SXSW 2023 Slip Review-Zoe Lister-Jones Shines In Roku’s Familiar But Addictive Hit
Zoe Lister-Jones explores the dangers of just wanting more in Roku’s Slip, a study of whether the grass is greener in the multiverse.
Lister-Jones’ Mae wallows through life, unhappy with the stable complacency of her mundane days. She has a best friend who would do anything for her. She gets to work with her at Mae’s dream job, and she has a floppy-haired husband whose only crime seems to be he is expected. It’s a common start to countless pop culture stories—everything from Freaky Friday to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sliding Doors before she sold vagina-scented candles. Yet, despite the familiar beginning, Slip, written and directed by Lister-Jones, quickly veers into an undiscovered endearing space that is as addictive to watch as it is heartwarming.
We first meet Mae navel-gazing about her boring life before she treats herself to a night of drinking and cheating with a stranger she meets in a bar. He’s hot, and the sex is wild, unlike her recent experiences with her husband Elijah, adorable Whitmer Thomas. Neither member of this couple is happy. Whether it be neglect, complacency, or unfair dissatisfaction is up to the viewer. Likely, the truth lies in all three. Things have become so bad she has begun questioning everything about her life. Those questions lead to unexpected answers when her sexcapade results in an orgasm-inducing trip through the multiverse and all of the different Mae’s living different lives.
In the pilot, Mae is the worst. She is a dull, lifeless person so discontented with her life she can’t see anything but misery. Her unhappiness is so profound she mutes everyone around her in the many shades of her despair. But, after she starts slipping through the universe, Mae comes alive with possibility, hope, and finally, realization. Sometimes we have to lose something to recognize how wonderful it was. Mae might be annoying in less capable hands, but Lister-Jones has a firm handle on when to let Mae’s neurosis go and when to pull them back, riding the line between a sad sack and a relatable everywoman.
The first time Mae slips, she wakes up having ditched her seemingly small life for one of massive fame and fortune. Now she is a trophy wife to a superstar who appears to dote on her every whim. Unfortunately, this version of herself is entitled, messy, and addicted. It doesn’t take long for Mae to panic and realize how f*cked she really is. It’s a shocking discovery that makes Mae look closer at how well she knew herself before the slip. Without the trappings of her real life, she no longer knows who she is and what she wants.
By the time Mae has slipped in and out of several lives, she is beginning to understand that it wasn’t everyone else that was making her miserable. It was her. She needed to do the work to make herself happy instead of waiting to be made happy. Morning after morning, Mae wakes to find herself in a new reality. Each one is more chaotic than the one before. Mae’s sense of self begins to erode, and as she considers another version of Elijah, she wonders why she was so unhappy. All of it is full of Lister-Jones’ dry wit and burgeoning self-awareness.
It would be easy to categorize this as some bizarre rom-com universe of madness, but it’s better than that. The Roku Channel has taken a chance on this experimental series that is kooky and charming in its uniqueness. Slip is about finding our way back to the ones we love, but it is mostly about learning to love ourselves- the good, bad, and ugly.
There is a spiritual undercurrent of eastern ideals and a sexy woo-woo Buddhism that surprisingly ties everything together nicely by the end of the final episode. This is a love story between two people finding their way back to each other but also a love story between platonic friends and ourselves. Slip is less concerned with the multiverse but instead with who we are in it. The quick-paced episodes make mountains out of minuscule encounters to define the many spouses. Everyone feels fully fleshed if flawed. An alcoholic lesbian bar owner, an obnoxious finance bro, and a megastar with swagger for days all feel as real as Mae.
Despite being a singular story set in one city, it feels expansive, as if it could be anyone and everyone’s story. Lister-Jones’ commitment to Mae’s good and bad qualities allows us to laugh along with her gallows humor and sympathize with her pain. You believe she is real and see her in yourself and those around you. Mae is like the rest of us, messy, insecure, and overconfident in equal measures. Like Mae, it’s easy to obsess over every decision, wholeheartedly believing the wrong choice could derail our lives completely.
A banger soundtrack compliments the infinitely binge-able episodes, and Slip feels more significant than the simple story. It feels like a universal truth about womanhood and the pressures we are under. Partly those are indoctrinated societal norms but also rigid rules we inflict on each other. Lister-Jones’ script sounds like Parvati’s whispered promises soothing women’s souls but disguised as morbid humor. It also pokes fun at our obsession with sex. There are too many labels now. Not everything has to be dissected and defined. It shouldn’t matter whether we are sexually liberated, repressed, or fluid. Do it, don’t do it, but don’t regret your decisions either way, and don’t define yourself as a person because of those choices.
Tymika Tafari is a standout as Mae’s stalwart best friend, who reminds us that loyal female friendships are just as meaningful as romantic partners. Slip isn’t shy about exposing Mae’s and our weaknesses as women. Parenthood, career, and sexuality are all explored with an unflinching, if hilarious, lens. At the end of the day, the people who are closest to us become as integral to our identity as every decision we make. So what happens when we lose pieces of ourselves? How far would you go to get those pieces back? Slip opens the portal to surf the wave of reality and find out. Slip premiers April 21st, 2023. Find all our SXSW 2023 coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.