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Previously, I reviewed Dogs In Space (the Netflix show, again, not the movie on punk). I was surprised at how good this Sci-Fi parody was, enjoying the family-friendly adventures of uplifted dogs trying to “fetch” a new home for humanity. Though it had erratic moments, it was well-done, built a continuity, and had some gut-punch moments exploring its premise. When I saw that Season Two had dropped, I watched it immediately, finishing it in two evenings.
The choices made surprised me -pleasantly so – and are not only good but show the importance of choices writers made. Sometimes there’s funny, but then there’s funny with meaning.
Season One was a mix of shenanigans parodying Sci-Fi tropes, and continuing plot, ending in the cast of genetically-engineered dogs going through some personal changes. How would the show deal with so many repercussions in Season Two? For the writers, the answer was lean the into repercussions full force.
Season Two was almost all about the results of characters’ actions in Season One (and Season Two) having effects, often serious ones. There was no happy reversal of fortune to establish a norm, no reset button to deliver more of the same. In fact, parts of Season Two and its entire climax made no sense without having seen Season One.
It was still funny, at times very funny, but it was humor in the context of a developed setting where actions have consequences. Much of the humor, indeed the theme of the season, was repercussions.
Season Two also explored backstory of the characters and how their personality quirks mean real trouble. Some of this built the world, some seemed to tie up “spent” plots, and others explored unsavory repercussions of character traits that would otherwise be one-note jokes. It was as if the authors were saying “that thing you laughed at in Season One is funny in a darker way if you think about it . . .”
Pleasingly, this wasn’t just characters being in a setting pinball machine. Characters are explored, make choices, and deal with results. Side characters weren’t forgotten and get to reappear for critical moments – and they just came in and dig their thing with no big “hey, it’s them” fanfare. The elements of the show’s world mattered.
(I was thrilled one of my favorite side-side characters, the friendly but butt-kicking Saint Bernard Duchess got a moment. If you want to see a humanoid dog go sword-swinging anime heroine, this is your show.)
I found this continuity-focus a very bold writing choice, and it tells us something about parody. A good parody (which Dogs in Space is) can keep leaning on its jokes and get a lot of mileage out of that. But meaningfully embracing the continuity you’ve built and being funny is the real challenge, and Dogs in Space pulled it off, making the show meaningful (while still keeping some dog jokes, of course).
There was still some uneven plotting as Season One had, but this time it seemed to be due to the challenge of having a continuing plot. A few early episodes just aren’t that interesting, and the final story arc ties heavily into Season One, but it didn’t get foreshadowed well. I’m sure there were a lot of plates to spin, while keeping the show both funny, serious, and family-friendly.
The emotional bite was also different. Season One’s gut punches really came more and more near the end of the season, but Season Two spreads them out. Though the end was quite dramatic, I was never quite sure when an emotional swing would come at me – which made the experience more enjoyable! All the winding character arcs, backstory, and more were surprising, making the serious elements matter even more.
Dogs in Space Season Two showed courageous writers embracing continuity heavily, understanding it was a strength of what they’d created. It’s a reminder that even when you’re doing funny, doing funny in a good setting with repercussions gives the audience a deeper experience. Humor that matters is humor that hits harder and makes the darker jokes more thought-provoking.
Plus, kudos to Season Two’s cliffhanger ending. It not only expands the universe, but promises even more complicators for our heroic canines . . .