Miracle Workers: End Times Tackles the Apocalypse with the Anthology’s Signature Charm and Creativity

Comedy Reviews Miracle Workers
Miracle Workers: End Times Tackles the Apocalypse with the Anthology’s Signature Charm and Creativity

Right when there’s an apocalypse on absurdist comedy television under the Warner Bros. Discovery company-owned platform Max, with shows such as Black Lady Sketch Show and The Other Two ending, on top of the ongoing WGA strike in Hollywood, it’s refreshing—no—a Godsend that Simon Rich’s TBS anthology series Miracle Workers is still one of the remaining surrealist comedies out there. Following the Warner Bros. Discovery merger delaying the new season’s release by six months, the show where Daniel Radcliffe, Steve Buscemi, Geraldine Viswanathan, Jon Bass, and Karan Soni play dress-up couldn’t have come at a better time. Besides, there aren’t many other American-made anthology shows aside from the few times FX’s Archer did it during the late 2010s.

After riffing on a dysfunctional Heaven-set workplace, medieval times, and the Old West, the show’s fourth season, subtitled End Times, tackles the apocalypse. And, once again, it’s all done in charming, quirky, and creative MW fashion.

Set in a deserted wasteland, along with a voiceover intro spoofing Tom Hardy’s Mad Max, Sid (Radcliffe) is a lone warrior with attitude and a blackened soul. His world gets turned upside down once he meets—well, is ambushed by—warlord Freya Exaltada (Viswanathan). They brawl, but it’s love at first scowl, for they quickly make out and, over time, tie the knot. As the two enter the mayhem of marital life, they try to conquer Suburbia, adjusting to a new rhythm with their pet war dog Scraps (Jon Bass) in Boomtown and sacrificing their once-warrior ways for better living. Sid lands a new job as an assistant to junk shop owner, expert, and enthusiast Morris “The Junkman” Rubinstein (Buscemi). Freya takes a stab at ruling Boomtown in a newly fashioned way: democracy. With the help of Freya’s party-loving best friend, a gay kill-bot named TI-90 (Soni), Freya and Sid’s new way of life might be even more complicated than their post-apocalyptic setting.  

In just the opening five minutes of the premiere episode titled “Welcome to Boomtown,” End Times quickly bombards the viewer with outrageously hysterical and clever gags. One visual that had me cackling to the point of tears is Sid stomping on a skull, parallel to the Jewish marriage tradition of breaking the glass. Once the laughs rev, they never let up. Completely embracing its absurdism as usual, Miracle Workers’ hilarious writing takes glee at the task of crafting a suburban society within a post-apocalyptic world. It’s like an expansion on that one bit towards the end of the Rick and Morty episode “Rickmancing the Stone,” in which Summer settles into domestic life with the dystopian warlord Hemorrhage, but with more wit and heart to it. Besides Mad Max, the show riffs on similar features set in futuristic wastelands like Dune and, in an upcoming episode called the “MatriXXX,” some other Wackowski sci-fi movie that’s not Cloud Atlas

Four seasons in, there’s so much pleasure in seeing the new personalities and characters the comedic ensemble embrace and what new season-long stories will unfold. The dynamic between Radcliffe, Viswanathan, Buscemi, Bass, and Soni is full of joy, shown in their charismatic deliveries and commitment to whatever silly material gets thrown at them.  

This iteration’s emotional core lies within Radcliffe and Viswanathan’s rom-com chemistry as the warrior newlyweds slowly assimilate into suburban life, and they work wonders. With all the pounds of armor, black eyeliner, and gear they wear, they derive great comedy through their situational marital banter that perfectly satirizes the bourgeois lifestyle. By now, their on-screen combo is as effortless as stepping into comfy old shoes. 

Also, notable performances are found in Jon Bass as human-pet Scraps as he steals the show every second he’s on screen. Scraps’ tendency towards the dog half of his war dog persona results in hilarious canine-centric gags—thankfully no potty humor, too—that are so goofy. Yet Bass is so game and makes all the ridiculous material provided work. His happy-go-lucky smile garners so many laughs amid the chaos he spurs. Then Karan Soni’s TI-90 is exceptionally funny, mainly when he and Viswanathan’s Freya chill and gossip about their separate daily lives. The way Soni nonchalantly delivers his lines, specifically whenever TI-90 describes his party-loving and sexual escapades—one bit about a Rube Goldberg machine had no right to be as hilarious as it was—boosts his wild dialogue.

The upcoming “MatriXXX” episode—in which Freya and Sid ask TI-90 to help them reclaim their lost sexual spark while Junkman goes to a high school reunion with a bunch of his old classmates who are all skeletons—is full of enough ridiculous raunchy humor and visuals that approach Daniels-level insanity. Only a show as frivolous as this has the power to make moments like Steve Buscumi getting it on with a skeleton or Daniel Radcliffe dirty talking a boulder some of the funniest offerings on TV today.  It exemplifies how much joy the cast shares on this show; they are the best TV comedy ensemble in recent memory.  

Admittedly, the season is quite referential with its setting, taking on more of a Scary Movie parody approach than its trademark novel silliness. One cannot help but feel a bit exhausted by a Matrix-spoofing episode in 2023, especially when the setting has a more post-apocalypse aesthetic than futuristic. However, Miracle Workers’  increasing foolishness trumps those criticisms. Casting David Dastmalchian as a Baron Harkonnen-type alone is a significant mic drop that I can’t wrap my head around. Also, kudos to the costuming and makeup department, which provide outstanding quality while bringing steampunk-ish life to this backdrop.  

Despite only three episodes supplied for review, Miracle Workers continues with its charming, hilarious magic even the fourth time around. Now that the series is the last remaining live-action scripted original series on TBS, hopefully it will become a hit on Max and ensure a fifth bout. Space seems rather good for the Miracle Worker crew next. But in a David Zaslav society, the apocalypse setting might be too fitting if this is their final bout.  

Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.

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