The following contains spoilers for Space Force episode 10.
Your average sitcom doesn’t need to have a lesson at the end of each episode or season to be effective. Space Force, as created by sitcom master Greg Daniels, decides to go for one anyway. And that lesson can best be summed up as “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind…or at least stranded on the moon with no shelter or life support.”
Yes, Space Force does make it to the moon in the end. Here in the (horrible, horrible) real world, it’s unknown how long the United States’ new space force branch will take to get to the moon (or if that is even a short term goal). On Space Force, the branch led by Mark Naird (Steve Carell) only needs a year and some change. By episode nine, Commander Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) and her high school dropout astronaut crew arrive on the moon. Almost immediately Space Force command begins to encounter aggressive posturing from the Chinese delegation on the moon in response.
The Chinese have claimed America’s initial Apollo 11 landing spot in the Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) as their own. They hammer their dominion over the spot in the finale’s opening moments by driving over Neil Armstrong’s American flag in their lunar rover. Rude! That’s why much of the action in the finale, appropriately named “Proportional Response,” deals with how to deliver a proportional response to this unfortunate flag-stomping.
Space Force naturally sets up our protagonist Naird as the hero in this matter. In military engagements it can often be confusing or difficult to figure out what the objectively right thing to do is. This situation is not difficult. Naird wants to proceed with similar pranks like TP-ing the Chinese’s base or whatever the equivalent of “ding dong ditch” is but the powers in the executive branch above him favor actual military action…on the moon.
In a rather haunting speech given our present circumstances, Naird describes the importance of remembering the past. Those who no longer recall the dangers of polio will not vaccinate, and those who forget how bad World Wars can be will puff out their chest. So Naird orders Ali and her crew to break down their guns (serious question: do firearms work on the moon?). Unfortunately the Air Force’s General Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) is sent to relieve Narid of command and order the astronauts to attack the Chinese base.
And that’s how the finale leads into the truly unfortunate position the astronauts find themselves in. As they traverse across the lunar service to destroy the Chinese base, they see a group of Chinese astronauts riding off in a rover in the opposite direction. Nobody ponders where they might be going at the time. But after they return from sabotaging the Chinese’s base, the American astronauts discover that the Chinese have sabotaged their base.
We know the Chinese landing site has been rendered unlivable because Ali says they are prepared to take on the Chinese scientists as refugees. The damage to the American landing sites looks pretty darn unlivable as well. So this means that over a dozen astronauts from two different countries are currently stranded on the moon with no shelter and little-to-no life support devices. We also know, thanks to a comment from Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) that a return flight to the moon for more supplies won’t be arriving for another month.
This is quite the striking ending to the season in that it ends on a solidly anti-war message that the show seems to have flirted with before finally committing to. Beyond that, however, it presents a fascinating logistical challenge for the writers to work around in season 2. Should Space Force receive a second season (and it likely will given the pedigree of those involved), said season could essentially be a comedic version of Apollo 13.
Of course, there will be other lingering plot threads for Space Force to address once it returns as well. For starters, Mark Naird really needs to spend some more time with his daughter Erin (Diana Silvers). There’s attention-seeking behavior and then there’s “hopping in a truck- with some clear murderers en route to a meth party” attention-seeking behavior. Thankfully Mark is able to rescue his daughter thanks to the fastest helicopter in the universe (fewer than 30 seconds of screen time elapse between Mark escaping Space Force and his arrival in the desert). But still…you might want to address that.
Similarly, Erin’s mom Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) will likely have to head back to prison after briefly escaping to rescue her daughter as well. We don’t know what the charges against Maggie are. Presumably her character violated the little known statute of “Lisa Kudrow can’t commit to a full 10 episodes.” Perhaps Maggie’s role will recede in season 2 or perhaps even grow if Kudrow’s availability improves.
But those are conversations and conjectures for another time. For now Space Force ends with the team’s astronauts stranded on the moon, Dr. Mallory having to sheepishly put a tank of gasoline away, and Mark Naird receiving a call in the air telling him he’s the only one who can fix all this.