[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for Space Force Season 1.]
Leave it to The Office showrunner Greg Daniels to infuse his next comedy series starring Steve Carell with another Scranton Strangler-style mystery. Daniels and Carell co-created the new Netflix comedy series Space Force, which stars Carell as the general put in charge of creating and leading the titular space-focused arm of the military. Throughout the first season, Carell’s General Naird butts heads with his Chief Science Officer (John Malkovich) and struggles to maintain a sense of order amidst the chaos of Space Force, but there’s another external pressure put on Naird in the show’s first episode: being a single parent to a teenaged daughter.
When Space Force begins, we see Naird being assigned the role of leading Space Force, and alongside him are his wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) and daughter Erin (Diana Silvers). Maggie is clearly distraught about the prospect of uprooting her family from Washington to Colorado, and when the first episode then flashes forward one year later, Maggie is in prison serving out a 40-year prison sentence. And why is Lisa Kudrow’s character Maggie in prison? Did you somehow miss the explanation somewhere in there? You did not, because it’s never explained why she went to prison.
Indeed, throughout Space Force’s first season we see Naird visit Maggie, and there’s a conjugal visit episode that’s mostly centered around their relationship (and exploring an open one given her expected length of incarceration), but through it all we never learn why Maggie is in prison, or what she did to get arrested. We don’t even get hints towards what kind of behavior might put her there in the first place.
So when I spoke to Greg Daniels during the press day for Space Force, I asked him why they chose to keep the reason behind Maggie’s imprisonment. The short answer? Because it was funny:
“Well, both Steve and I think that it’s very funny to just hear little hints of it, and not know the full story, that it gives her character a certain mysterious energy. The original conception was thinking just in terms of how much pressure is put on Steve’s character, that in the military often the wife of a senior officer is an important part of the team. So that they’re expected to raise the kid, but also to be the political advisor, and organize the families on the base. To think that in addition to taking on this incredible new challenge, which would be incredibly difficult under the best of circumstances, he also now has to deal with the fact that his wife’s in prison, and his daughter is going off the rails, and he hasn’t really parented her before. It just seems like a great way to put more pressure on him, and to have such a funny situation for her to be in. She was the perfect Martha Stewart-ish wife, and ended up following the Martha Stewart path even more than she thought.”
But will we ever find out why Maggie is in prison? Unlike the Scranton Strangler, whose identity remains a mystery to this day (it was totally Toby), Daniels says he thinks viewers will know the answer eventually:
“I think that by the end of the series we’ll find out, but not [in the] first season.”
Kudrow is great in the role, so I do hope we see more of Maggie if the show gets a second season (which Daniels hopes it will). And if that Season 1 finale is any indication, Maggie will continue to factor into Naird’s life in a big way going forward.