‘Space Force’ Episode 10 Review – “Proportionate Response”

Did you ever have that science project at the school fair that was just short of making it?

Episode 1 – “The Launch”

Episode 2 – “Save Epsilon 6!”

Episode 3 – “Mark and Mallory Go to Washington”

Episode 4 – “Lunar Habitat”

Episode 5 – “Space Flag”

Episode 6 – “The Spy”

Episode 7 – “Edison Jaymes”

Episode 8 – “Conjugal Visit”

Episode 9 – “It’s Good To Be Back On the Moon”

How does one define an act of war? It may have to do with someone encroaching upon another’s territory. If the landscape isn’t owned, however, it’s not an act of war but rather a game. It’s not like a sports team has preemptive points on the scoreboard and the other tries to overtake them. This is something of a new frontier, especially with space exploration and habitation. Whoever is at the vanguard controls the game until the other team keeps fighting to win. It’s not dissimilar to the Wild West and the Gold Rush. Unclaimed territory anybody can fight for (though it did truly belong to others before) but let’s focus on what is not claimed, but rather what the flag planters and what assholes they can be (on either side.) In the final of Space Force (Netflix) titled “Proportionate Response”, we will see what heady humans will go to stake their claim. Human nature? Ha! The animal kingdom is really the only group that has it down to a beautiful science.

Surrounded by his military constituents, General Mark Naird (Steve Carell) stares down what is the rough situation of an American lunar-based flag being run over by the Chinese like some teenage puck running over a driving cone just because they can.

Secretary of Defense John Blandsmith (Dan Bakkedahl) suggests hitting back hard and though General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) suggests escalating by dropping a bomb, Mark asserts that you cannot kill for another insulting a symbol. Commandant of the Marine Corps (Patrick Warburton) skirts by General Naird’s diplomacy and opts for full-on invasion, to which both Chief of Naval Operations (Jane Lynch) and General Rongley (Diedrich Bader) agree with.

Since going scorched literal earth isn’t an issue since this transpired in space, Mark refers to the International Space Treaty for a non-virulent retaliation corollary to the act itself. Helping him is a focus group spearheaded by Fuck Tony (Ben Schwartz). Hoo, boy.

He leads in by asking the group the positives of space exploration but careens into a hard left when told that they wouldn’t support a war on the moon, showing them the “incident”. This does rile up the group, but their proposed solutions all amount to puerile chicanery.

Elsewhere on the base, Erin (Diana Silvers) enjoys not only her boozed-up acai but also her handiwork, scrawling “CHEATER” onto Kelly King’s (Jessica St. Clair) car with mustard as her medium.

Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) isn’t having it any easier, in Mission Control, as the crew lacks essential tools for maintenance of their ship nor of their hygiene. It’s never a good look when someone like Obie is confusing a basic wrench as a “metal moon scoop” to collect lunar samples. There’s no time for Adrian to hang his head in shame, though as a sudden puncture in their base is of more import. To pour salt in the wound as well, the Chinese have released footage of their plush space station.

Erin is fired. Mark is fired up. F. Tony’s solutions are impotent-on-arrival. What’s more, with the Joint Chiefs on the horn awaiting an update, unless Mark can show them he knows what side of the bread is buttered, he’s goddamned toast.

Though Mark has unfettered clearance to attack the Chinese Lunar Base, he leads in with Fuck Tony’s solutions. This exposure of his underbelly has John Blandsmith furious, wanting to use exploit astronaut Eddie’s (Chris Gethard) arsonist past for their personal gain. General Naird refuses to put non-combatant scientists in harm’s way and the rest of the team starts to step over to Mark’s side, as are beginning to see what’s diplomatic. Still, an unhinged Secretary of Defense won’t take “no” for an answer.

Turning to the only mind that can unravel this revelry du fuckery, Mark confers with Adrian. This poses a problem though, with Dr. Mallory’s name being attuned to the first Lunar atrocity that may happen. His good name is on that dubious plaque as much as Mark’s is, should this shit go awry, so they need to brainstorm, and how!

