Friday, November 1, 2019

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Ed Testifies on Capitol Hill About Why the Americans Lost the Space Race in 'He Built the Saturn V'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 1.02 "He Built the Saturn V"

Director Wernher von Braun opposes President Nixon's directive, with dire consequences.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of AppleTV+'s For All Mankind.

"He Built the Saturn V" was written by Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi and directed by Seth Gordon

The Soviet Union is a superpower that can never be underestimated. In fact, that's a parallel that is still relevant to modern life. This show imagines just how different the world would have been if the Soviet Union had achieved the full ambitions of its space program ahead of the United States. In fact, the show suggests that they have been moving even more quickly to break new ground. Every mission up would come with some significant recognition. This hour closes with a woman landing on the moon in 1969. That is a huge accomplishment. It means the Soviet Union has the first man and the first woman on the moon. The United States is simply playing catch-up. It's more than that though. This hour features the entire government fearing the suspicion of what the Soviet Union could be planning next. President Nixon fears the creation of a lunar base. One controlled by the Soviet Union would be absolutely devastating. Everyone is unsure of what the world looks like when the Soviet Union has become the gold standard for how a government should function. That ideology may not even be fascinated in gender parity. It's simply a way to one-up the Americans when both sides had space shuttles outside the Earth's atmosphere at the same time. The United States wasn't planning on anything special or unique for this particular mission. Instead, everyone is lamenting over the past. They dropped the ball. That's the metaphor that is used constantly. No one quite knows how to pick it up and move forward. They can't surrender because the Cold War still wages on. But the entire country may be deliberating with thoughts of the unknown. The influence of the Soviet Union may be expanding. Sure, it's still a powerful image for Octavio to show his daughter, Aleida, a rocket and hopefully inspire her to achieve all of her dreams in a new country. They came to America to make a better life for themselves. The American Dream is still enviable around the world. However, it may all be dependent on responsible leadership. Nixon wants to prioritize the space program. He just may have too lofty goals that may not be practical in the long run. He is basing all of this on the sheer suspicion that the Soviets have created the blueprints for how to build a lunar base. Wernher von Braun can point to all the blueprints in his office regarding all the projects they could explore. He wants to look beyond the moon. Humanity can explore the far reaches of the known universe. They can answer the fundamental question of if we are all alone. It too is a very lofty ambition. It's just one where the outcome is determined based on who has the best story to share on Capitol Hill. Ed is called to testify because he is seen as the perfect witness to advance Nixon's agenda. He publicly criticized the leadership at NASA. Nixon wants von Braun out. However, Ed takes full responsibility for failing to win the space race for America. He could have landed on the moon during Apollo 10. He chose not to. It may be placing way too much importance on his life and his actions. The women of this story should be seen as just as vital and important. They too can look at the Soviet achievement with great appreciation for what may happen next. NASA isn't anywhere close to matching that kind of moment. That too seems destined to dramatically change the drive of this competition. Or it could highlight just how small and vindictive American leadership can be. That would be incredible critical. However, it may be a message that needs to be heard from time to time. Of course, the show is much better at asking these big questions than creating personal drama that is engaging to watch. That doesn't change in yet another episode that runs for too long. It spends a lot of time with Gordo and Tracy's marriage even though him cheating is a fairly standard narrative in various attempts at prestige dramas over the years. Plus, the subplot with Octavio and Aleida feels like it will be tangential for a long time even though he is working as a janiter at NASA right now.