Fired On Mars: Season 1 REVIEW — Alienated Elements

Fired On Mars tries to do a few too many things.

fired on mars

I’ve seen all eight episodes of Fired On Mars, and I’m still not sure what to call it. Is it a workplace comedy? A sci-fi political thriller? A dystopian action show? A coming-of-age for an adult man, a la BoJack Horseman? This show refuses to put itself in a box, and while that’s certainly impressive (especially in the adult animation genre where shows mostly stick to one theme), it also makes the show particularly hard to discuss or recommend, because who exactly do I recommend it to?

Maybe a summary might help. Fired On Mars follows Jeff, a graphic designer who’s traveled all the way to Mars in order to work for a big company named That was the initial plan, anyway, but then decides they no longer need his graphic design services. Jeff now has to jump from job to job trying to figure out his place in, all while maintaining a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend on Earth.

This seems like a simple enough premise, right? Most might guess that this is a show similar to The Office where the episodes focus on office culture and the interactions of co-workers, or maybe that Beavis and Butt-Head episode where the two are constantly being pushed back grade levels because of how dumb they are. (Except in this case it’s, you know, Jeff constantly changing jobs instead.)

However, Fired On Mars takes such unexpected routes and tonal shifts with its storyline that the second half almost becomes an entirely different show. It goes from Jeff trying to fit into different job positions to him joining an underground rebel society that plans on forming their own colony on Mars.

Some episodes feel like they could easily be modified to take place on Earth, while others have the Mars setting play an integral role, especially during the season’s second half. There are almost zero jokes in the last two episodes, feeling more like the climax of a dystopian thriller. It almost feels like the ending of Fired On Mars should’ve been its beginning, like the entire first season was just a prologue for the true plot to take place during the second season.

I actually do hope the second season fully embraces the Mars setting and the rebel storyline, because those were the times I was most interested in the show. Sure, Jeff going through his quarter-life crisis of feeling lonely and useless was definitely affecting and admittedly relatable, but an adult man going through such feelings isn’t exactly new territory for fiction or even adult animation.

Six seasons of BoJack Horseman pretty much tackle this territory head-on, and so do movies based on Nick Hornby books such as About a Boy and High Fidelity. Fired On Mars leaning into its thriller side feels refreshing and intriguing, even if it does present an abrupt tonal shift from all the workplace comedy scenes when it does so. I will say this, though: Several moments of Fired On Mars’s first half were an emotional sucker punch.

Yes, yes, the quarter-life crisis thing isn’t anything new, but I genuinely felt bad for Jeff and was even empathetic to his situation. Luke Wilson nails Jeff’s character’s uncertainty, confusion, and even forced chipperness as he goes through such an awful time in his life. The man made his job his entire world, only for his position to suddenly be taken away from him. He doesn’t have any meaningful friendships in his company, he constantly feels inferior to everyone around him, and he and his girlfriend can’t ever seem to properly work their relationship out.

There’s a scene where Jeff is describing a new work situation — one where he repeatedly has to answer to a superior — and he says, “It’s just nice not to be such a solo act.” There’s another scene where Jeff leaves his cubicle and tries to say goodbye to everyone, but nobody notices he’s leaving. These scenes highlight just how much adulthood can be the loneliest thing in the world, and how you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone.

Speaking of Jeff, he’s quite the frustrating protagonist, constantly acting like things are okay when they’re really, really not, and constantly fluctuating between despising and wanting to be one of its most important members. However, I always understood where he was coming from — it’s the scariest thing, feeling like your life has no direction, and you can feel Jeff clinging on to whatever sliver of hope he can find, even if it’s false hope. There’s no denying how well-written he is as a lead character.

Much like the protagonist himself, though, Fired On Mars’s first half feels pretty aimless with Jeff just going from one job to another. Most of the humor fell flat for me and the times when I did laugh were too inconsistent for my liking. Very quickly, the premise wears thin and becomes repetitive — Jeff gets a new job, learns to get along with his co-worker, and then something happens that forces Jeff to get another job.

Again, it’s like that Beavis and Butt-Head episode where they go from high school to grade school to kindergarten, except that was one episode, and Fired On Mars stretches this premise out for a full season. The show really picks up when Jeff meets the rebel group, but even then, he still has to lie low and manage his new job position. It’s nice to see the focus shift from Jeff working on his job to him working with the rebels, though, because these moments feel tense and exciting, with thrilling scenes you just can’t look away from.

At the end of the day, though, Fired On Mars is just too uneven and inconsistent to land, even if there are the occasional thrilling and heart-wrenching moments. It’s hard to shake away the feeling that the plot hasn’t truly begun, and the constant tonal shifts feel jarring and awkward. It’s hard to know who the show is truly for because it feels like the show doesn’t quite know itself, but my fingers are crossed hoping it eventually finds a way to successfully intertwine its different genres together — or even just focus on one.

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fired on mars
The occasional traces of stellar writing are enough to make you want this show to find its footing. But as a whole, Fired on Mars suffers from a serious identity crisis, feeling like a completed jigsaw puzzle made up of pieces from different pictures.