“Robot Town” was not, unfortunately, an NTSF version of Chinatown in 11 minutes with robots. But that’s okay, since it did have Rob Corddry as a Fringe-style paranormal agent and Bob Odenkirk as the son of a robotics genius out for revenge against his father for a loveless childhood. Since most weeks I get screeners of NTSF, I have no idea what to expect going into any given episode, from plot to guest stars, only the episode title to go on. And I have to say, far more often than not, I’m surprised by the direction the show takes with each premise, and how light the show feels, able to bounce around effortlessly through each silly scene building to a ridiculous resolution.
To start, a famous “roboticist,” pardon me, iconic roboticist (played by Phil Reeves, the former Pawnee City Manager on Parks And Recreation) is murdered by his own creation, S.A.M. The 3rd law of robotics is supposed to prevent robots from killing humans, but of course, “there’s an app for that.” When the NTSF agents arrive on the scene, they deduce that S.A.M.'s newly implanted emotion chip must have malfunctioned, and go to the roboticist’s son Aaron (Odenkirk) for answers.
The flashback with Odenkirk, Martin Starr, and the robot arguing over who gets to be called Sam is pretty funny, as is Trent’s quick trip through Robot Town, aggressively berating a fire hydrant before being taken hostage. It turns out that all of the paranoid theories, from Odenkirk being a ghost, a vampire, a werewolf, or actually a robot are all outlandishly untrue, and he’s just a son who never got enough love from his father. That undercuts the expectation nicely, and Odenkirk sure does prove that he has the zany comedy chops outside of Saul Goodman, but the episode never fully clicked for me.
It’s fine that the episode didn’t devolve into some kind of I, Robot parody, but the splintered partnerships didn’t exactly feel fresh either. Piper and Alphonse are convinced that Odenkirk is a vampire—or maybe, possibly, he’s a werewolf—because of the presence of the paranormal agent played by Corddry in one scene, a great crossover cameo. But the real star of the episode is Odenkirk, back in wacky comedy mode, completely out there in every scene, making the most of even the smallest throwaway line.
The final showdown is another funny and quippy argument scene that descends into Trent initiating senseless violence against a suspect that negates all the paranormal and robotic claims. Odenkirk’s character is in fact just a human who engineered his father’s ironic murder because he didn’t get enough love. Perhaps now the team will have to discover some evidence that implicates someone else at the last minute to save Trent for a 14th time.
- “Tonight’s episode of NTSF:SD:SUV:: asks you to forget everything you already know about sentient robots and act like you know something completely different about sentient robots.” Every single one of these opening title cards have been great this season. A consistent opening laugh is severely underrated.
- The “Coming next fall…” returns, this time pending attorney approval! I would absolutely watch Robontourage. I can’t think of a single reason a sane human being wouldn’t.
- No Kove or President of the Navy in this episode either, which is sad, since they’re reliably funny characters.
- Piper has no idea what year it is.
- “I’m suddenly filled with emotions… I want to kill someone!”