Q-Force review – animated international espionage with an LGBTQ+ twist

September 2, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Reviews
2

Summary

Q-Force provides an unapologetically queer spy show, which is only a good thing, but it’s a mess of dated, lazy cultural references that gets tedious fast.

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2

Summary

Q-Force provides an unapologetically queer spy show, which is only a good thing, but it’s a mess of dated, lazy cultural references that gets tedious fast.

This review of Q-Force is spoiler-free.


Q-Force, I should stress, is funny. Despite everything else that one might say about it, most of it much less complimentary, Netflix’s latest adult animated show is good for a chuckle. It’s inevitable, really. The jokes come so thick and fast that it’s impossible not to giggle at a few. But the rapid-fire pace is a cover for the fact they’re not really jokes, just references and stereotypes and name-drops. Once you realize this – and you will, early on – the smiles tend to fade a bit. A litany of faded and contemporary cultural touchstones get namechecked across the ten 20-ish-minute episodes, but nothing gets said about them. And that’s a shame.

It’s a shame because Q-Force has a solid premise – it’s Archer, but everyone’s gay, the only glib description the show itself finds too obvious to say aloud – and a refreshingly up-front attitude. It’s unafraid of dragging public figures, leaning into queer themes and characters, and making a welcome point that international espionage is no longer just the domain of traditionally masculine James Bond types. But it’s an empty sort of progressivism that pays lip service to inclusive ideas without really moving beyond the level of lazy stereotyping and toothless critique. Yes, it’s funny. But it could have stood to be a lot more than that.

The premise, for those interested regardless, is that Steve Maryweather (Sean Hayes), an all-action super-spy who finishes at the top of his class in the American Intelligence Agency (AIA) academy, mistakenly uses his podium finish to come out as gay to an intelligence community that isn’t ready to accept him. He’s promptly reassigned by his boss Dick Chunley (Gary Cole) to a garage in West Hollywood, where he oversees a team of gay agents supervised by the agency’s only female higher-up, V (Laurie Metcalf), though no missions seem to be forthcoming. Eventually, the group, which includes master of disguise drag queen Twink (Matt Rogers), lesbian mechanic Deb (Wanda Sykes), and reclusive hacker Stat (Patti Harrison), resolve to prove their worth by unearthing their own mission, exposing a wide-ranging conspiracy in the meantime.

If you’re in the market for a lot of trite observations about queer people, then you’ll be well-served here, as will anyone who watches enough media to pick up on not-so-subtle recreations of everything from Erin Brockovich to the recent Vox Lux.  But if you’re looking for some genuinely incisive critique or even a serious statement about how predominantly masculine spaces continue to treat queer people, you’ll be out of luck, since Q-Force is interested in depicting that stuff without really challenging it.

Arch characters don’t help, nor do they serve the talented voice cast, who are left to work with depth-averse stereotypes who never really evolve beyond the specific cliché they’re intended to represent. The writing, too, tiptoes along the border of “edgy” without really saying anything particularly daring. A lot of Q-Force is performative; it doesn’t go for broke in the way you think it might, and it never builds to the conclusions it feels like it should, in terms of its character or plot, or even its jokes. There are so many other adult-skewing animations in the market now that this one can’t help but get lost among a crowd of better contemporaries, which is a real shame. Hopefully, it does well regardless, and the creative team can find something worthwhile to say on the next mission.

You can stream Q-Force exclusively on Netflix.

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