Final Space: Season Two Review
Final Space is an odd little show. In an increasingly crowded market of adult (aka not strictly for kids) animated shows - not to mention all the high quality kids animated shows that are also kind of adult viewing as well - it’s easy to get lost and hard to stand out. Final Space was a tricky show to get into; the first episode of its first season is a horrible, unfunny, derivative mess that tries just waaaay to hard. But very, very quickly it settled down, relaxed, took a deep breath and I found myself really liking it.
This second season opens with a quick fourth-wall breaking recap of the previous season from our hero Gary (voiced by show creator and writer Olan Rogers). We’re reminded that, at the end of the last season, Gary was left floating in space with no oxygen after Quinn, the love of his life, sacrificed herself to close a tear between our universe and the titular Final Space. The voice over recap even touches on the fact Reddit found Gary annoying, which is fair.
Overall, this season is a little looser, a little less focused than the first. We don’t have the episodic floating in space countdown of the previous season (each episode’s pre-titles was Gary floating in space during one of his last 10 minutes of air, resulting in a surreptitious countdown). Instead, season two uses more standard traditional cold opens or mini cliffhanger feeds for the episode to come.
It also lacks a real focused villain. Season one had The High Commander, voiced brilliantly by David Tennant. This season just has vague threats and suggested villains in the background. Losing both these make the show just a little more ordinary and the comedy and story is laid more bare for scrutiny. It’s still fun, funny and at times touching but it’s also easier to compare to other shows (especially Futurama) as, especially with its now extended gang of characters, it’s far more episodic.
The tone of the show is more Bob’s Burgers than Rick & Morty, with a more gentle, touching and positive humour which is even more prevalent in this second season. The show does have its gross or dark moments - a running gag carried over from the first season about Gary reluctantly wearing a dead woman’s skin as a disguise and being mistaken for the woman by her grieving family is especially dark, but gets treated with a goofiness that kind of skims the grossness of it.
The artwork continues to be extremely engaging, there is a fun fluidity about the animation which reminds me of old Cosgrove Hall productions and things look less rigid and more organic than some other animated shows around.
Having been plucked from certain death in deep space by a salvage ship, Gary is reunited with HUE, who has now uploaded himself to a service droid. They’re quickly met by Clarence, a creepy businessman/crook we met last season who claims them as his property – he’s also, already found and claimed Little Cato. We’re also introduced to Clarence’s adopted children, Ash and Fox – who feel so similar to Starfire and Cyborg in Teen Titans GO! I honestly couldn’t tell if they were meant to be parody? Everyone ends up on the ship together taking part in a race to the death in a swanky new ship, voiced by Jane Lynch. We also get a visit from an eternal being who tasks our heroes with finding five cosmic keys that will allow them to venture into Final Space and rescue Quinn – Garry’s lost love who sacrificed herself to save him and the universe last season. This sets us up for our new show dynamic.
After this, we settle into a fairly standard format. Future Quinn from a parallel timeline also joins the crew and go on a series of missions to try and find the keys. Not to do a disservice to the show; its not boring or uninteresting and the episodes play with some pretty big sci-fi concepts and themes, whilst being consistently funny and emotionally charged. It warrants favorable comparison to Red Dwarf in that it’s formulaic in its series structure but high concept in its individual episodes. It is a bit of a shame after the first season was so focused though. There are some excellent episodes like The Other Side which involves Little Cato getting stuck in one side of the ship where time moves faster and living out 60 years while the rest of the gang try to rescue him, though the emotional sting in the tail of the story loses impact as the show needs to reset slightly at the end, so there are no lasting consequences.
The season picks up at the half way point; after a couple of episodes that seem to pad about a little, we have The Remembered which involves time worms, and the team get sent randomly back three years in time. It’s a fun episode that involves a little bit of revisiting raviolis characters and moments (nothing Avengers: Endgame-like though) and results in the saving of Avocato and Gary being marooned three months in the past. It’s another of the show’s touching moments, Gary saving his friend and waiting on a deserted planet for three months until they return. This also introduces Timeswap Sammy, a Jar-Jar Binks looking, but much cooler, time agent who pops up to make sure they don’t mess with the fabric of time (spoiler, they do).
In The Closer You Get, the newly rescued Avocato has complete memory loss while the team are also trying to communicate with Final Space. The episode has some fantastic imagery and Gary travelers through some weird hell dimensions. The show is heavily influenced by Lovecraft and the sci-fi all exists on that huge, cosmic scale where reality feels like magic. The show continues to build this world wonderfully. At the end of this episode Avocato gets possessed by a malevolent force Invictus from Final Space and this marks a nice shift in the narrative, providing us a focused baddie that was missing.
We also get to meet Gary’s criminal mum in this episode. Gary’s father was well established in the last season as a hero who saved the universe; the contrast here is that his mum - after losing her husband – abandoned her son and turned to a life of crime. The re-focus from father issues to mother issues for the second season isn’t the most original, but its nicely done with some great stuff towards the end of the season and Claudia Black - as Gary’s mum - is fantastic as always.
I was a big fan of HUE having a funny little robot body to tootle around in and his competition/flirtation with the superior ships' AI of Ava (Jane Lynch) was a fun expansion of his character. The new additions to the team don’t, to be honest, bring much to the table but they’re fairly solid comedy fodder and the show does try to give them some depth and an arc. However by the season finale there are just too many characters jostling for attention. This is where the show started feeling like a Futurama rip off, with this large group of misfits going on missions and taking on side jobs. Characters like Tribore can be very funny in small doses but almost gets over used this season. Also, Mooncake, the focus of the first season, really gets relegated to casual side sidekick this season which is a shame, not just for the comedy he brought but for the emotional focus he provided.
By the season end Team Gary have triumphed, more or less; there genuinely is a sense of loss and sacrifice for these characters to get where they end up and the show never shies away from going for a lump in the throat emotional moment. Overall, this was a fun season that didn’t quite manage to recapture the unexpected uniqueness of the first but the final episode puts us in a position to (if a third season happens) go forward down new and bizarre avenues.
Final Space remains a likable show that takes a bit of effort to get into; for anyone stumbling across season two I’d say go back to season one, binge it, ignore the first episode and by the end you’ll want to spend more time with these characters. Season two hasn’t been a disappointment but I wanted more from this surprise hit from last year. Hopefully a third season will focus the motives and arcs more cohesively and perhaps bring back David Tennant full time - if he’s not too busy with Duck Tales!