(Space Force Season 2 premieres on Netflix on February 18th)
It’s not a perfect opener, and it certainly takes some really wrongheaded steps in its broad comedy, but it makes me laugh. That’s really all you can ask from something as harmless as this.
So it’s really bizarre that while season two of the Steve Carell-led show is leaner and less shooting-fish-in-a-barrel, it’s also less funny. There’s also very little to do with, you know, space.
At just seven episodes, down from ten, season two feels like a bridge into another show, or worse, the end of something good entirely. I really hope it’s not the latter. While Space Force is still looking for a tone to stick with, this is still a charming and often very funny series worth sticking with for the ride.
Season two picks up a few months after the disastrous moon mission and breakout attempt by Naird (Carell) and his wife. The Space Force is under further scrutiny, with an eager senator out for blood and the closure of the entire unit. The first two episodes focus squarely on the hearing and the return to a new normal with slashed budgets.
And that’s really it as far as the plot goes. Space Force needs to prove it’s still worth the time.
It’s hard not to be cynical. Whether it’s the imposed restrictions due to COVID19 or really a smaller budget, Space Force feels much more limited this time around. In fact, for a show about space, there’s very little space-related stuff at any point, beyond a weird and out-of-place cameo from Patton Oswalt as an astronaut on his way to Mars.
Instead, much of the season is spent on interpersonal shenanigans, none of which are interesting enough to warrant this much attention. The relationship between Dr. Chang (Jimmy O. Yang) and astronaut Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) was cute the first time around, now it feels forced. Ali wants out of not just any relationships, but Space Force entirely. Newsome gets less to do this season as well, and it’s worrying to imagine the show without her. Her presence elevates the series every time she’s on-screen.
Meanwhile, Mark struggles with keeping his daughter, Erin (Diana Silvers) on the straight-and-narrow. Which doesn’t seem like it requires much, as the series can’t come up with anything for Erin to do. She dabbles in day trading, applies to school, but mostly her position seems to be a general hang around. Why she’s included in the daily operations of the military branch is a mystery, and Space Force doesn’t really seem to care for it, either.
I wish it did because whatever issues the series has, they’re all outweighed by its winning cast. Silvers is hugely likable even doing nothing, while Yang’s jumpy narcissism is entertaining even when the story isn’t. John Malkovich continues to delight as the one seemingly sane and capable scientist of the bunch. Even Carell, though often falling into his typical tropes, delivers singularly impressive moments throughout the season.
Season two is also far less mean than its predecessor, and it’s all the better for it. There’s a jolly camaraderie to everything, which makes me love it even more.
But it all feels disjointed and unfocused. Just when you think the plot is moving, the series halts for a pointless subplot about robot wars. As the final episode concluded, it felt like I’d been sent only half a season to review.
This really speaks for how much I want this show to succeed. Even when it’s aimless, I want to spend more time with this cast. But I don’t know how they’ll get there doing the same thing for a third season in a row.
Whatever comes next, I hope Space Force can find its groove. There are moments here that feel like they’re just on the cusp of whatever that is. But to get there, it needs to ask itself what kind of a show it wants to be. Personally, I think the series is at its best when the plot and dark humor go hand in hand. Those episodes, like a fantastic one with the Chinese delegation coming to negotiate land rights on the moon, showcase the rough diamond Netflix has on its hands.
The second season isn’t as good as the first one, but I still enjoyed it. I hope we get a third one sooner than later. Don’t let this one die, Netflix.