Final Space

⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 3 reviews.

tl;dr: A delightfully fast-paced sci-fi adventure that continually manages to pull off interesting endings and enjoyable characters, but can't quite get the hang of beginnings.

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I think it's safe to say that every single episode of Final Space was better than the one that came before it. The first few episodes were a little disjointed, the characters a little lacking, and the dialogue a little stilted, but they had their moments. By the finale, the dialogue had me laughing out loud, the characters had me rooting for them, and the world-building was genuinely interesting (though never truly novel).

It wasn't afraid to pull some punches, nor hammer others home. The surprise death of Avocato hit right in the stomach and did a lot to tie everything together, and the ending is brutal.

Liberal use of sci-fi tropes felt a little stilted, again, at the beginning, but by the end I was largely on board. Rarely did these actually veer into interesting territory, with even more original episodes like the mind maze still feeling reminiscent of Rick and Morty or other series.

Most notably, though, is the similarity with Tim Buckley's Ctrl+Alt+Del; so much so that I had to double-check he hadn't been involved. Animation style is reminiscent of Buckley, character design and humour have close parallels, and even the makeup of the cast felt almost one-to-one. You have a thin, quirky, not extremely bright but honourable (in a way), immature hero; a bulky, weapons expert, handyman long-suffering sidekick; a kickass, takes-no-prisoners love interest that is ultimately won over by the innocent charms of the hero; and an annoying robot "friend" whose combination of inhumanity and desire for friendship fuels his entire arc. Yes, there are other characters, but set Ethan, Lucas, Lilah, and Zeke in space and you basically have Final Space. In fact, Buckley has been doing just that for years with the Starcaster Chronicles, which even more closely map to Final Space (though, again, thanks to the wealth of tropes this isn't too unlikely). Even the Lord Commander has elements of Ted/Scott (though I'll admit this is reaching a bit)!

Basically, Mooncake is the most original aspect throughout and not only fuels the narrative but also the heart of the story. Mooncake is a delight, hilarious, and perfectly animated.

That said... the breakneck pace and sheer amount of story fit into each episode is stunning; yes, they're long for an animated show, but I could honestly say each episode could fit a half season's worth of narrative for most shows. And, ultimately, by the end, I'm both onboard and looking forward to a season two.

Also, what is David Tennant doing here?!? I mean, he's great but I had no idea he was involved at all!

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The first season of Final Space had a weird arc to my enjoyment. It started out intriguing, felt like it got a bit lost in the middle, then pulled out a huge finale that packed an emotional wallop and proved that the show could aspire to great things. Somehow, season two pulls the same stunt off again, just marginally improving on each stage.

We open with Gary dying. It was a fun gimmick in season one to constantly flash forward to his potential death and slowly piece together what had happened, but I'm glad they didn't try the same thing again. Instead, he's rescued and has a brief side adventure which introduces some new characters to the regular roster. For the most part, I like their inclusion and it gives us some interesting new ground to explore whilst the main plot gets built up. I also really like that the early episodes give Gary time to dwell on the huge loss at the end of season one, and doesn't shy away from the repercussions that the destruction of Earth is having. We also get some genuinely fun episodes like The Happy Place, which gives us a useful new villain, and The Other Side that just goes for the emotional juggular and sees the show trying out some more novel avenues

That said, after a slightly slow opening act and then a few interesting episodes, Final Space is back to being a show that jumps around too much. It doesn't seem to be able to decide if it wants to be a serialised drama with one clear narrative thread, or a "monster of the week" style animation that almost resets after each episode. I think it's trying to be the opposite of Rick and Morty, which is a "monster of the week" show that subtly interlinks episodes into greater arcs over time. Final Space wants to be a serialised show that occasionally does one-shots. The problem with that, though, is it makes the actual plot feel rushed when its the focus and the one-shot stories feel all over the place thematically. In other words, it muddles itself up and gets confused in the process.

But then it goes and gives us an excellent time travel adventure that ties a bunch of the earlier nonsense together and revives Avocato, with consequences. That's followed by a great arc centred around freeing Bolo and getting Quinn back, and suddenly the show is back to a brilliant finale and a whole lot of interesting repercussions that demand a third season now, please! It's a little frustrating, sure, but it does improve on season one in just about every way and shows that the positives of that season weren't simply accidents or one-off flukes; Final Space has legs to stand on.

Plus, we get some great character development across the board, but none are better than new Hue, the adorable AI trapped in a tiny robot. If Moonpig was the star of season one, Hue is the star of season two and brings some genuinely joyous comedy to the series as a whole.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

At this point, I feel like Final Space just having a weird narrative arc is part of its charm. Once again, we have a season that starts out a bit muddled but that ultimately drives to a really compelling conclusion and leaves my desperately wanting more. I do wonder whether, if you binged the show start-to-finish, these peaks and troughs in storytelling would be as apparent, or if it's just a show that requires a certain headspace to really click with?

At any rate, season three felt the most narratively cohesive of the seasons so far. Our heroes are all together (at last), stuck in the titular Final Space dimension, with really only one main goal: get out and back to their universe. It ties together a number of plot threads from previous seasons, including getting to see what became of Earth, wrapping up some of the past characters/villains, and even hinting at how Quinn might evolve into her time-travelling alter ego. There's still plenty of madcap capers and side quests (particularly whenever Tribor is around), but overall the show feels a little clearer on its goals and direction, which helps a lot.

They also spend a lot more time digging into the various characters, none more so than Ash, who has a very interesting arc. I felt Avocato's whole revelatory "I am not your father" thing was a little forced, but overall the season develops each character well and sets up some interesting continuing plot threads. I'm fascinated to see where they go with the whole finale, particularly now both the Lord Commander and Bolo appear to have been killed or permanently removed from the equation; what other possible way do they have of saving the universe?

That ending was even more surprising to me because I'd misread the Netflix description and spent the entire time believing this was the final season, which would have been quite the dark note to leave it on 😂 I'm glad we'll be getting some proper answers in the future.

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