With that’s gone down this shitty year, we arrive on our of what constitutionally makes fun of what’s wrong with a commander in chief of his own fiefdom.
“My God, it’s full of stars.” “Ground control to Major Tom.” “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
All great quotes when venturing into the deep, vacuum of the unknown drenched in darkness punctuated with light and some of the trippiest things you could see with the help of telescopes five generations of your family couldn’t even afford to pay off begin with your first few lines that are beamed to us plebians on Earth, a planet that literally means “dirt.” It’s the experience at a ratio lower than being elected the Pope or a Czar, becoming a King or a Conqueror can you become an astronaut.
In this penultimate episode of Space Force (Netflix) titled “It’s Good To Be Back On The Moon”, we can see why one slip up can lead to a universe of possibilities.
Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) has worked hard through rank and file from the first episode through now to become the first woman on the moon. You know, along with Maintenance Man Eddie Broser (Chris Gethard), Maintenance Woman Phella Bhat (Aparna Nancherla), cadets and gadflies in training Julio-Diaz Jose (Hector Duran) and Obie Hanrahan (Owen Daniels) spearheaded by General Mark Naird (Steve Carell) and Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich).
The shocker is? Most of them are not qualified astronauts, as queried by a journalist at their pre-launch press conference… To which I say… physician, heal-thy-fucking-self!
Whether this motley soon to be remotely crew gird their loins of what it takes to be one of the rarified few that can experience a life-shattering experience of seeing their species base from afar theirs’ is neither here nor there! In fact, it’s none of nobody’s fucking business.
As Fuck Tony (Ben Schwartz) deftly deflects queries of the journalists at hand, Adrian is sweating. Why would they put a cadre of inexperienced grunts on a historic mission to the Moon? I’ll tell ya why- because Mark is the rock that proves to be the counterweight to Dr. Mallory.
As they prepare for lift-off, both Eddie and Phella want off of the journey before it even commences. General Naird quashes their butterflies by prompting a go for launch and with the flare of the ship, the increasing from 1.7 to 2g’s and with the tranquil separation of the rocket boosters, the crew of Space Force has successfully exited Earth’s orbit and is Lunar bound. Now it’s 36 hours and counting until arrival.
Congratulations float about the base and morale is rides high, but the only objective Mark has his eyes locked on at the moment is Kelly King (Jessica St. Clair), and the one thing the unflappable rock balked at- asking her out. Through a string of awkward and stilted confirmations and admissions, it’s a date!
Going for a literal victory lap around the base, Mark runs across (it was right there) his daughter Erin (Diana Silvers), also taking a jog. Before they can take full advantage with a bit of daily exercise, Mark’s assistant Brad Gregory (Don Lake) buzzes Mark with a snag about the Chinese. So much for going off without a hitch!
According to Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang), the Chinese declared the Sea of Tranquility crater as a territory of scientific research. Since an edict of the Outer Space Treaty states that nobody can own part of the moon, they are circumventing it by only “wanting to study it.” Though Mark seems fine with changing the course, Ranatunga (Punam Patel), says anything altering that would be altering the mission. Adrian agrees and figures the only way in is through, which means establishing direct communication with China’s research center.
So Adrian ingratiates himself in the presence of Dr. Zhang (Richard Ouyang) as well as his team. Dr. Zhang just puts it plainly out there that they are the first to live on the moon. Though Adrian tries to remind his foreign colleague about the Apollo missions, Dr. Zhang claims falsehoods. Though Adrian’s been diplomatic, Dr. Zhang in so many words tells them not to land on the Crater and tells them to bugger off before signing off.
Adrian and Mark have their work cut out for them and because one good thing leads to another, the news had just reported that crew member Eddie is technically a convicted felon, having been accused of starting a county and state park brush fire. Tony blames Brad, but technically that’s all F. Tony’s deal and he certainly gets a steaming earful from Mark.
This leaves Fuck Tony with contacting the entire crew, forcing them to spill the beans on the skeletons in their closet. From Obie’s grandfather being an IRA member to accidental blackface to public masturbation, Tony is having his chickies come home to roost.
Meanwhile, Mark is having his feet held to the fire by Secretary of Defense John Blandsmith (Dan Bakkedahl) on this international conundrum. Either appear weak by kowtowing to the Chinese or stay the course and risk escalating tensions. He offers no sound advice, so Mark goes to a pacing Adrian. He is freaking out. All that stress can make a guy hungry for a meal, right?
At dinner, though Kelly informs Mark that she’s fine with dating, Mark informs Kelly that he’s reticent about informing his daughter about their arrangement.
As they exchange understandings over steak and wine over a poignant degree, poor Adrian exchanges phantom barbs with Dr. Zhang over a bottle of whiskey to a hilarious degree.
Meanwhile, as Chan tries to figure out their next move in mission control, Angela appears before him on the big screen. He switches her to private chat at her request. She tries to workshop her first line when she sets foot on a thing most of the world may not experience in most of human history up until this point. She pitches out “It’s good to be back on the moon.” Chan thinks it’s terrible for the sheer disconnect in logic. Chan’s isn’t better, as he’s going for science and it reads as sexist.
The thing is Angela wants something powerful because she’s worked her whole life for this and she wants to make an impact that’s as impact full on her as her footstep in space. Chan agrees with her first pitch. This was a surely tender moment between the two.
The morning after at the Naird house, Mark tries to broach to Erin the concept of dating another, but before his daughter can puke at the idea, Mark’s guts were spilled, as Kelly walks down to greet them. Now that the air is cleared, Erin clears of the air, leaving in disgust.
Back at the old grind, Adrian confronts Mark diplomacy with having rather uncharacteristic vim in his vigor. Either someone pissed in Dr. Mallory’s cereal or a hangover for a genius is a baptism. Either way, the roles are reversed and sometimes in couples, the dynamic has to change for the better.
Speaking of which, as Erin visits her mother Maggie (Lisa Kudrow), and her mind is blown. Her parents are seeing other people. Now is the time for smoothing things out or blowing them up (as Adrian did actually mention.)
On the call with General Tesngjun (Bruce Locke), General Naird does the exact same thing as Dr. Mallory. Though “you laid down like a hooker on quaaludes” is one of the best lines I’ve heard of defeat in a long time. Mark’s deductive skills lead him and Adrian to realize that China wants to drill the Moon, not explore it. This would mean something nefarious and whilst Mark and Adrian argue in mission control, the only control outside of that room is really his daughter.
The Sea of Tranquility is a go as a command by Mark. This is the mission of their home. Space Force One has landed. Mark grants Captain Angela Ali the first one to stretch her legs. She’s earned it.
Staring out that Lunar landscape, she takes her first steps, like a baby. “It’s good to be black on the moon.”
Though it is an initial shock, cosmic coincidence is a term.
Adrian and both Mark can’t believe they did something only people dream of. Their warm handshake is akin to the warmest hug you can ever feel. What ensues is like a wonderful bounce house vicariously through all that will never get to experience it, backed by the beautiful Bobby Womack’s version of “Fly Me To The Moon”. It’s glorious for the underdogs, the ones that made it, and the outcasts.
For those, you always have the bullies, though, and the Chinese space vehicle just knocks over their space flag like a slow-rolling rap star with an intent to beef.
The celebration can’t see it, but Mark and Adrian can see it and they DARE them to raise it. Not that flag, but rather the game.