space forceNetflix’s workplace comedy from the creative minds behind Office, returns for a second series on Friday. The hit first season launched to mixed reviews in May 2020, not before a second season was greenlit by the streaming platform.
But has the series learned from its mistakes or is it failing to launch like its predecessor? Martin Carr takes a look.
For anyone under the illusion that life rarely imitates art, on December 19, 2020, Space Force celebrated its second anniversary. Sporting a logo that would give creators of star trek grounds for copyright infringement, this legitimate government agency has a strong set of ambiguous goals.
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They include, but are not limited to, providing the United States with freedom to operate in space. A definition that anyone would consider vague, regardless of their political allegiances. Ripe for satirical snaps indicative of Trump administration initiatives, when Netflix lights up space force the series, it suggested that fact and fiction had finally merged.
Created by Steve Carrell and Greg Daniels (Parks and recreation/Office), he walked a fine line between situational farce and broad political satire, led by Carrell as General Mark R. Naird. With John Malkovich on board as Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Adrian Mallory, space force found its comedy in bureaucratic double-dealing and gross miscommunication.
From postponing a planned launch out of self-interest to hijacking military satellites for personal errands, this series has reveled in the absurd extremes of humanity.
Watch a trailer for Netflix space force S2
Some solid gold cameos also helped make things memorable, whether it was Patrick Warburton as Commandant of the Marine Corps or Jane Lynch as Chief of Naval Operations.
space force benefited from an impressive ensemble cast, eccentric performances, and the scathing, sarcastic double act of Carrell and Malkovich in top form. However, while that first season moved beyond satire and really got into character, space force has become something else.
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Beyond the bravado and bickering that defined Mallory and Naird, there was genuine affection when it both appeared that they were better off working together. As much as this opening season never lost sight of the ridiculous, whether through multimedia-obsessed military adviser F. Tony Scarapiducci, or Don Lake’s dense Brad Gregory, it slowly became a central relationship. .
A defining connection that is explored further in the second brand, following General R. Naird’s decision to leave everyone suspended in the first season.
Overall, Space Force uses this second run to focus on seven central characters, all interconnected, who form a sort of surrogate family. Highlights beyond the lead couple of Malkovich and Carrell include Jimmy O. Yang as Doctor Chan Kaifang alongside Tawny Newsome’s Captain Angela Ali.
Many character moments that bring depth to their exchanges stem from an inability to communicate. The comedy comes from their clash of ideologies, as scientific theory meets aeronautical fact in a dating equation.
Elsewhere, Ben Schwartz relies on the idiosyncrasies of F. Tony Scarapiducci, who bonds with Chan in his misguided efforts to help his love life. Beyond that, he represents a fast-talking, media-savvy team player who allows his intellect and good intentions to cause wacky situations. Scarapiducci also manages to extract comedy gold from phone addiction, without losing audiences or trivializing a recognized condition.
John Malkovich also continues his season one home run, making Mallory disarmingly awkward but instantly relatable. Throughout this show, he constantly demonstrates how being the smartest person isn’t always an advantage.
With a perfect performance, Mallory puts herself in a position of authority, before unwittingly undoing all that good work. From berating the top brass for skimping on an executive dining room to tossing a cohesive paddy into a lifeless vending machine, Malkovich is every inch the clueless straight man.
Meanwhile, Steve Carrell brings more humanity to General R. Naird through a combination of fatherly instinct and simple role awareness. Those tense undercurrents that defined him so in the initial run are less prominent, while his innate comedic timing has room to breathe. In small moments alongside Don Lake’s Brad Gregory or Malkovich’s insufferable Mallory, Naird serves as the defining element that holds things together.
Whether it’s moments of awkward etiquette between visiting dignitaries or small personal scenes opposite Diana Silvers’ Erin Naird, there’s a distinct sense of character progression over this sophomore effort.
Even in the face of escalating prank, when space force drift towards Doctor Strangelove territory, season two still feels like a polished product with a purpose. The fact that it constantly relies on ridicule, while keeping those relationships front and center is fundamental to why it continues to work so well.
At every level imaginable, space force had no right to be anything but an expensive failure. A-list actors and big-budget streamers have collaborated before, with varying degrees of success. With such a controversial topic, no matter how satirical, it should have only lasted one season.
That Steve Carrell and Greg Daniels not only created something solid, but a wacky dramedy with depth is worth mentioning more than once. Not only that, but based on that, there’s no reason a final season should be out of the question.
space force S2 arrives on Netflix on Friday, February 18.