Entergalactic calls itself a “television special,” but there are other words we could use to describe it. The Fletcher Moules-directed animated project was originally conceived, after all, as a television series. In many ways, it still bears its episodic rhythms even as an hour-and-a-half “special.” Perhaps more to the point, Entergalatic could most easily be described as a visual album. Or, rather, as a visual companion to Kid Cudi’s upcoming album by the same name. In that sense, this latest Netflix title is closer to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer and Kacey Musgraves’ Star-Crossed (and even Beyoncé’s now iconic entries into this ever-expanding genre) than, say, to any of the streamer’s recent adult-oriented animated fare.
For starters, this New York City-set special revels in its own conviction that art-making can be both a radical and a revelatory exploration of the self, and of the connections we make with others. It’s why central figures Jabari (Kid Cudi) and Meadow (Jessica Williams) are driven to create: He’s a street artist wrestling with what it means to turn Mr. Rager, the character he’s tagged all over the city, into a graphic novel for a well-established comics brand, while she’s a soulful photographer who bristles at the glad-handling that thriving in the art world requires. Their artistic endeavors may not be the main focus of Entergalatic—this is, after all, a story about how two single people in that bustling city find and learn what it means to find solace in one another—but it really helps frame how Moules and Kid Cudi approached this endeavor in the first place.
Namely, there’s a commitment here to celebrate connections that motivate and uplift. When Meadow and Jabari (next-door neighbors who both have impossibly beautiful lofts) meet, their chemistry has as much to do with what they see in each other as with what they can bring out in the other. Williams imbues Meadow with an effortlessly cool affectation that’s intoxicating; you understand why Jabari would be so taken with her right away. Meanwhile, Kid Cudi’s casual swagger (tinged here with a streak of awkward insecurity) ends up drawing you into this young Black artist who wants to conquer the world on his own terms even when his co-worker insists he should “whiten” and “brighten” his work to find success. Their first date, which begins at a burger place Jabari hadn’t even noticed only serves vegan patties, ends up serving as a metaphor for the familiarity they’ll soon nurture. It’s all about letting go of preconceived ideas of what is and what should be, of known tastes and ideas of what’s palatable.
Threaded through their story, which also serves as a vibrant love letter to the urbanity of an ever-gentrifying New York City, is Kid Cudi’s album. His songs score Jabari and Meadow’s most electrifying moments and their most challenging ones. Like Jabari’s irreverent Mr. Rager and Meadow’s formally exacting candid photos (both black-and-white propositions in a neon-colored world), Cudi’s smooth synth tracks edge you toward the comforting bliss the young couple finds and fights for in one another. Even, or especially, once messy exes, professional ambitions, commitment issues, and communication problems all conspire against the loving intimacy they handily find together.
With an aesthetic that manages to give its digital artistry a vivid tactility (there’s something delightfully askew about admiring brushstrokes made on a screen), Entergalactic already sets itself apart by truly embracing the plasticity of its medium. Wayward first dates around New York City become dizzying journeys that allow its couple to literally (and figuratively, of course) take a leap of faith and fly high up the urban jungle they both call home. Drug-induced sequences put us in the headspace of those who witness their reality melt in front of their eyes, and even a quick point-and-shoot moment where Meadow sets out to capture Jabari in front of his very first “Mr. Rager” becomes a picture-perfect snapshot where a flurry of social media icons suggest there may be more than a fleeting like being forged between them.
It’d be one thing if Entergalactic merely offered us a well-worn romance in trippy animated trappings. But with warmth and a well-balanced sense of humor (aided by a supporting cast that includes Christopher Abbott, Arturo Castro, Timothée Chalamet, and Laura Harrier, among others), Moules’ ambitious tapestry truly sings.
At once a sumptuous visual album and a swoon-worthy romantic tale, Entergalactic is a feast for the senses. A celebration of the delightful messiness of human connection in a world that would push you to isolate yourself lest you be hurt by those you most gravitate toward, this episodic story about boy-meets-girl finds new textures in an otherwise familiar story.