Final Space, Season One (TBS)

The season finale of TBS’s new animated show, Final Space, broadcast last night, so I figured now would be a good time to talk about it (assuming any of you were also watching).  The show was created by “indie filmmaker” Olan Rogers and was based on a series of animated shorts he and animator Dan Brown called Gary Space that they posted to YouTube over the years.  Gary Space only ran for three of the planned 10 episodes before Rogers and Brown decided to work on other projects.

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The main characters (KVN, Quinn, Gary, Avocato, and Mooncake) as they appeared in the original pilot of Final Space

In 2013, Rogers decided to reboot the concept and shop it around to network television to run as a feature program.  He created a pilot episode, uploaded it to YouTube, and began talks with entities like Fox Television and Cartoon Network, though it wasn’t until 2016 when Conan O’Brien became interested did the series find its home at TBS.  Once there, Rogers was teamed with industry veteran David Sacks and the two redeveloped the script and the artistic direction, and produced a 10-episode first season which debuted February 15th on TBS’s web portal and ran from February 25th through May 7th on the TBS Network.

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The main characters (Gary, Mooncake, Avocato, and Quinn) as they appear in the production series

The show revolves around its main protagonist, Gary Goodspeed, the son of a famous space hero, who has more heart than sense.  Five years before the series begins, Gary spotted Quinn Airgone, a pilot for the sci-fi staple generic galactic federation, and tries to impress her by stealing another pilot’s uniform and pretending he’s a hot-shot space ace.  The ruse goes south as soon as the defense forces are called up and Gary, forced into the pilot’s seat of a space fighter, winds up destroying several dozen federation ships (plus a small family-owned Mexican restaurant).  His punishment is to be sentenced to five years’ solitary confinement on a deep-space ship called the Galaxy One.  Left with nothing for companionship than KVN, his robotic “insanity avoidance counselor”, the ship’s artificial intelligence/prison warden HUE (a take on 2001: A Space Oddysey‘s HAL), and a various assortment of semi-intelligent service droids, Gary bides his time by creating daily video messages for Quinn (who, unbeknownst to him, never actually receives them).

Eventually Gary encounters and befriends a small, neon-green creature he names Mooncake, who turns out to be a planet-smashing entity of unfathomable power that the evil Lord Commander needs to open the gateway to another dimension called “Final Space”, home to a race of godlike creatures called the Titans.  The Lord Commander hires a number of bounty hunters to kidnap Mooncake from Gary, one of which is Avocato, a cat-like alien who Gary manages to subdue and force to play cards with him.  The two wind up bonding and becoming friends, but then Quinn arrives with the information that the federation is in cahoots with the Lord Commander, and the team attempt to both stop the Lord Commander and rescue Avocato’s son, Little Cato.

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The bromance between Avocato and Gary, one of the best relationships of the series

The series features a notable cast of voice actors, including Gary Armisen (KVN), David Tennant (Lord Commander), Ron Perlman (Gary’s father), Tom Kenny (HUE), Jon DiMaggio, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, and Rogers himself as both Gary and Mooncake.

Highlights:

  • The show’s animation is superb.  Little expense was spared to create a stunning world of galactic wonders and fantastic visuals.  Seriously, if for no other reason, watch this for the artistic direction.
  • Mooncake is freakin’ adorable.  Yes, he’s basically an ultra-powerful weapon of destruction, but he wants to be good, and Gary encourages and protects him as best he can.
  • The bromance between Gary and Avocato is the strongest relationship on the show.  Maybe I’m biased, but it’s far more convincing than the romance between Gary and Quinn.  Their embrace really hit me in the feels.
  • The story itself is a fairly conventional good-vs.-evil trope, but the execution is full of surprises both heartening and shocking.
  • Despite appearing quite similar to Rick and Morty in terms of crazy distant-future science fiction, the execution is pretty much polar opposite.  While Rick and Morty tends towards existentialist nihilism and pathos, the core of Final Space is more akin to the optimism of Star Wars.

Lowlights:

  • The romance between Gary and Quinn is so forced as to be off-putting.  Gary basically obsesses over her for five years, having spent maybe 30 minutes in her presence.  Quinn begins to fall for Gary after seeing a bunch of his video messages to her, rather than being absolutely creeped out and running for the exits.
  • Killing off one of the best characters halfway through the season to create tension and drama is old hat and, while done fairly well here, leaves a huge gap in the team that (other character) doesn’t really fill well.
  • Olan Rogers’ voice acting for Gary tends to be rather grating, at least at first.  His manic energy eventually becomes rather endearing towards the end, but I imagine a lot of casual interest in the show might have been quashed by clips of him going into hysterics.

Season grade: B+

Final Space has been renewed for a second season, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this is heading.