Knuckles review: Paramount+’s Sonic the Hedgehog spinoff punches above its weight

The new Idris Elba/Adam Pally starring series premieres on April 26.
Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) in Knuckles, episode 6, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2024. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount+.
Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) in Knuckles, episode 6, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2024. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount+. /

There’s no reason a TV series about Knuckles the Echidna (voiced by Idris Elba) should be this good. But the laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly heartfelt spinoff of the Sonic the Hedgehog film series is an absolute delight. It’s way goofier and more surreal than the Sonic movies, establishing its own tone – but at the same time, fans of those films will find themselves right at home with Knuckles, Wade Whipple (Adam Pally), and their family-friendly adventures to becoming warriors… And best friends.

In case you’re not familiar with the first two Sonic movies, they focus on the titular hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz, who reprises the role in Knuckles), a super-powered alien who can turn into a ball and run real fast. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the fast-talking, jokey Sonic first battled with – and then teamed up with – Knuckles, a deadly serious fellow alien who has some of the same powers but mostly punches things hard. By the end of the movie, along with fellow alien Tails (voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey, who also appears in Knuckles), had formed a loving family unit with humans Tom and Maddie Wachowski (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter).

When Knuckles picks up, the Echidna is finding things a hard fit in the Sumpter household. He loves Doritos and grapes, but otherwise isn’t interested in interacting with the rest of the family, preferring to transform the house into his own warrior's den instead… Something that doesn’t sit right with Maddie (Marsden sits this series out via “Tom is on a business trip” by the way). Thanks to a visit from a friendly ghost, though, Knuckles realizes his purpose is to rebuild his clan on Earth… Starting with hapless deputy Wade Whipple.

What follows is a wild road trip comedy as Wade and Knuckles journey to Reno to help the former win a bowling championship, while Knuckles begins to soften and understand more about Earth culture thanks to Wade. Along the way, they clash with a few cartoonish villains including Agent Mason (Scott Mescudi) and Agent Willoughby (Ellie Taylor), as well as a tech wizard simply called The Buyer (Game of Thrones's The Hound, Rory McCann), a former protégé of the film series’ main villain, Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey, similarly off-screen).

The villains, however, are seriously secondary to the Whipple family drama. We’re introduced to Wade’s extremely Jewish mother Wendy (Stockard Channing) and his competitive FBI sister Wanda (Edi Patterson) via an episode titled “The Shabbat Dinner.” And I’ll tell you, I did not expect an entire episode set around a Shabbat dinner in a TV show about Knuckles the Echidna, let alone for it to be one of the funniest episodes of TV so far this year – Channing’s pronunciation of “Knuckles” deserves an Emmy – but it absolutely works.

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L-R: Adam Pally as Wade Whipple and Stockard Channing as Wendy Whipple in Knuckles, episode 3, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2024. Photo Credit: Luke Varley/Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount+. /

And Cary Elwes is “Pistol” Pete Whipple, who is, and I cannot emphasize this enough, going for it on this show. Elwes’ role is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but I do think it’s fair to say this is the most unhinged performance Elwes has given in his long and storied career – more in line with Robin Hood: Men in Tights than The Princess Bride. It blows pretty much everything that’s come before it on the show out of the water with one of the goofiest characters I’ve seen on screen in a very long time.

The core of the show, though, is Knuckles and Wade, who make a perfect pair. Pally, who has played the hapless goof in the previous two movies, gets to show off his expert comedy chops here alongside an array of other comedy icons like Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh, who plays Wade’s best friend/bounty hunter; and Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel in secret roles that are, frankly, exactly what you think they are. But Pally also brings a grounded emotion to his performance – and his relationship with the CGI Knuckles in particular – with which the show would otherwise not work.

And look, I know Knuckles is CGI, but Elba absolutely crushes in the role. Every single line is a deadpan delight, ridiculously funny throughout from the first scene to the last. It’s a nearly affectless delivery that grows over the course of the six episodes, as Knuckles continues to understand more about how humans relate to each other – and he begins to care more about Wade.

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Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) in Knuckles, episode 5, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2024. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount+. /

The best part, per the mission of this very website: it’s a perfect family series. Not that the movies get particularly ribald, but it’s rare a live-action series based on a movie is both uproariously funny, touchingly emotional, full of killer action sequences, and is also friendly for all ages. There are a few “damn”s in here, and one joke about American Gladiators that will fly over younger viewers’ heads. But over the course of six, half-hour episodes, this is something the whole family can sit down, watch, and enjoy – whether you’ve seen the first two Sonic movies or not.

That also deserves emphasizing, particularly as this is created by the same folks behind the Sonic movies, and serves as a bridge between the events of Sonic 2 and this December's upcoming Sonic 3. While you absolutely should watch the movies – they’re also pretty great – Knuckles stands on its own. In fact, to take it a step further if you’re a fan of more adult comedy like Kingpin (the Farrelly Brothers movie), The Lonely Island, The Mighty Boosh, or Flight of the Conchords, this is a great way of sharing the surreality with your kids. You know, really prep ‘em for when they get older.

And while this series wraps up the joyful story Knuckles is telling pretty neatly, you’ll practically be begging for more adventures after this. Luckily, Sonic 3 premieres on December 20. After that, Paramount+ needs to bring on Knuckles Season 2, a Tails spinoff… Whatever they want. If this franchise keeps punching above its weight like this, I say, bring it on.

All six episodes of Knuckles premiere Thursday, April 26, 2024 on Paramount+.

Keanu Reeves reportedly joins Sonic 3 as Shadow the villainous hedgehog. Keanu Reeves reportedly joins Sonic 3 as Shadow the villainous hedgehog. dark. Next