The premise is just past the edge of absurd: a man goes to a “spa,” hoping to be rejuvenated in the same way his high-energy coworker has been. But when he wakes up and has to dig himself out of a shallow grave, he soon discovers that it is not really him who’s been rejuvenated. He’s been cloned and his clone is seemingly better in every way.
But Living With Yourself (eight episodes; streaming on Netflix) is not too absurd, not too far beyond the realm of technological possibility, that it doesn’t work. Paul Rudd is great as both the original, shluppy, exhausted, disenchanted character of Miles, as well as new Miles, refreshed and shorn of all his original’s cynicism and disillusionment (along with good skin and hair). The comedic possibilities (most of the time) feel fresh and unexplored. And underneath the jokes and absurdity (at one point, Miles is kidnapped by two FDA agents and interrogated; he is delivered an entire pig carcass; Tom Brady has been cloned multiple times), there is a serious and age-old question: what makes you you?
Are you the you who used to be young and energetic, taking joy in the small pleasures of life—in this case sticking your head out the window of a moving car, and running through a corn field? Or are you the you who has lost any desire to do the things you always thought you wanted to do? When it comes to marriage, what happened to the you who enjoyed learning every new thing about your spouse and reveled in surprising her with new recipes? How did you get to be the you who doesn’t communicate, and doesn’t want to; the you who takes her for granted?
The new Miles not only has a refreshed body and energy, and takes care of himself physically, but has a sense of wonder un-dulled by the price that life extracts. And that makes the old Miles envious, puts him back on the fast-track with his advertising firm, and jump-starts Kate’s attraction to her husband again.
But even though new Miles has all the memories of old Miles, he still hasn’t ever experienced them. Living With Yourself subtly draws the line that differentiates Miles and his clone based on actually living life. Maybe at least some of the things we give up—the choices we make, to go one direction rather than another—are worth the cost if they mean being alive in this job, in this marriage, in this life. In a way, new Miles only seems to have the better situation of the two. Both Kate and old Miles are forced to consider why they married this person and chose to pursue this path of employment, rather than another. They both have to reckon with what they want versus what they think they want.
Beyond that, the show raises existential questions not only of who you are, but what a human being is. What is a clone, and what would it mean to kill a clone of yourself? While speculative (at least for humans, at least for now), it is considering the sober issues beneath the silliness.
I’ll leave the ultimate conclusion of this series of episodes unspoiled, but even though some difficulties are overcome, the tension is designed to continue into another possible season.