General Naird tells Captain Ali to look into the lockers with astronaut Obie as her onlooker. There were supposed to be a space-ready armament contained therein, which is a gun-glory of firepower. All must learn how to use them in case of conflict, should that arise. Julio Diaz (Hector Duran) expresses fear in that they may have the tools of warfare as well. Well, it remains to be seen as they peacefully clean their weapons of war. Is this possible? Would it make the textbooks or be a pox in the textbooks?

Back on the base, Dr. Mallory already has fighting words with General Naird- albeit from like four literal levels apart. At this point, their misunderstanding of John Wayne and Wayne John (a guy who slighted Adrian for stealing his pencils) was a bit of sly humor which I can truly appreciate in this zero hour. The confrontation though leads to Mark’s bestie to hand in his resignation. Imagine how that fight would go if they were in space? It would be going through the proper channels and through notes, as the gravity of the situation takes it all. That, in a nutshell, is their relationship.

We’re, however, here on Earth, where things land densely and with a THUMP.

In Mission Control, Dr. Chan (Jimmy O. Yang) has a chance to catch a quiet moment with Captain Ali. The flirtation escalates further without any creepy undertones and in fact, underplayed for a nice romantic effect. Those that can speak so many words of love without saying it are in my mind, the sweetest.

Speaking of blossoming love, Mark and Kelly King (Jessica St. Clair) clear all of this out with a romantic dinner of wine and plain spaghetti. It’s not that Mark doesn’t know how to cook, but it’s just that he’s given up. His aide de camp said sayonara and he’s left verklempt.

On this hot food that’s now cooling, only Mark’s cooler head is prevailing because he may have to head soldiers into the battlefield of the unknown, and neither sustenance nor sex can stray him from the worry of uncertainty. It doesn’t make him hungry.

Kelly reaffirms him about his asking her out, and in spite of the consequences, he went with his gut anyway. Reinstilling that hunger in him, he wants the full course.

The next morning, as Adrian’s filling his humorously small cardboard box (which would otherwise be filled with a plant) with an African mask, Mark wants Adrian’s help to defy an Order. The brilliant mind is piqued! What is it? Passive aggression! Mind games are the only war games. They are used in chess, they are used on the battlefield. It’s non-violent and effectiveness is second to none… So Mark does just that… and anxiously awaits his job as Adrian is calm about it.

At an off base convenience store, Erin asks a few guys for a smoke. She’s had enough of her restricted existence and wants some freedom. The only thing is that bites her in the ass when a delinquent trio in a pickup truck picks her up. Hey, teenagers do dumb things. I can’t say I was ever arrested for some dumb shit, but I also can’t say there wasn’t some dumb shit I did that I should’ve been arrested for.

Back where things are just a hair saner, Adrian spouts out things that would only in effect help the Chinese. Blandsmith is awaiting his return and though Mark’s innards are in knots at the moment, Erin’s are in a ton more. She’s in the middle of the desert (‘member, it’s Colorado?) basically kidnapped by a bunch of base-heads, sans the ropes, and accouterment.

She would call her father if her cellular service weren’t so shitty. Moreover, Grabaston is ready to set this Catherine wheel in motion.

This leaves General Naird to address Captain Ali directly. He recalls from the first episode when she disobeyed an order… and now requests her to do it again. He engages in a moving, simple, yet elegant monologue ending with “the real enemy is arrogance.” This is something Adrian silently bows his brow in agreeance with.

Marks grand scheme? Disassemble the firearms and use them to build up the base. When they go right, you go left. ALWAYS. The best offensive is a greater defense, AmIRight?

Now though Kick Grabaston tries to blow down Naird’s kingdom to come, the one and oafish but lovable Duncan Tabner (Spencer House) to no avail. It’s too late, though. Though he orders Mark to attack, he has no true skin in this game of warfare. In fact, you can say early on, he shoved his dick in his own mouth (ohh, not the foot, that would be too easy.)

Though General Naird is arrested by the Commanding Officer, attacks are not possible as all the weapons are disabled. So what is this warmonger’s next move? Attack them with the only thing they have, which is an abundance of wrenches?

Captain Ali’s game day speech to her team is to basically go out and ready for war. What is that war you speak of?

With Lunar vehicles blazing and moon dust flying, Rover 1 and Rover 2 head into No Persons Land.

