Q-Force (2021) follows agent Steve Maryweather (Sean Hayes). After comming out as gay during his academy graduation, Steve gets undermined by the American Intelligence Agency. They send him to West Hollywood where he gets no fieldwork. Flash forward a decade, and Maryweather (often just called “Mary”) accumulates a team of talented people onto his squadron that also all happen to be queer.
There is a lot of controversy around Q-Force. It’s certainly not hard to see why — the series is quite hyperbolic. I will say, that was the first aspect I noticed on my initial watch. Right from the get-go, Q-Force barrages you with gay joke after gay joke. This is hit or miss throughout the series.
While I can’t deny the show managed to get a few chuckles out of me, a lot of the comedy is ham-fisted and self-deprecating. I'll come out and say it: If it wasn’t for the series creator Gabe Liedman being gay himself, I would find the humor wildly inappropriate. There are a ton of jokes that rely on stereotypes. Essentially, a large portion of the comedy in Q-Force can be boiled down to, “Haha! They're queer people being queer!” We see this with Deb (Wanda Sykes) and her wife enjoying “typical” lesbian interests such as chiropracty, pitbulls, barbecues — things that get easily stereotyped within that aspect of queer culture. The dialogue becomes unnatural in attempts at being funny, like in episode two when someone says “Get our dyke on." It’s so awkward to hear.
The most glaring aspect is one of the main characters names, “Twink” (Matt Rogers). Like, come on now. How much more on the nose could they be? I guess the “joke” is that he’s named after his archetype? It’s not very creative, or funny for that matter. Also, calling our lead by “Mary” so constantly has to be a cheap shot at humor too, right? When watching The Secretaries' Ball with a friend who had missed earlier episodes, they pointed out how jarring it was hearing old white men in positions of power grunting “Mary” at our protagonist. When I explained it was a nickname, they commented how that was a weird choice.
As many issues that Q-Force has, there are some qualities to it that I can admire. For one thing, the cast of characters is pretty diverse besides sexuality, many of them having different body shapes and ethnicities. Not only that, but many of the relationship dynamics shown are surprisingly charming and wholesome. Most of the characters on their own aren’t that interesting. They’re mostly amplified versions of caricatures.
However, they all play off of each other with pretty convincing chemistry. Take for example how Deb is the mom of the group, and how she is always nurturing towards the others and how they reference her motherly role to all of them. I also like this between V (Laurie Metcalf) and Maryweather, who similarly have a sweet mother-son vibe. There's also an interesting friendship that forms between Twink and another member, Stat (Patti Harrison). Hell, it’s even compelling to see Buck (David Harbour) (who is personified toxic masculinity) start to come around to the rest of Q-Force and them to him. In that way, the series has accomplished what has never been done: make me the slightest bit invested in a homophobe’s arc. There certainly is a “found family” theme running, and the show will point this out just as much. (In Backache Mountain, there’s a comment of “yeah, pride, chosen family we know”), which is a narrative I love that is picking up traction as the term “family” gets redefined in our modern age, becoming less nuclear and traditional.
For all the stupidity Q-Force works around, I have to admit, it weaves in important ideas. Other than the healthy promoting about families coming in many forms, the story also tackles themes of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the work force disguised as other intentions and conversion therapy. It’s nice that it’s not all fluff and actually gives attention to things that matter amongst the rest of the show's insanity.
As an Incluvie score, I give Q-Force a rating of 5/5! The majority of the major characters in the series fall under the queer umbrella. Not only that, but the show is deeply intertwined with references to queer culture in ways straight audiences may not pick up on. Although very self-deprecating at times, I do truly believe Q-Force is meant to be a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community.
For an overall rating, I give Q-Force a 3/5. The show is somewhat of a chaotic mess, to say the least. Despite how all over the place it is, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some nuggets of decency within the project. Although, for a show that has a line about “not pandering to the gays”, it does just that. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you don’t mind the humor, it may make for good background noise while doing busy work.