I stopped watching every episode of The Simpsons a long time ago, but still watch the newer episodes occasionally. My big problem with many that I’ve seen is that they’re the dictionary definition of lackluster. Not a single joke or plot line gets a reaction out of me, and I end every episode feeling like I essentially watched nothing, like all I did for half an hour was idle around and wait for the time to pass. Captain Fall feels a lot like that.
By the time the season finale’s end credits rolled, it almost felt like I hadn’t watched anything at all. Captain Fall follows a young man named Jonathan Fall (Jason Ritter) who gets hired as the captain of a cruise ship, despite having graduated at the bottom of his class. What he doesn’t know is that the ship’s actually a disguise for human trafficking headquarters, and the only reason why Fall was hired was because the traffickers wanted someone incompetent to take the fall should they ever get caught.
It’s an intriguing enough set-up for a black comedy, one that could possibly surprise us with a lot of clever jokes. Unfortunately, these jokes are the complete opposite of that, and I struggle to call some of them jokes at all. A good portion of this show is just showing us characters or creatures having sex, being naked, or getting brutally attacked or killed, and that’s supposedly enough to get us to laugh.
I’m not above a raunchy or morbid joke, but there has to be a punchline other than just a character going “Well, that’s out of the ordinary.” It’s really not, in terms of adult animation television — South Park, Family Guy, and much more have all done more than their share of jokes with these types of humor.
Another good portion of this show is just certain characters being fumbling idiots. Given its premise, you would think Jonathan would be the only bumbling doofus and every other character would be cocky, smart, or well-spoken, but that’s not even close to the case here.
There’s a detective character, for instance, who’s smart, determined, and carries a critical eye – so it’s especially odd that when he tries to sneak evidence into his car, instead of just saying, “I won’t bring this home!”, he goes “I’m definitely not going to bring this home. Not behind anyone’s back, no! So, you know, I’m just going to go place this where it belongs and then go straight home afterward, I promise.”
It comes across as the characters being forced to say these jokes instead of these jokes naturally stemming from their personalities, which is downstream of how there isn’t a single likable character in this entire show. That seems like an obvious statement given the human trafficking plot, but what I mean is, there isn’t a single smartly-written or fun character throughout Captain Fall’s entire run. A lot of these characters are meant to be terrible people, sure, but they’re so boringly terrible, doing the obvious actions you’d expect a terrible person to do.
They curse at people, backbite them, act incredibly shallow, and with certain characters, they stab, punch, and murder without hesitation. They say mean things, sure, but they’re not cleverly mean — there’s no wit to any of the insults, so you can’t even laugh when an act of mockery is meant to be comedic. It just feels like the show is going through a checklist of how to make a character seem awful, so much so that it feels one-dimensional.
If this show wanted me to loathe certain characters, it failed completely because, for many of them, I just didn’t care. The same could be said for characters who are meant to be gleefully awful, the kind you love to watch be vicious, cunning, and remorseless. It mostly feels like they’re doing what the teleplay tells them to do, instead of their actions feeling specific to them.
For instance, there’s this character who plays with Jonathan through lies and manipulation, but then immediately uses aggression and bullying to get another character to do something. Throughout the season, she’s shown to be a smart talker, able to poise herself and remain well-spoken even during stressful situations, so why would she instantly resort to juvenile insults in this sudden scenario?
As for the characters who are meant to be good, the show seemingly has no idea how to make them funny and nice at the same time without making them excessively talkative or dumb.
Jonathan, especially, is such a flat doormat it’s surprisingly difficult to root for him. You would think the mere fact that he’s completely innocent in a ship filled with human traffickers would make him at least slightly sympathetic, but from the minute he shows up on-screen, he lets people push him around and make fun of him without so much as a hint of anger from him, not even when he’s alone. It doesn’t make him human, it makes him a paper cutout: gullible to the point of unbelievable, a character whose entire personality is that he’s a wimp.
Even when he starts becoming more confident, it becomes clear that he doesn’t have much to him that’s worth being confident about. He never knows when to end a tangent, has no social skills whatsoever, and is so naive he probably believes magicians perform actual magic.
This character is meant to be our protagonist, but he isn’t the least bit interesting or likable at all. Throughout the season, the traffickers begin to talk about how they’ve grown to like him, but I’m watching this while scratching my head and asking my Netflix app, Why? These characters constantly manipulate and lie to him and roll their eyes at him behind his back, so why do they, all of a sudden, feel bad about his expendable nature?
Writing all this, I feel like I should be madder at this show for being yet another example of TV executives thinking any adult animated comedy will do as long as it shows animated characters having sex and being gruesomely attacked.
However, Captain Fall is so indifferent toward its own self I have no choice but to be indifferent toward it either. It feels like homework done just for a passing grade, and it doesn’t even achieve that. Boring, unfunny, and insipid, Captain Fall is a good example of what not to do when creating an animated show for older audiences.
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Captain Fall has an interesting enough premise for a dark comedy, but one-note characters, a striking absence of clever jokes, and a deficiency of energy turn this Netflix title into an incredibly lackluster and unmemorable one.
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