Final Space is a fairly new TBS cartoon about an egotistical, immature space prisoner named Gary Goodspeed, and his quest alongside a ragtag “crew” to close a quickly growing tear in the space near Earth. It’s also one of the the most enjoyable sci-fi shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and it only looks like it’s getting better.
Admittedly, Final Space might not look like much on the surface; its art style can look too simplistic, and its occasional shift into 3D art can be off-putting to some. Last week, as I was watching the pilot episode on some whim, I couldn’t help but feel like the protagonist was too unlikable, the villain too cartoonish, and the humor too bombastic to really hold my interest. However, by the end of the night, I had become enraptured in the story, and had unwittingly marathoned all 10 episodes of the first season. I was left wondering what had happened, and why Final Space was so much fun to watch.
Well, here are a few reasons:
1. The protagonists are likable, and undergo satisfying character arcs
The main crewmembers featured in the show all have traits that make them very flawed, yet enjoyable to watch and easy to root for. Let’s take the main character, Gary Goodspeed, who I couldn’t stand in the pilot episode:
Gary begins Final Space as an amalgamation of several different character traits associated with the typical sci-fi hero, such as the ego of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, the humor and immaturity of Marvel’s Starlord, and the intense, one-sided devotion of Futurama’s Fry. However, there is much to be said about how he later subverts these tropes and grows into his own character. His typical “protagonist” persona organically develops into that of a compassionate, selfless hero who is scared of losing others, but doesn’t let that get in the way of doing what’s right.
The other main characters also go through their own trials that help the viewers understand their desires and goals. Right-hand man (or, cat-man), Avacato, goes through a personal journey to find his son, while defying orders from the main villain and learning to let himself care about others while on his mission. The hardworking and intelligent Quinn’s arc is all about self-identity, and how she can rebuild her trust in herself and others when everything seems lost. Then there’s Avacato’s son, Little Cato, whose spoiler-heavy development quickly made him one of my favorite characters in the whole show.
If there’s one thing the show did absolutely right, it was creating a cast of characters who were easy to love and feel for over the course of their ten episode adventure.
2. Lord Commander is a surprisingly competent villain
On the same thread of excellent characters featured in Final Space, the menacing Lord Commander makes a memorable and threatening antagonist. His first scene involves him being ridiculed by a random prisoner for his short stature, than psionically torturing said prisoner, and finally leaving the mangled body for his henchman to devour. The quick introduction left me wondering if the Lord Commander was meant to be a serious threat, or a source of dark comedy soon to be replaced by, perhaps, a taller villain.
Turns out it was a little bit of both. Any scene with the Lord Commander was a highlight in the show for me, as he perfectly vacillated between terrifying villainy and hilarious immaturity. He’ll deliver a chilling speech towards his followers regarding his evil plans, then in the same breathe argue with his “assistant” (#SaveErik2k18) over how to turn off the holographic intercom, and awkwardly walk away in frustration.
The Lord Commander’s delightful, despicable nature is a driving force in what makes the show so engaging. David Tennant also crushes it with his expressive vocal performance.
3. There are legit consequences to the decisions characters make
A big grip some viewers have with many shows these days is that it sometimes feels like there are no real stakes at hand. Like, come on, would the show-runners really follow through with dire outcomes when it would be so much easier to cosmically retcon or fix the mistakes each season? It can be hard to get invested in conflicts when you know that at the end of the day, all the characters will come out relatively unscathed.
This is certainly not the case in Final Space, where it appears that all the damage done in the show is permanent and won’t be reversed. For example, in episode 2, Gary’s arm is torn off and he needs to replace it with robotics. His artificial arm is a constant feature of Gary’s character design, and is referenced by himself and others in later episodes.
There are other, much more drastic repercussions seen within the show; however, those fall under the realm of heavy spoilers. Despite the sorrow resulting from such outcomes, they successfully give sufficient weight behind the actions of all the characters, allowing for otherwise insignificant interactions to be tense and impactful.
4. The plot is able to blend comedy and drama well
I’ll be honest, the first couple episodes of Final Space can be a little slow and dragging (although that’s not uncommon with television pilots). The beginning half of the series really sets up the plot elements and character arcs that make the latter half an entertaining and captivating adventure.
The comedy, once the show finds its rhythm, is clever and diverse. Certain characters are dry, others utilize dark comedy, while some use slapstick. Despite this, comedy is subjective, so whether or not you find certain characters funny is up to personal taste. Gary’s particularly odd and colorful speech patterns definitely grew on me, and caused me to actually laugh out loud and go back just to hear his line delivery again.
However, as the plot grows more serious, the show doesn’t sacrifices its tone for the sake of making a joke. There certainly are humorous moments in the final few episodes, but they are during the brief periods of levity, or blend well with the darker atmosphere of the later scenes. The balance between drama and humor is pretty masterful, as it lets the emotional parts have their own impact, while still making the overall show pleasant to watch.
5. When utilized for the story, the art is breathtaking
There isn’t much I can say about this, as it’s probably best to view the episodes themselves instead of me telling you, “yeah the artistic direction in the latter half of the show is gorgeous and almost hypnotic to watch.” The simplistic art style of the characters work well for the more lighthearted beginning of Final Space, but where the show truly shines is in its last few episodes.
Simply put, the backgrounds, using a mixture of 2D and 3D art, are utilized to their utmost potential. They are able to properly convey the mood of the scenes they accompany, giving an extra boost to the sense of adventure, danger, desperation, or wonder in many memorable moments.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and Final Space manages to convey an odyssey with their background art.
There is plenty more I could delve into regarding this show, such as the character bonds and the different themes explored within the narrative; however, I believe I’ve gushed long enough. Final Space is a borderline brilliant show that is able to be both rousing and humorous. It somehow manages to almost sneak up you with its growing complexity, compelling and developing characters, and genuinely enjoyable story arc.
Luckily, Season 2 has been green lit, so the episodic adventures of Gary Goodspeed and friends will continue at a later date. I honestly cannot contain my excitement, and hope that you check the show out in the meantime!