourself.
Lister-Jones’s voice is singular and unique, creating something that goes beyond its vaguely sci-fi concept, and certainly singles itself out from the heaping handfuls of stories about infinite worlds we’ve received in the last few years. Slip isn’t concerned with the multiverse, no, but rather the people in it, and how our interactions with each other refract and coalesce, inspecting the things we do out of love and desperation and the messy results that come with. It concerns itself with building believable and memorable characters — mostly spouses — from minuscule interactions, everyone from shitty stockbrokers to lesbian bar owners to famous musicians, the latter of whom still seems like the best of the lot to me. (Am I saying that partly because I loved Chadha-Patel in Willow? Perhaps, but I’d still like to see him lead his own rom-com someday.)
Image via The Roku Channel
Thus, the world of Slip, despite never leaving New York City, feels lush and expansive, a place where one choice, one wrong move could change your entire life. It rides a razor’s edge of comedy, nearing the drop into cringe humor that I normally find deplorable but never fully taking the plunge, perhaps because of Lister-Jones’ commitment to Mae’s emotional journey, both as a writer and an actress. Mae is morbidly hilarious, a woman who assumes she’s got her life together until she very much doesn’t, delivering lines like “I think my p**sy is a wormhole” with such a straight face that I had difficulty not folding like a cheap lawn chair. Her pain and confusion resonate through the screen like a pound of bricks to the chest, but Slip never lets you sit with those feelings for more than a moment, much the same way that life and Mae’s journey also move at a breakneck pace.
But even beyond the creative conceit and characters that kept me coming back for more — at half an hour each, the episodes are compulsively bingeable — there’s something deeper going on with Slip, an awareness so fully possessed by Lister-Jones that it feels a little revolutionary, the kind of secret thing communicated between women not in words, but in expressions, finally put down on paper. It peels back a yellow wallpaper of a different kind, and beyond the comedy lies something that makes it easy to put this series among my favorites of the year, despite the fact that we’re barely three months into 2023.
It considers sex as a means of identity, something held in such high esteem in contemporary society that it might as well have the ability to rocket someone into a parallel universe — or at least, it wouldn’t seem all that surprising if it did, considering the way some people treat it. It’s a lesson in valuing every aspect of the life you lead, your just-fine spouse and your boring job and the best friend that sticks beside you no matter what (the excellent Tymika Tafari), someone who’s just as important as any spouse or romantic partner could ever be.
Image via The Roku Channel
Slip isn’t shy about any of what it’s trying to do, from its examination of sex and sexuality to its commentary on parenthood and self-loathing and whether karma is, in fact, a real, tangible thing. What results from Lister-Jones’ no-holds-barred approach is a poignant portrait of love and intimacy, and how we as people (and, perhaps, as women) tie these things intrinsically into our own identity, something as inescapable as our hair color or the sound of our voice. The people we love the most become a part of our DNA, whether they’re best friends or spouses or something else entirely, and Slip examines just what we’re willing to do when those core parts of us are lost.
In a sea of seemingly never-ending television premieres — just this month, we’ve got The Mandalorian, Ted Lasso, and The Last of Us’s finale, among others — it’s easy to put another show on your watchlist and never really get around to it. But I implore you, find a device with a Roku and binge Slip as fast as you can once it hits the service in April. There’s almost a Lasso-esque perspective on life and the universe hiding behind Lister-Jones’s sense of humor, though as someone with a taste for the morbid, I can certainly say that there’s something darkly more entertaining about Slip, a show for everybody whether they’re happy with their lives or not.
Slip premieres on The Roku Channel on April 21.
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