Inside Job Season 1 Review

Inside Job Season 1 will be streaming on Netflix on Oct. 22.

Inside Job combines conspiracy theories with a workplace comedy to create a funny story about finding yourself in over your head while leading a team, set in an intriguing world full of exotic creatures and secret cults. Sadly, the show doesn’t fully know how to approach the ways people really believe conspiracy theories, and over-relies on referencing pop culture, which can distract from the character comedy. 

The show takes place inside Cognito, Inc., the company that secretly runs the world for the mysterious Shadow Board, and is responsible for every conspiracy theory out there. Reagan Ridley (Lizzy Caplan) is a genius and the daughter of the company’s co-founder Rand (Christian Slater), who has always wanted to lead the company towards a better future. When her bosses decide she lacks people skills, they assign her a co-leader in Brett Hand (Clark Duke), a human golden retriever who doesn’t have a clue, but loves just being a part of the team. And there’s also a sentient mushroom and a dolphin-human hybrid on the team — you know, the usual workplace.

Gravity Falls writer Shion Takeuchi makes her debut as a showrunner with a series that, much like the fan-favorite Disney cartoon, walks the balance between episodic and serialized TV in ways few others do nowadays. Each episode feels completely self-contained, while still advancing character development and world-building from episode to episode. There are small references to previous episodes, and we see some of the characters grow and change throughout the season, but other than the two-part finale, this is a rare Netflix show you don’t have to binge in one sitting. 

Takeuchi is not the only Gravity Falls writer working on Inside Job. That show’s creator, Alex Hirsch, returns as an executive producer and writer for a few episodes. With both shows, part of the initial appeal is seeing a world of mystery, full of cryptids and conspiracy theories come to life, but what makes them worth watching is their focus on characters. In a way, Inside Job is the American Dad to Rick and Morty’s Family Guy, more about the characters being put in crazy situations than the situations themselves. The best episodes of Inside Job — a trip to the reptilian world, an episode about breaking up with a James Bond-type — have the conspiracies play second fiddle to Reagan’s self-growth and her relationship to her co-workers, as they all have their own goals and huge flaws that are used for laughs. 

The worse episodes, then, try to follow the South Park format of playing both sides, trying to make fun of Flat Earthers while adding fuel to your uncle’s Facebook rants and Q Anon-type conspiracies about the elite being part of a blood-obsessed cult. It’s not that every cartoon needs to address current events and concerns, but it feels off to see a show simultaneously mock the alt-right for being gullible idiots while maybe arguing that they’re onto something.

It doesn’t help that Inside Job is constantly firing up pop-culture references at lightning speed, seemingly just to wink and nod at the audience rather than to serve the tone of the story. Remember the “let them fight” meme from the 2014 Godzilla? Remember Leonardo DiCaprio’s fight with a bear in The Revenant? Inside Job certainly hopes you do, because the characters are constantly talking in pop-culture quotes and references, which end up distracting from the actual jokes.

It all ends with a chaotic and entertaining finale that opens the door to a promising Season 2.

When Inside Job uses its conspiracy theories not as references to the real world but as a way to populate its own, it perfectly captures the sense of wonder and intrigue of when we first see Will Smith’s J enter the Men in Black headquarters. There are actual sheeple (human/sheep hybrids), mothmen, Elvis clones, reptilians, krakens, and a sex commune on the moon, and the show finds an way to make it feel organic to its world. It’s entertaining to see how the different agencies and communities deal with one another, like Incognito Inc.’s petty rivalries with their main competitor — the Illuminati.

It all ends with a chaotic and entertaining finale that opens the door to a promising Season 2. This may not be the next Rick and Morty or the next Gravity Falls, but it still provides enough zany laughs and emotional moments to satisfy fans of both.

Inside Job offers likable characters and a world full of creatures and secret societies. Its character-focused story gets a little carried away with constant pop-culture references, though, and an indecisive approach to conspiracies.

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