Back on Earth, Erin desperately tries to find a signal, lest she becomes a member of the new Manson family… or worse, a plus one for the new Dahmer Party… but she catches some wave of a signal. Both her father and her ‘friend’ Duncan are indisposed, arrested, next to each other.

Meanwhile, on the moon, as the Space Force teams and the Chinese teams cross paths to whom would capture the castle, and as the Chiefs of Staff observe in real-time, as the Space Force… does its space jam… though there is a chink in the armor.

Though Dr. Mallory, febrile in his wanting for an Instagram for science with Fuck Tony to set himself on fire isn’t doing it. It was a last-ditch effort for something that was already launched in place.

Out of her place though is an errant Erin, who is struggling to contact her mother from jail because her father is engaged in international-warfare. That’s a lot to put a daughter in the middle of, right? Especially when she’s fearing for her life. When her mother Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) trustingly places her daughter’s plight in her own hands, she only has one thing to do… take one of the fucking bikes at her disposal and pedal the fuck away!

Now with Mark free from a lighter in Adrian’s pocket and Erin’s thighs, pumping pure gasoline to get up to the sanctuary… Why would the equally fueled BMX bikes were hot on her tail?

It matters known because, like an angel from above, her father’s chopper cuts them off, leaving Mark- markedly declared, her Hero. By her own admission.

Back on where things are more bouncy, the entire Space Force team descends on the Chinese Base… and also according to those on Earth, Erin spots her mother. As shit would have it, she escaped saving her daughter and in a beautiful twist of fate, the three are a family again. You know, among certain circumstances with Louise, her escapee (maybe a nod to Dannemora)?

To Mark, it truly matters none, for as rocky as his family may be, the foundation bears no cracks.

As the Rovers see another Chinese vehicle pass by them with what they think of are sarcastic waves, Captain Ali makes the executive call to send a fake report to Grabaston of the ruination of the opposition’s, let’s be honest, what amounts to a Space Tent. Her lie extends to receiving those breathing as refugees.

The only thing is, a good heart may have some weight on Earth but on the Moon, it means fucking zilch.

Their base was destroyed, completely obliterated. Can we say an act of war now? Finally!?

While still in the air, Mark’s tertiary in command, his awesomely well-meaning but never landing assistant, Brad Gregory (Don Lake) informs him that the mission is completely fubar and that he might be court marshaled. Why do I say while still in the air? Because they reverse course to another bit of soil, free from extradition, I would imagine.

Now this season most definitely had its ups and its downs and for better or worse, it was an OK starter. To be honest, I would have expected more awkward from Greg Daniels (The Office) and more absurdist from Steve Carell (Angie Tribeca), and at times, they succeed. The rub is, they tried to pack a ton of information into 10 episodes, and some hit more than the others.

The standouts from this season for me were John Malkovich (of course) playing an intellectual casually becoming unraveled with each obstacle and stumbling block before him, Tawny Newsome, whose understated character making her way through rank and file with poise won my heart, and of course, Diana Silvers.

Now, hear me out. Ben Schwartz was amazing and I still love him, but Diana Silvers had a frustration exemplified that one can’t simply shrug off with a simple “DIANA SHRUGS” type action. She made it hers and was honestly one of the more interesting parts of the series, despite having so little on the script.

Overall, though not a work of art, I think we all see where this was going. It was a comedic treatise on our soon to be released Commander in Chief and though he may be nuts… the idea actually isn’t so much. While I am by no means saying militarize the moon, as it’s uncharted territory and that would be just fucking dickish, I do think celestial exploration is on our horizon and coming at us with light speed energy.

With that being said, I think the series may have a prescience to what could happen if too much may transpire in too little time without the guidance of cooler heads prevailing.

This series taught me one thing, if not for anything else. Ralph Kramdon used to threaten his wife Alice with a kisser up to the Moon.

Let’s just hope that this kiss within the heavens is with our wits, not our fists.

Robert Kijowski
Robert J. Kijowski is a screenwriter who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He enjoys the company of strangers in a theatre but adores the camaraderie of friends watching Netflix. He also loves to talk- a lot. This can be read through his recaps and reviews on the Workprint or heard through his weekly movie podcast, After the Credits. His presence can be felt through Facebook, Spotify or Ouija. Don’t use the latter though- he almost always ghosts people.

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