CAPTAIN FALL Review: Beguiling, Hilarious, Absolutely Absurd, Definitely Only for Adults
Jason Ritter, Christopher Meloni, Lesley-Ann Brandt lead the voice cast in an outrageous animated series, from 'Norsemen' creators Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen, now streaming on Netflix.
Oh, that Norwegian sense of humor! What won't they ridicule?
All 10 episodes premiere globally July 28, 2023, exclusively on Netflix. I've seen all 10 episodes.
Did you ever mistakenly walk in on your parents while they were making love? Did you stay and have a conversation with them?
Probably not. Most people would not. Jonathan Fall (voiced by Jason Ritter), however, is not most people. He stays and talks with his entwined parents (Christopher McDonald and Bebe Neuwirth) until mom finally kicks him out.
That's not the first clueless thing he does in the first episode, though it's probably the most comically outrageous and rudely hilarious, and that's what Captain Fall is all about, venturing far, far beyond the admittedly dumb but instantly memorably premise: Captain Fall is set up to be the fall guy for a criminal organization.
Musician and former ad man Jon Iver Helgaker and his writing partner Jonas Torgersen created Norsemen (2016-2020), writing and directing all three seasons of the show -- 18 episodes in total, now streaming on Netflix -- which merrily explored the everyday lives, loves, triumphs and challenges of a small town of Vikings in the year 790. The unspoken theme of that show could have been: 'There's more to life than raping and pillaging, there's also constantly mocking each other and plenty of toilet humor and killing people and sending up every patchwork Viking stereotype that has ever been enacted on screen.'
Leaping into the animated realm, Helgaker and Torgersen created Captain Fall and wrote all ten episodes. Developed by the two of them with Joel Trussell (the family-friendly yet absurd animated show Pickle and Peanut, now streaming on Disney Plus), Captain Fall is structured in a very smart manner, making each episode different as it sets up new buffoons of the rich and famous, ready to be mocked and/or torn to pieces by wild animals and/or shot to bits by automatic gunfire and/or blown to smithereens.
Each episode begins with an absurdly violent inciting incident before showing its connection to the primary narrative plotline. Jonathan Fall is introduced as the none-too-bright youngest offspring of a famed naval family, wherein each male child is expected to be a leader among men. Disdained by his family, owing to his low-intelligence and meek, gullible nature, Jonathan is shocked and incredibly pleased when he is picked to be the new captain of a fine ship.
What he doesn't know is what has already been revealed to viewers: a nefarious criminal organization needs someone just like him to be the disposable face of their smuggling operation. In general, Jonathan is oblivious to his surroundings and he quickly becomes the unwitting pawn of the organization.
Naive Jonathan, as voiced by Jason Ritter, is so incredibly sweet and polite and friendly, despite all the mistreatment and neglect that he's suffered from his family throughout his life, that he can't help but bestir feelings of pity and sympathy from on-board smuggling leader Liza (Lesley-Ann Brandt) and her second-in-command, Pedro (Alejandro Edda). Reluctantly, and against their better judgment, Liza and Pedro act to protect innocent Jonathan from grasping the full extent of what's happening all around him, in plain sight, even as their own roles in the operation gradually become more apparent and generate greater empathy.
Jason Ritter, Lesley-Ann Brandt and Alenjandro Edda are superbly cast, their vocal performances milking every last drop of irony from the pitch-black sense of humor that abounds throughout the series, to the point that it's easy to empathize with their characters. Christopher MacDonald and Bebe Neuwirth convey the incredulous reactions of Captain Fall's parents, with Adam Devine nailing the nasty, whiny, entitled rantings of his older brother.
In all this madness, Christopher Meloni provides a further humorous counterpoint as Agent Steel, the only enforcement agent who has a clue about the smuggling operation and persists in his dogged investigation, even if his superiors do not agree. Trond Fausa, the constantly complaining slave from Norsemen, adds another rich source of comic delivery as Nico.
The show is completely unapologetic as it consistently ventures further and further into formerly forbidden territory. If something strikes them as funny, Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen are going there, come what may.
- Jason Ritter
- Alejandro Edda
- Vivian Lamolli