"The Maze Runner" is playing on TV this morning. Concidentally, I came across this article from a while back that reminded me why Dylan O'Brien has become an icon...
Like Amazon and Netflix before it, YouTube is getting into the premium content game in earnest. While the site has been churning out original series since 2016, the latest arrival, sci-fi anthology Weird City, premiering its six-episode first season on February 13, feels different from the YouTube Originals that came before it. This one comes from an Oscar champion (reigning Best Screenplay winner Jordan Peele), is packed with wall-to-wall A-list talent (from the ascendant Awkwafina to Orange Is The New Black breakout Laverne Cox), and is receiving comparisons to one of the most prestigious series of our time (Netflix’s Black Mirror).
After watching the first episode of Weird City, which is currently available for free outside of YouTube’s premium pay wall, Peele’s series is just as obsessed with technology as Netflix’s beloved dystopian anthology. However, premiere “The One” shows viewers something Black Mirror could never predict: a happy, lively hookup-turned-romance in the face of an ever-terrifying future. And it's between lanky Teen Wolf heartthrob Dylan O’Brien and Modern Family’s cranky septuagenarian patriarch Ed O'Neill.
Yes, that is really a love story you can watch play out over 30 minutes right this second. It’s even more special than you think.
In the trailer for Weird City, you see O’Brien’s Stu and O’Neill’s Burt talking to a scientist named Dr. Negari (sci-fi icon LeVar Burton) about their “perfect match.” Without context, it’s easy to assume Stu and Burt, a father and son duo, both decided to try out the most extreme form of futuristic app dating, possibly after Stu’s mom died. Especially since Burt is shocked and mildly annoyed when he learns his “the one” is a middle-aged man with wild hair (Stu’s is predictably a pretty young woman).
When the men run into each other again at Negari Labs — and Dr. Negari dashes away from them — Stu and Burt agree to go get grilled cheese. The next shot is a shirtless Stu and a shirtless Burt falling into bed in a state of slightly surprised post-sex bliss. “[I had] maybe some idea [this was going to happen],” Burt admits before revealing he doesn’t even like grilled cheese sandwiches. He clearly just wanted to keep spending time with Stu. “Stop, you dog!” Stu playfully responds before Weird City moves into a classic rom-com montage. The men cuddle in bed, play with virtual puppies, and eat ice cream. In one of the cutest moments of the episode, Burt licks ice cream off of Stu’s nose.
Eventually a Black Mirror-type twist arrives to bring destruction to Burt and Stu’s happy life. Months after their charming courtship, the men are married and celebrating Christmas when Dr. Negari shows up. Supposedly, Stu and Burt were paired with the wrong people, and the good of the entire system demands they dissolve their marriage and start relationships with their true “The One.” This is where Black Mirror would usually murder a beloved character, have that beloved character murder someone else, or leave us in an existential crisis of a cliffhanger. Even the romantic “Hang The DJ” doesn't exactly have a straightforward happy ending.
But, Weird City doesn’t go down any depressing or ambiguous roads. True to its romantic-comedy roots, Stu rushes to the future’s answer to the airport to stop Burt from going to his alleged “the one.” Stu thinks his husband is gone forever until he realizes Burt is right behind him; he never left. Since their against-the-app relationship is illegal in the wealthy “Above The Line” part of Weird City, the men go Below The Line, which is too impoverished to care. Even without all the accommodations of Above, they’ll live happily ever after together.
All together, it’s a beautiful glimpse at a future where society is past hand wringing about queer relationships, not matter how they sprout up. While both Stu and Burt are convinced they’re straight at the beginning of the episode, they let go of those kinds of binaries once they meet each other. In fact, Stu and Burt’s abrupt sexual evolution isn’t even a conversation once they have sex. Both halves of the couple are far more worried about how their loved ones will take their age gap than their same sex love. Yet, everyone is fine with it. Stu’s parents are happy to have a new “old fogey” to talk about the past with, while Burt’s daughter is shocked by “how hot” her dad’s boyfriend is.
As Black Mirror has proven, the future might be a scary place. However, it might just be a much more open one, too.
And the video...