Patton Oswalt brings us a fun take on a supervillain story, but it’s got stiff competition.
M.O.D.O.K. (Patton Oswalt) is a failing supervillain whose organization, A.I.M., is purchased by sleazy tech mogul Austin Van Der Sleet (Beck Bennett). Work has already been rough because of his workplace arch-nemesis Monica (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and his normal nemesis Iron Man (Jon Hamm). At the same time, M.O.D.O.K.’s marriage to his wife, Jodie (Aimee Garcia), is falling apart due to his selfishness. His son, Lou (Ben Schwartz), and his daughter, Melissa (Melissa Fumero), both seem to have inherited M.O.D.O.K.’s self-centered personality. Now he has to find a way to save his career, his marriage, and possibly his life.
There’s a natural difficulty to doing a show with a villain protagonist. If they’re too nice, they lose all credibility as a villain. If they’re too dickish, then we don’t want to root for them. If you pull it off, though, it can make for great television, like The Sopranos. More often, though, shows tend to do anti-heroes so that they don’t have to worry about the moral ambiguity of what the characters are doing. The Sopranos and Breaking Bad often tried to justify the characters, but that made it even more brutal when we would see the same people do things that were completely unjustified (like watching Tony Soprano brutally strangle a man to death). In some ways, it’s easier to do a comedy with a villain protagonist, because you can just make the humor of the show about how terrible they are and the audience enjoys watching them fail (like Blackadder… sometimes). However, if you want a villain protagonist to succeed AND to keep it funny, that’s harder. Recently, I think Harley Quinn was a show that nailed that balance. This show, unfortunately, can’t help but be compared with that one… and it’s not quite at that level.
The main difference is that M.O.D.O.K.’s kind of assholery isn’t quite as relatable as Harley’s. Harley Quinn is a selfish, broken person who is driven by her insecurities, but she still recognizes when she hurts people that she cares about. M.O.D.O.K. basically fails to recognize any human emotions, which could work, but the show only seems to give him that trait when it is narratively convenient. Other times, he’s clearly able to determine that he’s crossing the line. Also, it’s hard to believe that someone like Jodie would even marry the current M.O.D.O.K…. or the younger one, who we see repeatedly. They try to bring him back as the season goes on, but he’s still just a bit hard to root for, and we ARE supposed to be rooting for him. He’s not Rick Sanchez or another character who’s supposed to be a cautionary tale.
That isn’t to say that this show isn’t still funny. The writing in this show is absolutely hilarious. They do a lot of levels of humor, ranging from shock to puns to visual gags, and they almost all work. The show constantly pulls off the most insane non-sequiturs and situations related to the Marvel universe. They bring in obscure characters frequently and make them so much more interesting than their normal counterparts that it’s really impressive. The voice acting is top-notch, whether it’s the main characters or guests. The animation is the stop-motion style of Robot Chicken, so if you enjoy that, it’s going to be fun for you. If you don’t… well, you might want to focus on the jokes.
Overall, it’s still worth watching, it’s just not quite what it should be. They might be able to do more next season, though, given the end of this one.