Listen up, smug marrieds: It turns out you and your spouse will never stop arguing about how to load this dishwasher — and I do mean never. In the new Amazon comedy Forever (premiering Sept. 14 on Amazon), Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen play June and Oscar, a California couple living in a pleasant-enough haze of marital monotony until… well, here’s the thing. There’s really no way to discuss Forever without addressing the Big Thing that happens at the end of episode two, because the remainder of the show’s eight episodes reside in that reality. So, dear reader, feel free to walk away now and return when you’re caught up. Otherwise, if you don’t mind mild spoilers, let’s continue!
Oscar and June live comfortable lives couched in repetition (Oscar prefers the term “tradition”) until one day June — who yearns for more excitement in their marriage — pushes her husband to forgo their annual vacation to the lake house and try skiing instead. This does not go well: Oscar, a novice skier, slams into a tree and dies. One year later, June follows him into the afterlife courtesy of a rogue macadamia nut, and from there, Forever — created by Alan Yang (Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock) — truly begins. You see, what Oscar and June find on the Other Side is a world that’s dismayingly similar to the one they left behind: A sunny street of midcentury split-level homes, straight out of Malvina Reynolds’s “Little Boxes,” where the dead can replicate the placid routine of their former lives.
To Oscar, this is just like heaven; he’s content with an eternity of crossword puzzles, shuffleboard, and time-killing debates about things like “the all-time best way to sit.” (His one complaint about the afterlife: “No one, like, sits you down and gives you an informational packet.”) June, however, doesn’t find much humor in this cosmic joke — so she fills her time snooping on a brusque new neighbor (Catherine Keener) and longing for a purpose she may never find.
If this doesn’t sound particularly riotous, it’s not, but Yang and Hubbard seem to be going for a mood of quiet amusement, weaving contemplative silences through the comedy. Former SNL colleagues Armisen and Rudolph have an easy chemistry, and they conjure up a believable, loving relationship, one that’s knit together with rituals and inside jokes, simmering resentments and the comfort (and tyranny) of the familiar. Oscar’s friendship with his neighbor Mark (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Noah Robbins), an acerbic teen who died in the 1970s and barely tolerates the exceedingly uncool Oscar, provides intermittent bursts of hilarity.
Much like June, though, Forever struggles to find its purpose. Is it a meditation on the meaning — or meaninglessness — of life? A cautionary tale about the dangers of complacency? A stark reminder that married life can be a slog? Oddly enough, the closest Forever comes to sending a clear message is with a standalone episode that has essentially nothing to do with Oscar and June. “Andre and Sarah” follows a pair of “low-level realtors,” Sarah (Big Little Lies’ Hong Chau) and Andre (The Chi’s Jason Mitchell), as they fall in love over a series of open houses and conversations about “big-ass questions,” like the viability of marriage and mankind’s inherent morality. It’s an achingly beautiful, stunningly-performed 33 minutes that does more to convey the importance of seizing the moment than the rest of the series as a whole. While Forever brings Oscar and June’s meandering story to a relatively satisfying conclusion, it’s Sarah and Andre’s heartbreaking tale that will stay with me. Treat yourself — it’ll be the best one-episode binge you’ve had all year. Full series grade: B; Episode 6 grade: A