Final Space, a lesser-known gem of an animation from TBS and Netflix, follows the adventures of Gary Goodspeed. He’s just an ordinary guy, imprisoned in space for five years following a misunderstanding, but has greater forces to reckon with when he discovers an adorable alien who also happens to be a planet-destroyer. Part comedy, part high-stakes drama, there’s more to this simple animation and its characters than meets the eye.
Final Space: Season 2
Director: David Sacks, Olan Rogers
Release date: November 24, 2019
The first season, which aired on Netflix in 2018, set up characters that would become unmistakable. Gary Goodspeed (Olan Rogers) is a prisoner in space, imprisoned after he commandeered a vessel on earth and destroyed ninety-two imperial guard spacecraft, all to try to impress the beautiful captain of the guard Quinn Airgone (Tika Sumpter). Five years in the future and his prison sentence is nearly up, though things aren’t all plain sailing.
When he runs into an adorable little green alien he calls Mooncake (‘he’s just a harmless little gumball of love!’), who actually turns out to be a planet-destroyer, he goes on the run, evading the Lord Commander (David Tennant), an evil alien overlord. He has an ongoing campaign to weaponise Mooncake but Gary and his crew must continue to keep their wits about them, outsmarting the villains they encounter and often sidestepping death in life-threatening situations in order to preserve what is good in the world.
It appears to resemble many existing sci-fi productions from its marketing, but let me assure you – it is anything but. Final Space is sci-fi that’s incredibly personal to its creators and feels very much like a labour of love. Created by YouTuber Olan Rogers, who voices Gary, it also features the talents of his friends and a few big names like David Tennant and Tika Sumpter, all adding to the pathos-comedy blend that makes it work so well.
There is an ongoing theme of father-son relationships and this is explored through flashbacks to Gary and his Dad, and played about between the bounty hunter Avocato (Coty Galloway) and his son, Little Cato (Steven Yeun). These gripping, heartbreaking, moments between characters make the series as addictive as it is. Combined with a moving score from Shelby Merry, Andrew Goodwin, and Jake Sidwell, it’s no wonder the series is so memorable.
In Season 2, we pick up after a cliffhanger. The unthinkable has happened — Gary has lost the earth, the entire planet destroyed and its inhabitants wiped out — and has all but lost the crew of the Galaxy One. With everything he loves gone, his only option is to start rebuilding his life. Although the first season had its share of drama, I think the second takes the disruption to another level. The titans who were released in the first season, creating a rift in Final Space (the end of the known universe) come back in full force, ready to do battle, taking no prisoners with them.
Whereas before we were getting to know the characters, season 2 develops their personalities. Clarence, who only appeared as a supporting character in season 1 episode 2, has a fully-rounded role in the latest episodes, manning a spacecraft with his two adopted children. Quinn’s alter-ego from another timeline, Nightfall, becomes integral to the story, and makes Gary and Quinn’s separation all the more difficult, because she doesn’t have the power to bring them together. She’s Quinn, but not the same Quinn from the same timeline — there are definite Avengers influences on the plot that can’t be overlooked.
And there are certain characters that stay with you: Tribore (also voiced by Rogers), a six-eyed alien, becomes the surprisingly capable – and fashionable – leader of the resistance. Little Cato, Avocato’s son, grows into a warrior in his own right. Ash (Ashly Burch), is always on the lookout for her twin sister; and Fox (Roy Funches), her adoptive brother, is a giant very in touch with his feelings.
Robots including the deep-space insanity avoidance companion KVN, the Galaxy One’s AI, H.U.E., and others are all tested and tried. Even Mooncake isn’t exempt from trials, pushing his moral limits. Although it seems to be a simple setup, getting the Earth back, it’s really about how far an individual will go to recover what he’s lost, and raises the question of whether or not revising history is worth it. Sci-fi creates a fantasy space where all possibilities can play out, consequence-free, in order to find answers.
In addition, a subplot involving Gary’s estranged mother comes to the surface. There’s an interesting dynamic between the characters and the tension between them is palpable. What’s most striking about their relationship is the way that it doesn’t reach an easy reconciliation: the writers aren’t afraid to explore the more difficult side of broken family relationships and to leave questions unanswered and resolutions hanging. In many ways the series is about wrestling the evil within just as much as it is about the insurmountable monsters.
There is something visceral about the plot, which often has the heroes in life-threatening situations, but it’s a lot of fun, too. While I think the first season leaned more into the heated tension of the plot, characters in the second season seem to have already lost many of the things closest to them and so there are more comic moments to lighten what could be quite a bleak series of events. I felt that it sometimes erred a little too much towards absurd comedy; although this is an integral part of the genre, it sometimes got a little silly or a little repetitive. However, it wasn’t often enough to temper my enthusiasm for the show.
The best part of Final Space, for me, has been the fan engagement online. The people of Twitter and Reddit have taken it on themselves to celebrate a show that really only would have had a cult following otherwise. Although the series hasn’t yet had a wide release in the US — it’s currently streaming on Adult Swim and on Netflix internationally — it remains open for discussion and the prospect of a third season is no doubt going to push it in front of a wider audience.