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'Final Space' Going Light Speed to Nowhere

Series Premiere

Astronaut Gary and his hyper-destructive alien pal Mooncake (both voiced by Olan Rogers) float around in "Final Space" on TBS.
The title sequence of “Final Space” features gore, indicating that some mature content is ahead. But the show also goes for comedy when a cookie strikes the protagonist Gary in the face, causing him to misfire his laser gun. It sets up the expectation that the show will combine adult themes and childish shenanigans, all within one animated show. However, TBS’s new show fails to execute on both accounts, suffering from weak characterization and a limited arsenal of punchlines.

In the opening minutes of the show, we see Gary (Olan Rogers), an exiled space criminal, floating through space on his last minutes of oxygen. Gary, in a state of near-death makes the show come off as much more serious than it actually is. However, the more screen time Gary gets, the less seriously we take him. Gary is fast-talking and aggressively friendly, traits that could make a quality protagonist if not for the poor writing. Gary’s dialogue is meant to be the comedic core of the show, but consists mostly of yelling and repeating things (“Cookies? Cookies!”). The style of Rogers’ delivery makes it difficult to ever take Gary seriously, even in moments that are supposed to be dire. As he is informed by HUE (Tom Kenny), the ship’s A.I. system, that he is losing oxygen and will perish in less than 10 minutes, Gary remarks, “They went with green for red alert. I would’ve gone with red. Or perrywinkle. Or eggnog. I don’t even know if that’s a color but now I just want eggnog.” While this line could have worked if the entire sequence was meant to be comedic, it was set seconds prior to seeing Gary and multiple dead bodies that have been eviscerated by the harshness of outer space float by, creating a strange blend within one scene.

It is revealed in the first episode that Gary was sentenced to five years in interstellar solitary confinement as a result of a failed attempt at impressing a girl, Quinn (Tika Sumpter). Gary has only met Quinn one time, but he continues to send her video messages throughout his served time. While this is meant to open up a romantic storyline and show Gary’s persistence, it functions as forced exposition or a means for repeating the events of the episode with a slightly comedic spin. Additionally, as Quinn begins to forge her own storyline, we are constantly reminded of Gary’s obsession with her, which takes away from Quinn’s exploits in the sense that no matter what she gets up to, she will inevitably cross paths with Gary again.

The show relies heavily on overused character arcs. There is Avocato (Coty Galloway), a bounty hunter turned friend, whose only interest is saving his son from the evil overlord. The evil overlord in this case is the Lord Commander (David Tennant), a super-powered villain who is made fun of for his short stature. Then there is KVN (Fred Armisen), an annoying robot sidekick with a love of cookies. Due to the lack of character originality, the jokes and action sequences are far too predictable. It comes as no surprise when Avocato goes to rescue his son and is led into a trap, or when the Lord Commander kills one of his henchmen who made a joke at his expense. Additionally, the majority of KVN’s scenes consist of KVN doing something, and Gary proceeding to complain about how much he despises KVN. The lack of original peripheral characters does further damage to “Final Space,” as Gary cannot carry the show alone.

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Despite a strong cast and an intriguing premise, “Final Space” feels like it is going nowhere. While there are still some mysterious elements to the show, the arcs of the characters are not compelling enough for viewers to be interested in uncovering them. Not all television needs to be groundbreaking, but quality TV begins and ends with consistent, strong, or likable characters, and “Final Space” features no such individuals.

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