Steven Soderbergh has had a wild and unique career in Hollywood. Whether one loves all his films, only some, or hates his entire output, there’s no denying that Soderbergh has just made whatever suited his fancy. To that end, the beloved, idiosyncratic filmmaker created a comedic sci-fi web series all stealth-like. Said show, Command Z has a small cast and a simple setup. The emphasis is on the messages of the eight episodes and the oddball conceit.
Sometime in the future, Jamie (JJ Maley), Emma (Chloe Radcliffe), and Sam (Roy Wood Jr.) have been chosen for a special mission codenamed Command Z. Their boss, the entirely digitized former corporeal being Kerning (Michael Cera), has put a semi-stable wormhole into a
washing machine high-end dryer. Kerning tasks these three, whose lives in this future world are filled with death, hardships, and “De Santis Day parades” with Quantum Leap-ing into specific people into the past to change their minds on policies and treatment of people to create a better future. The catch is the “semi-stable” part of the mission, as there are only ten or so days to influence everyone and save the future.
Command Z was written by Larry Doyle, Roy Wood Jr., Kurt Andersen, Chloe Radcliffe, Emily Flake, Akilah Hughes, Jiehae Park, and Nell Scovell. Remarkably, given the large number of writers for something that only runs a total of 90 minutes, the entire show feels cohesive. Characterizations are consistent, and every episode is funny and impactful in the way it intends. Each one goes after a different serious issue plaguing society, such as climate change, religion infiltrating politics, and billionaire CEOs not seeing others as humans.
“… Quantum Leap-ing into specific people into the past to change their minds on policies and treatment of people…”
Soderbergh directs each episode with the command of tone that he’s known for. This isn’t as cartoony and silly as Logan Lucky, but the jokes are funny. Plus, when as the show goes on, the characters in their future setting get some interesting dramatic moments that show off the filmmaker’s eclectic skill set.
The cast of Command Z is perfect. Maley’s sheer optimism is unwavering. “I did not mean it as an insult” is both genuinely sweet and hilarious. Wood Jr. showcases his effortless comedic persona, stating lines such as “there are things dogs do I want to try,” with a dry with. Radcliffe plays off with her cynicism quite well. Cera is perfect as the Zordon-esque head of the operations. He’s funny and sincere. Supporting players include the always-welcome Liev Schreiber and Zoë Winters, among others. Despite only being in an episode or two, they make a big impression and fit well tonally.
Command Z is unusual and not subtle, so those hard to the right will be very pissed off by this thing’s very existence. But the writing is sharp, and Soderbergh’s direction is as spot-on as ever (save for the disaster that is The Informant). The cast is remarkable and really sells all the twists and turns.
"…those hard to the right will be very pissed off by this thing’s very existence."