Sunday, November 10, 2019

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Molly and Ed Train Together to Prepare for the Next Lunar Mission in 'Prime Crew'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 1.04 "Prime Crew"

A training accident spurs a national debate about women astronauts.

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.

"Prime Crew" was written by Naren Shankar and directed by Allen Coulter

Molly Cobb doubted she would ever become an astronaut. She went through the training twice. The first time through, the Mercury 13 program was cut off before completion because NASA had stronger trust in the male candidates. The second time around she fears that the same outcome is destined to occur because of the accident that killed her friend Patty Doyle. This show is very interested in power dynamics as defined by gender. Women have to be perfect all the time. They have to walk around with that certainty otherwise the program will condemn any future female candidate with the same concerns. With men, they can fail numerous times. They always have another opportunity. The men of this mission are more comfortable with Gordo sitting beside them than Molly despite him being a drunk and a serial cheater. Everyone continues to prop him up as an excellent astronaut. He isn't though. In fact, none of the men really seem as smart and capable as the women. However, the ladies are constantly battling this perception that they aren't good enough simply because of biology. It's a horrifying and wrong assumption. And yet, it comes from the very top. President Nixon was chasing after the perfect image of Gordo and Tracy as the first all-American couple on the moon. That was the picture he wanted. He didn't care about ensuring both of them could handle the science and responsibilities of this job. He just wanted to claim some kind of victory in the space race. He is eager to prove to the world that he has accomplished something because re-election is closing in and he fears his chases at winning the vote. That's all that he thinks about. And so, Patty's death triggers the apparent certainty that this program will be stopped once more. That's what Molly accepts. It's what Nixon's political advisers are saying. It's even what John Glenn says when he voices his concerns to Deke. None of this matters though. Deke is the one making the decisions. He was skeptical about this program in the first place. However, he sees four female astronaut candidates who have completed all the skills to represent their country in space. It doesn't matter that they didn't come up the same way that the male candidates did. They have made it here and should be rewarded for their efforts. Sure, Deke may be quick to promise a future in which an American woman is in space. He needs that to happen in order to continue earning good favor. He fears the wrath of Nixon when he goes against him. However, all of this is so personal to Molly. Because she has long had her doubts, she has always figured that it would never happen for her. As such, it takes her a long time to accept it as her new reality. The pin is placed on her uniform. She goes through the simulations with her fellow astronauts on the Apollo 15 mission. She puts in the work. But her actually sitting in the rocket and blasting off to space is the first time where she can truly accept and celebrate that it's happening. That is marvelous. Everyone is so concerned about creating the perfect image showing that American women are just as strong and capable as anyone else in the world. The publicity stunt of it all stings for some who see Molly's inclusion as compromising the safety of the two male astronauts. Karen doesn't like her husband going to space with someone she deems inferior and incapable of doing the job. However, it should be a celebration that Molly has finally achieved this goal. She continues to clash with so many people. And yet, she is the right choice for this distinction. It's still a powerful image because it highlights that women can do anything. That will dramatically change the world. The show has only altered the timeline a little bit so far. It is hesitant to make any grand sweeping changes. Each episode diverges just a little further. There may be the obsession over creating a lunar base. However, the personal drama is where the show succeeds at the moment. It works for Molly but less so for everyone else. That means it still feels like the episode runs too long and focuses on too many characters who aren't all that entertaining to watch. But it has a clear and consistent through line throughout all of it which is very appreciated.