Amazon’s Danger & Eggs is an acid trip worth taking. Created by Mike Owens (Yo Gabba Gabba) and Shadi Petosky (Mad), the animated original is aimed at children but more likely to delight their parents—especially if they happen to be Adventure Time fans.
The premise of Danger & Eggs is “kind of hard to explain,” as the show warns during its delightfully meta theme song. The program stars an anthropomorphic, rule-following egg who suffers from crippling anxiety (Eric Knobel) and his teal-haired best friend (Aidy Bryant), a fearless risk-taker who wants to be a stuntman like her father. Clearly that didn’t work out so well for him: Depicted in a full-body cast, his dialogue is muffled by a too-large neck brace. It’s one of Danger & Eggs’ best running gags, but the show is fast, wild, and inventive, constantly throwing new jokes and fresh characters at the audience. Viewers may find themselves watching certain scenes multiple times to make sure they don’t miss anything.
Danger & Eggs is consistently warm and witty over the course of its 13-episode season. The pilot, which first screened during Amazon’s 2015 pilot season, remains as much a standout as it was then. D.D. (Bryant) and Phillip (Knobel) take on the world’s most dangerous water slide, a tangled ratking of tubes that’s scheduled to be demolished.
The episode, without doing too much, smartly lays the groundwork for the series. D.D. will get the mismatched odd couple into trouble, while Phillip deals with the consequences. During their somewhat reluctant adventure, the pair encounter Duncan (Petosky), a lost boy who has been living in the aptly named “Tube of Pain” for 25 years. He believes that only a week has passed, but his rapidly-approaching-middle-age belly would beg to differ. In order to conquer the slide’s hidden universe, D.D. and Phillip will have to do battle with the ride’s many inhabitants—which also include bats (in the daytime!), snakes, and an “oops chute” filled with mice. The rodents, who have congealed over the course of two decades, have formed a giant, monstrous tentacle.
There’s so much imagination in every scene that it would be difficult not to marvel over the richness of detail. One of Danger & Eggs’ sharpest ideas (and it has a lot) is Crackers, a “substandard raccoon” who finds his purpose after stealing Phillip’s book of inventions. A gadget whiz, the egg of the show’s title frequently schemes up handy devices to help Danger on her missions (or just as often, keep her out of harm’s way). Crackers quickly becomes a master inventor, all while amassing a Threepenny Opera-esque army of mammals ready to do his bidding. It’s just wonderful.
What makes Danger & Eggs work so well is that like Arrested Development before it, the show deftly juggles its many jokes, themes, and characters; nothing feels lost in its mile-a-minute pace. Corporate Raider Jim (Michael Ritchie) is a broccoli-loving business executive who frequently barks orders to his assistant in his ever-present cell phone; Pigeon Lady (also Petosky) recalls an inspired Weekend at Bernie’s sendup from the kindred Rick and Morty, another show for the overgrown child in all of us.
But while Rick and Morty rarely cuts beneath its hypertextual surface, Danger & Eggs has real heart to it. Episodes frequently deal with potent issues like confirmation bias, abandonment, identity, and queerness. Petosky, the co-creator, is an out trans woman, and half its sprawling voice cast (which includes Angelica Ross and Cameron Esposito) is LGBTQ. It’s quietly groundbreaking—and never feels like an after-school special.
The show’s surprising depth allows it to go places that other shows for kids rarely do. “Ren Faire,” the first of the two segments in its sophomore episodes, is a potent parable about bucking tradition in favor of innovation. D.D. and Phillip get in well over their heads when they encounter a renaissance fair ruled by the tyrannical Knight Tyronius (Brennan Murray), a third-generation costume knight who wants to run the show the same way his father and grandfather did. Phillip, who is tasked with the unenviable job of being his squire, has his inventions constantly rejected. For instance, Phillip recommends his master joust with “The Introspector,” a mirror that causes anyone who gazes in it to see their faults.
“Ren Faire” is clever enough to get by on its very high laugh ratio, but there’s more on the minds of its creative team—which includes Nerdist’s Chris Hardaway as a producer—than that. When Tyronius resists change, including the idea that a princess might rescue herself, D.D. sets him straight. “Look, I get it: You like the old ways,” she says. “They really work for you, your dad, and your bros, but not so much for everyone else.” It’s incisive commentary on male privilege and nepotism, one that won’t be over the heads of its audience members.
The voice cast deserves credit for making their characters more than two-dimensional. Although Bryant is great, the real star of the show is Knobel; he makes Phillip’s neuroses into something recognizable and surprisingly human, rather than a collection of overblown tics. This critic particularly loved his tormented, oddball relationship with his giant mutant chicken mother, called simply “Mom.” Although Phillip sleeps inside her (meaning he lives at home, I think?), he struggles with the tension of eventually needing to grow up. After all, Phillip will hatch one day. He fears becoming a “Limboid”—a horde of hooded slackers who stalk the characters like hungry zombies.
These figures are eternally trapped between adolescence and maturity, but Danger & Eggs never shares that problem. It always gets the balance between the silly and the serious just right.