Though one could argue that it had a difficult launch last year, Space Force feels like it’s on course.
With its release last May, Netflix’s Space Force began its first season with an Office problem. Known best for his work as Michael Scott, Carell and Greg Daniels did their very best to differentiate themselves from the affable boss. As a grumpy authoritarian figure, Carell’s General Naird seemed to be everything that Scott wasn’t… but that arguably also kept him from being likeable.
While most people think that the success of The Office was due to Carell, it really lay in the relationships between co-workers. Jim and Pam. Dwight and Jim. Stanley and Phyllis. Whether it was romantic interest or the reality of simply being stuck together within the workplace, the connections between characters had a certain charm based on the care and respect between them. As a result, while the series had potential, it still felt as though it was still struggling to find its voice through much of its inaugural mission.
However, as the season unfolded, the icier aspects of Naird’s persona began to melt away and the connections between characters began to be established.
It’s also what makes Season 2 of Space Force so much better than its predecessor.
Taking place several weeks after General Naird’s departing helicopter in the finale, Season 2 begins with the investigation into the events on the Moon. Left at the mercy of an over-bearing and penny-pinching Secretary of Defense (Tim Meadows), General Naird and his crew are given four months to prove the value of their branch of the military. Faced with financial cutbacks and potential government replacements, the Space Force must work together to keep their jobs and their sanity.
With Season 2, Force has really begun to find its footing. United by a common antagonist in the Secretary of Defense, the team must work together in order to survive. As the fight for the program, the relationships between them solidify and the edges of their characters begin to soften. Carell’s Naird remains authoritative and intelligent yet also likeable and relatable. Malkovich’s idiosyncrasies began to balance out the members of his team. There’s even a potential ‘will they/won’t they’ dynamic between two unexpected characters that add a fun romantic element. Most importantly though, there seems to be a comradery developing between characters that makes them a joy to watch.
But are they actually committed to one another?
One of the key themes throughout its second outing asks the question of whether or not Space Force is worth the cost. As the Secretary of Defense weighs the government’s financial commitment to the Force, so too are the staff asking themselves whether or not their service is worth the effort. Struggling with PTSD, Captain Ali is having a hard time readjusting to life back on Earth. Mallory and Chan wonder if they should seek greener pastures. Even Tony begins to ask ‘what he has ever done for himself’. Constantly squeezed by the overbearing US Military, the team at Space Force are… well… forced to ask tough questions about where their future matters most.
Does their mission actually matter? Or are they merely the most useless branch of the military?
In this way, Space Force finally rockets towards being memorable. While the mission may be other-worldly, the sustainability of the series relies on its humanity and relatability. Through its characters and relationships, something is finally coming together in Force that makes it fun and unique. While the average person may not be familiar with the military world, we finally feel like we understand the people within it. As a result, though its setting may have its eyes on the stars, it feels like another day at the Office.
And that’s a trip worth taking.
Space Force streams on Netflix on Friday, February 18th, 2022.