All right, folks… we’ve got to talk about Final Space. It’s been a long time coming. The show has been consistently fun and harmless at the same time, but I am of the mind that, when a series is ready to blossom and become more than what it could have settled for, it does something extraordinary in one episode that you look back on and say, “Yeah, that’s the episode where it all came together.” For Bojack Horseman, it was “The Telescope.” For Futurama, it was “Luck of the Fryish”. “Chapter Six” is Final Space‘s extraordinary episode and it has, in every sense, changed the game.
Anyway, obviously, we will be discussing “Chapter Six” which, as of this writing, has not aired on television but is available on the TBS app. I will be spoiling stuff and this is stuff you don’t want spoiled so kindly restrain yourself from reading until you’ve seen “Chapter Six” so as not to impede your enjoyment.
As I’ve said, Final Space has been a cute, funny, and harmless science fiction comedy about a guy named Gary, sentenced to five years of community service in space when he happens to come across a fat little floating ball of cuteness he calls Mooncake who apparently, has the ability to blow up planets. Mooncake is being hunted by the evil Lord Commander who sends a group of mercenaries to find him. One of those mercenaries is Avacato, a cat-like alien who, despite all odds, befriends Gary when he promises to help Avacato find his imprisoned son, Little Cato.
Later on, they are joined by Quinn, an officer investigating gravitational anomalies and the woman that Gary is coo-coo crazy in love for. Together, they discover that Final Space‘s version of Starfleet, the Planet Guard, has aligned themselves with the Lord Commander to open up a black hole that is threatening to destroy Earth so that the bad guys can find something called final space.
It’s been highly serialized and there is more to it, but Chapter Six is all about the rescue of Little Cato and, honestly, it plays more like a season finale than just another episode. Gary and Avacato, a character who hasn’t been developed as well as I would have hoped, cement their friendship, forsaking even Quinn who Gary is totally in love with.
It’s almost refreshing to see a character like Gary, really, and I don’t think he is being appreciated nearly enough. For one thing, Gary is portrayed as having way too much confidence for his own good when a lesser show would simply portray him as a stupid buffoon, but Gary is not a buffoon, he’s simply an emotionally immature guy who makes bad decisions. He’s not stupid, he has skills, and as bad as his decisions can be, he does weigh his options carefully and tries to choose the right thing to do. Seeing him keep his word to Avacato to help him save his son, even as his dream women objects loudly, is great development for him. There are some things he values more than satisfying his boner.
Quinn, to her credit, is not a shrew either. She doesn’t disagree for the sake of drama, she disagrees with going on the mission to save Little Cato because she’s got a very good point: They can either save one person, or they can save the entire Earth. Quinn wants to save the Earth and she’s right… that should be the priority.
Gary, however, follows his heart which I believe is his defining characteristic and makes him even more relatable and makes the conflict even more real… no one is right, no one is wrong. You can see things from all sides.
Avacato has one side: He wants to save his son. It’s his whole motivation. Even when Quinn asks: “Is your son more important than all the life in the universe?” Avacato doesn’t even hesitate: “Yes!” He’s such a dad and yet, as a dad myself, I would be the first person to tell the earth to go screw itself if my son were in danger. I get you too, cat-man.
Gary and Avacato go planetside and find Little Cato, but he’s been possessed by the Lord Commander who, while son fights father, forcibly probes Gary’s mind to find the location of Mooncake, the adorable little ragamuffin he is.
Let me just stop right here and offer heaps of praise over Lord Commander because he is a deceptively scary bad guy. Voiced by David Tennant who is completely unrecognizable in the role and obviously taking delicious glee in every word that tumbles out of his mouth, Lord Commander is an seemingly all powerful telepath who, despite his short stature, can crush your head with a gesture. He can pierce your mind and see your thoughts. He is the ultimate bad guy and yet… he’s dying. We don’t know why, but it’s such an interesting character arch… The Lord Commander, introduced as a character underestimated due to his small size, becomes a character of power without measure until we find out that his power is killing him, now he is weak and defeatable and, in a way, underestimated again. The thing about Lord Commander, though, is that he’s an injured animal and there is nothing more dangerous on this Earth or in space than an injured animal.
Long story short: Avacato manages to get through to his son and break the Lord Commander’s hold. Quinn, having finally seen Gary’s love messages he had been sending her over the years that she never knew existed, comes to the rescue and Mooncake blasts the absolute poo out of the Lord Commander. Dazed and injured, the Lord Commander uses his mental abilities and throws a grenade into the air as Gary, Avacato, and Little Cato escape on the Galaxy One.
There is a celebration as the Galaxy One leaves orbit and Avacato embraces his son, looking forward to their adventures together. But then, he hears the grenade beep. He grabs it, tells Gary to look after his boy, and then runs away from them and leaps on top of it as it explodes, blowing a hole in the side of Galaxy One and sucking Avacato’s mangled body into space.
The sequence, a slow motion scene with a haunting song playing over it is, for lack of a better word, beautiful in its gruesomeness. To see Avacato selflessly and, again, without hesitation give his life for his son was a gut punch and Steven Yeun, the voice of Little Cato, sells it with his screaming. It is a wretched little sequence that is like an iron boot to the chest and, yet… it’s the perfect character death, even for a character as underdeveloped as Avacato.
It is, to quote the young ones out there, a scene that hits all the feels and, to a viewer of this show, it’s like a member of the family was suddenly killed. I can count on one hand the number of times that a character death was handled in such a realistic and shocking way.
And, when I say shocking, I don’t mean a ratings grab. There was absolutely no reason for a ratings grab this early in the run. This was a purposeful decision to serve the story and did not feel cheap like a certain show about walking dead zombies killing off a certain one-eyed boy.
Now, that being said, I have absolutely no doubt that Avacato will show back up. Final Space is funny that way as they have already introduced time travel with a temporal worm and a Quinn I’m assuming is from the future. Not to mention, with Avacato’s earlier confession that he used to be one of the Lord Commander’s lieutenants, that the evil little psychic psycho midget might resurrect him to use him as a weapon against the crew of the Galaxy One. The possibilities are endless…. something as exciting as it is frightening: The possibilities are endless.
But here we are: Left with a hole in the side of the ship and a grieving son.
Final Space upped its own stakes, changed its dynamic, and flipped its own chessboard. The big question is, where do they go from here? I’m not certain, but I’m on board.