Fans of adult animation are in for a fun surprise. This week marks the premiere of Crossing Swords, Hulu’s new show created by John Harvatine IV and Tom Root. Since two of the masterminds behind Robot Chicken are involved it’s worth asking: just how does Crossing Swords compare to Robot Chicken?
Set in a medieval land, Crossing Swords follows Patrick, a kind peasant whose only goal in life is to help his kingdom by becoming a knight. The only problem is Patrick lives in a world surrounded by crooks. Everyone from his brothers and sister down to the king he wants to serve are different sorts of manipulative, scheming, sexed up criminals. All of this makes Patrick’s quest to be good pretty much impossible.
Aesthetically, Crossing Swords is pretty much the coolest iteration of Robot Chicken. True to the Adult Swim show’s love of corrupting your childhood, people are portrayed as those wooden peg people dolls. Not only will this show’s many nude scenes make you giggle, they’ll make you re-evaluate some of those preschool memories. Also because Crossing Swords is telling one consistent story the entire world looks better formed. There has always been a slapdash charm to Robot Chicken, a series that requires dozens of toys and hastily created figures for one 15-minute episode. By comparison, Crossing Swords looks like the homemade playset of your dreams complete with fuzz and glitter fire and robot dragons. Yet while its visually a more interesting departure, narratively Crossing Swords is nothing like its predecessor.
Robot Chicken is always first and foremost a sketch show. Almost every pop culture-infused gag relies on the same formula: the series takes something wholesome, like a gummy bear skipping through a field, and inserts something so graphic and horrible it’s hilarious, like an endless string of bear traps. They’re quick snapshots that rely on shock to be funny.
By virtue of telling a longer story, Crossing Swords loses that luxury. As a result even when Crossing Swords is trying to be shocking in its vulgarity, like with its repeated use of the insult “fuckface,” those shock-infused laughs fade fairly quickly. What’s left is a story that the Robot Chicken team has always loved, that of an innocent struggling through a dark and terrible world. Crossing Swords certainly has its moments. Patrick’s innocence is especially fun to test. But if you’re expecting a Robot Chicken clone set in medieval times, you’re going to be disappointed.
Season 1 of Crossing Swords premieres on Hulu Friday, June 12.