Most of “A Fuel’s Errand” is sort of like a compressed second act, hitting beats that the movie version of Future Man might have gotten to after an hour or so. Josh is kicked off the anti-Biotic team in the wake of his failures in the last episode and the discovery that he is, in fact, a janitor. (Tiger adds insult to injury: “On a personal level, I’m not sure I like you.”) So he spends most of the episode trying to feel special and useful, earning his way back into Tiger and Wolf’s good graces by getting more fuel for the time travel device.
That fuel, called Cameronium, turns out to be a biofuel produced by some kind of small organism. Wolf and Tiger try to get it from a weed truck (where Wolf eats a bunch of edible macaroons), but eventually have to allow Josh to lead them to a scientist—first by taking a quick trip to the video game store, then visiting a lab. This is mostly an excuse for an elaborate set piece surrounding Lyle Karofsky, played ably by Martin Starr. At first, Lyle appears to be a classically square nerd, complaining about how his ex dumped him for driving a canola oil-powered moped. But he turns out to be a drug manufacturer using his illicit activities to fund his climate change research, prompting an interrogation where he waterboards Josh with kombucha to learn about the source of the Cameronium, followed by a shootout, then a very embarrassing fight between Josh and Lyle, which Josh wins by bashing Lyle’s head with his moped helmet.
Tiger calls this the “saddest, most boring fight I’ve ever seen,” which is thankfully just a funny line delivery by Eliza Coupe and not an accurate description of the fight (Hutcherson and Starr, or their stunt doubles, do a fantastic job with the awkwardness of the fight choreography). Still, the sequence feels like a bit of a waste—the script doesn’t really acknowledge the humor of Lyle losing access to a fuel that could potentially solve Earth’s climate problems, and eventually Tiger is just prompted to remember that they can steal another time travel device from the Biotics (or “perfs,” as it turns out they’re called). The best part of the lab scenes by far are the moments Wolf (now Corey Wolfhart) spend discussing the economics of the drug trade.
Derek Wilson has been the clear standout of the cast so far, and he really starts to come into his own in “A Fuel’s Errand.” To start, his look has really improved: Wearing Josh’s dad’s slacks and polo shirt with a popped collar, all Wolf needs is a Bluetooth headset and he’s ready to start working as someone’s manager. Mostly, Wolf gets humanized this episode, in the sense that he starts to learn about temptation and vice and the full texture of human experience: When the trio gets into a Lyft to go to the lab, the driver is playing Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night,” which it turns out Wolf loves. And after trying meth for the first time, vein popping out of his forehead, Wolf is well on his way to just being a straight-up ’80s guy. After all, the decade—at least, the pop culture version Future Man is playing around with—is all about unbridled excess, and as one of the lab employees informs Wolf, “The drug trade represents capitalism in its purest form.”
Wolf also gets quite a few of the best lines in Future Man’s most joke-heavy episode yet, especially the one that finally points out how ridiculous the premise of the show is: “Maybe sending a video game back in time to find humanity’s savior was like, a bad plan.” This musing is the product of Wolf’s aggressive dosing on weed edibles, but he’s also obviously correct—Wilson lets himself become goofier and more unhinged as the episode goes on. This doesn’t totally forgive the number of bad dick jokes about Wolf staying hard and eating street cock, but it helps a little.
Instead, the best moment of “A Fuel’s Errand” comes when Paul Scheer’s character tries to hit on Tiger a little too aggressively. Using an outsider character to comment on social norms is a classic comedy tactic, and putting it in the hands of actors as talented as Wilson and Coupe makes for some of Future Man’s sharpest, most enjoyable material. Accordingly, after literally twisting Paul Scheer’s arm, Eliza Coupe acts deeply confused by his behavior when she says, “Why would you talk to someone who doesn’t want to talk to you?” If only more people got to feel confused asking that question.