A nice clean setup full of humor, heart, and lasers- that’s what TBS has given audiences with the first two episodes of Final Space. From the beginning, creator and executive producer Olan Rogers has had a 100% genuine brand of comedy and non sequitur that sets him apart. Bursting onto the mainstream with his friend and right-hand-man Coty Galloway, Rogers has paired with early Simpsons and Third Rock from the Sun producer David Sacks to forge this standout intergalactic adventure cartoon.
As a disclaimer: my thoughts are kept fairly vague because I don’t want to fully lay out the show’s beginning, as not to spoil what I consider to be a very strong beginning to a unique new show that I fully recommend for all ages. Cartoon violence is a prominent feature, but I can confidently say that this level of gore is something even my squeamish 8-year-old self would have been able to handle. (Unsure parents, I recommend you give the sneak peek a watch and decide for yourselves)
In the months leading up to the release of Final Space, Olan assured fans on Twitter that this series 1) would never sacrifice emotion and drama for comedy and 2) wouldn’t be a Rick & Morty clone. Based on my experience watching the first two episodes, I can say with certainty that the Tennessee Wonderchild remained true to his word as always. Sure, the titular Gary takes very few things seriously and places value in trivial things such as winning over a hot space marine and stealing a cookie (which will add time to his 5-year prison sentence for impersonating a galactic army pilot) but that’s pretty much the end of his similarities with Rick Sanchez, Morty Smith, and just about any other characters in the Cartoon Network smash hit. I’ve compared the two shows and my preliminary analysis is thus: Rick and Morty has the goal of subverting expectations, particularly when morality is involved, and every character is a terrible person. And shows that aren’t afraid to shove their characters’ awful qualities into the spotlight do resonate! Like Rick and Morty, every character in Archer is arguably awful, but I think the fact that they’re fictional, unapologetically horrible, and frustratingly hilarious is what keeps people invested. Bojack Horseman does the same thing as both shows, but goes deeper into the consequences of selfishness and expecting the world to forgive you for the bare minimum.
Final Space on the other hand doesn’t go for a mean-spirited tone. It almost follows the tradition, in which the main character is a lovable, oblivious weirdo that operates to the beat of his own drum. While I feel his partner, straight-man, Ventrexian bounty hunter Avocato, came around to liking Gary a bit too easily, that’s the biggest nitpick I can give; this moronic human convict insisted that once he decided to be friends with Avocato, that meant he has his back no matter what, especially to help save his son from the evil Lord Commander. Yes, it’s profoundly terrible judgement to stick your neck out for a guy who tried to kill you (and very likely tongue-bathes himself,) but I think this still speaks to a sentiment we often brush off these days: friendship and trust is allowing vulnerability. Gary may have a damaged survival instinct, but he values connection (unless it’s with Fred Armisen’s KVN, certified anti-insanity AI companion and general pain in the neck.)
These premiere episodes plant seeds of investment for every major character, even the aforementioned KVN, leading you to wonder just what significance each of them will have in what appears to be a slow-building quest to save the universe from the dark, looming threat of space/time demise. Quinn, the badass heroine of the story, is already on the verge of uncovering this threat as every superior officer she reports to ignores the possibilities of oncoming danger. To linger on Quinn for a moment, she may be the only female title character thus far, but her presence is neither token nor simplistic. Despite Gary holding the main stage for most of the first two episodes, it’s made clear that Quinn isn’t just the dreaded superficially “strong female character.” So far, she is the big picture hero, the one prepared to risk everything for the sake of the universe, while Gary looks to be on the path of becoming a hero like her, just on a smaller, interpersonal scale.
The structure of the first episodes are described as “Chapter One and Two” in “Part One” and “Part Two” as the first installments of the series are one cohesive narrative that are best viewed in one go. My theory is, given that Olan Rogers described the series as “a rock opera split in 10 parts,” that there is very little divide in the episodes themselves. Consequently, the whole thing is concentrated into one Lord of the Rings extended edition trilogy that perhaps warrants a binge-watch of all 10 episodes back to back. We’ll just have to wait and see…
The first two parts of Final Space are currently streaming for free on the TBS app and the series will officially premiere on television TONIGHT February 26th at 10:30PM EST on the TBS network. Additionally, creator Olan Rogers will be the guest on CONAN at 10/11c (midnight EST) prior to the television premiere of Final Space.
Author’s note: As I wrote this review, I chose to listen to the Interstellar soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Olan Rogers stated to the NYCC panel audience that this was his go-to brainstorming music and what I find interesting is that this is reflected in what little I’ve heard in the OST for Final Space. To me, this indicates that the show has love of astronomical discovery and adventure pours all over it, into every crevice.
Freelance cartoonist, illustrator, & writer
School of Visual Arts Alumna