Sometimes I jump around by mistake. Sometimes by design. Today I have a couple of reasons for jumping around. First, because sometimes coming at things from a different angle can give us a different perspective. And second, because this is a show that is currently airing, and perhaps by covering it I can drive you to discover something as its happening, rather than just in retrospect.
Today we discuss "Final Space."
"Final Space" is my favorite show currently airing. I liked it almost immediately. I was worried at first sitting down to watch it that it was going to be crummy, as many many recent cartoons have been. (Of course, if you know anything about me, dear reader, you know that that wasn't going to stop me from watching it.) But in all of those cases I knew immediately that the show was going to be crummy and only desperately hoped it would get better (usually to little or no avail.)
In the case of "Final Space" I started out a bit confused. Our story opens with our hero, Gary, floating alone in space in wreckage with ten minutes of air remaining. He discusses the matter with HUE, an unseen computer presence a la "2001's" HAL. But it turns out that's just a framing device, and one that won't start to make sense until we revisit it week after week. And the explanation for Gary's predicament is still pending, presumably until the season finale, although almost every episode teases in one way or another that this could be the week it happens - providing a throughline and a reminder that everything is not necessaril going to turn out okay.
We then jump back in time to Gary, the lone prisoner on an extremely advanced starship, reaching the last week of his five year sentence. Gary has to do work on satellites, but even so I immediately wondered about the economics of assigning a long range starship and countless robotic servitors to a single prisoner. But, okay, it's science fiction and a cartoon, two genres both notorious for logic-bending.
So instantly I'm getting hints of "Red Dwarf," one of my all time favorite shows. But it's not quite that. Nor is it quite "Alien," or "A Boy and His Dog," or "Blade Runner," or any of a hundred other shows it evokes. One thing that delights me about "Final Space" is that while it wears its influences on its sleeve, it doesn't settle into the easy rut of slavishly modelling itself after them. ("The Orwell," anyone?) The show it perhaps owes the most to is "Rick and Morty," because it was doubtless greenlit on the strength of that redoubtable series' ratings. But rather than coming off as a pale clone, "Final Space" actually takes "Rick and Morty's" strengths and builds on them. Science fiction has a long, robust history, certainly ripe enough for two comedy shows to mine.
"Final Space" also has a delightful villain in the David Tennant-voiced Lord Commander, who pulls off the rare hat trick of being simultaneous cuddly, hilarious, and pants-wettingly terrifying at the same time. Tennant almost singlehandedly redeems himself for that whole putting Eccleston out of work business of a few years ago with this showing.
The show definitely has a habit of leaning too hard on the "isn't Gary a lovable kook" shtick, but it manages to land just shy of grating. And, ultimately, it makes up for Gary's aggressive weirdness with solid steaming helpings of heart. Gary's loneliness and uncommon human decency are both palpable, which serves to undercut all the wackiness for wackiness's sake. Gary's backstory is heartbreaking, as is his situation. And the absolutely mutual unconditional love he finds in the alien blob Mooncake is one of the loveliest parts of the show.
All of the characters sparkle. KVN, Gary's anti-insanity robot, takes the Rimmeresque role of being a total jerk, and has one of the greatest songs ever committed to celluloid in episode 2. Avocato, the bounty hunter sent to bring Mooncake in, turns out to be an unexpectedly cool foil to Gary's aggressive nerdiness. And, oh, by the way, absolutely no spoilers, but you need to watch the last episode.
Quinn, the more traditional hero of the Starfleet-like Infinity Guard seems to walk the razor blade of being Gary's long absent and therefore deified love interest and being a real person. I was worried that whole storyline was going to delve into icky territory, but Quinn's character avoids a lot of the pitfalls of the usual virgin/whore dynamic by being proactive and clever, but also stubborn and solipsistic. In other words, a well-rounded human. So while it's clear that Gary's obsessed with a simulacrum, it's also clear that Quinn isn't that person.
"Final Space" is delightful. I cannot stress this enough. I want you to stop reading this blogpost immediately and go watch all of the episodes on Hulu, On Demand, or TBS. Well? What are you waiting for? You can thank me in the comments later.