This post contains spoilers for Final Space.
The playing field of adult animation has been a treasure trove of wealth since the peak of The Simpsons back in the mid and late 90s. From the inception of Matt Groening’s subversive, satirical legend, spawned further legends like South Park, Futurama, and most recently Rick and Morty. And today, led by Rick and Morty, we’re definitely in a renaissance of adult animation with Emmy-nominated shows like Big Mouth and BoJack Horseman being some of the best the medium has to offer. However, with such a glut of great content out there, it’s become very easy to overlook one of the best adult animated series on the air right now: Olan Rogers’ Final Space!
Upon its debut in 2018, the Conan O’Brien-produced show received fairly lukewarm reception from critics after its pilot, then was largely ignored following that during subsequent seasons. And that was sadly unfair, to say the least since the show grew into something much greater since its initial premiere. While Final Space, which just debuted its third season on Adult Swim last month, isn’t in the zeitgeist as heavily as a show like Rick and Morty, the fanbase it has acquired in the past three years has been small, but incredibly dedicated and passionate. And that’s because the quality and narrative of the show are actually unparalleled in this current age of adult animation. That’s not a hyperbole.
For those unfamiliar with it, which is probably a lot of folks, the show follows a character named Gary Goodspeed, a former prisoner who was once forced to spend a five-year sentence in absolute solitude in space on a ship called the Galaxy One (apart from the ship’s A.I, and a few robots). While performing a routine maintenance on his ship, an adorable alien orb finds him, and in his loneliness, Gary adopts the little guy as his buddy, and names him Mooncake. Gary soon finds out Mooncake is a weapon with the power to destroy a planet, given he’s the key to opening an apocalyptic dimension called Final Space. Gary vows to keep Mooncake safe from the wrong hands to ensure the safety of the universe. And soon they end up meeting several allies and creating a makeshift family for themselves, as they attempt to elude several enemies ranging from an evil psychic monster called The Lord Commander (voiced by David Tenant) to giant universe-destroying titans.
Sure, it mashes up several elements from hardcore sci-fi adventure stories, but what Final Space represents conceptually is something we very rarely see among adult animation: a serialized space opera comedy-drama that builds on its world and characters season to season. Indeed, there’s nothing else out there in the current state of American adult animation that is similar. In fact, what Rogers and his team have assembled in the past three years is equal parts somber, hilarious, and exciting in ways that are more reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy than Rick and Morty or Futurama (not that we need to compare them). And the show and the universe on display has just grown and developed wider and deeper.
What started out as a sci-fi comedy show about a goofy prisoner and his adorable sentient weaponized orb has evolved into an ensemble piece about a “Team Squad” (as the show’s protagonist hilariously dubs the ensemble) battling space titans with inventive and insane designs. Yet deep down, the soul of all those adventures lies in the complexities of the characters at the center of it, and their relationships to one another. Rogers and his team have taken the opportunity to delve deeper into every primary and secondary character introduced so far and have produced multidimensional beings rooted in trauma and tragedy. And much like Futurama and Rick and Morty, we become invested in the animated members of the Team Squad because they feel more real and sympathetic than even characters from the most recent Star Wars trilogy.
Take Gary’s best friend, Avocato (which I realize does sound like a silly name for a character resembling a cat, but it works); a cat-like warrior from a war-torn planet called Ventrexia introduced in the first two episodes of the series. Throughout the course of the series, Rogers and his team of writers have put the character (and fans) through the emotional ringer. The character, voiced by Coty Galloway, is introduced as a simple bounty hunter, who is forced to serve The Lord Commander in order to ensure the safety of his son, Little Cato (voiced by Oscar-nominee, Steven Yeun). As the series progresses, we learn more about the bloody tasks Avocato has had to commit under The Lord Commander’s command, and how the trauma and guilt continues to affect him and his relationship with others. In fact, just two weeks ago, the show revealed some even deeper truths about the character that will ultimately have some incredible repercussions for the course of the series going forward – particularly the relationship between him and his son.
Even after three years, we’re still learning more surprising truths about Gary, Mooncake, and Avocato, as well as the other characters in the ensemble. With every new emotional demon a character must overcome, the storylines become richer, and the affection and sympathy for these characters grows. And that’s the type of commitment and attention to character development that Rogers and his team have been implementing since the series began. You can tell the passion for these characters is high, and Rogers wants his audience to love them as much as he does.
Furthermore, the mythology and world-building that’s been done thus far has been nothing short of astounding. In the first season we only scratch the surface of what exactly the Final Space dimension is in the context of the series’ storyline. Very fun elements like time-travel, mind-prisons, and different worlds are introduced. The second season actually explores Final Space as a dimension more fully, along with different types of titans and beings called arachnitects, as well as MacGuffins like various dimensional keys. It also introduces several new characters with different special powers, and emotional connections to the show’s protagonists. And in this latest third season, we’re starting to scratch the surface of who the primary villain for the series is and what his abilities are. All this while furthering the drama that exists between its characters and the shocking revelations that are presented for each from episode to episode. Not an easy feat for any show to accomplish, and yet Final Space has done nothing but get deeper and richer with every half hour episode that debuts.
In short, Final Space is a funny and epic love letter to science fiction space operas with fantastic, complex characters, and excellent serialized storytelling and world building. Without fanfare or a giant audiences, Olan Rogers and the team behind the show have slyly and stealthily created a universe and mythology richer than newer Star Wars films, as irreverent, funny, and imaginative as Guardians of the Galaxy, and as deep and somber as Futurama or Rick and Morty on their best episodes. With every chapter, audiences can feel the passion and love the creators feel for their world, and that affection becomes infectious. In short, it’s hands down, the best, most overlooked adult animated show on television right now!
Final Space airs Saturday at 10:30PM EST on Adult Swim.
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