Saturday, December 21, 2019

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Ellen Takes Bold and Brave Actions to Land on the Moon to Relieve Ed in 'A City Upon a Hill'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 1.10 "A City Upon a Hill"

Ed handles a trespasser. Ellen and Deke chart a new course without Mission Control.

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 season finale of AppleTV+'s For All Mankind.

"A City Upon a Hill" was written by Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi and directed by John Dahl

The space race was essentially a battle over ideologies and identities. It was the chief conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Whomever won would seemingly dictate the future of how society should operate. This season has presented a narrative where that debate continues to linger. The public at large see accomplishments on both sides that should be cheered. The individuals hold firm to their distinctive beliefs. As such, the season ultimately became one about character relationships and whether or not they could ever deepen into something more. Ed didn't actually start an international crisis by killing one of the Soviet astronauts also on the moon. He simply deprived him of oxygen long enough for him to pass out and become his prisoner. Even that could be seen as a hostile move that plays up the brutality of the American identity. Ed has to beat his opponent into submission in order to get the information he needs. The Soviets may be stealthier. The season has been concerned with potential Soviet spy activities. Here, Ed believes that he needs to rely on Mikhael's help in order to safely land Apollo 24 on the moon. As such, it's meaningful that he saved his life. However, Ed being away in orbit also leaves Jamestown open for exploration and potential infiltration by the Soviets. That's a concern that is hinted at here. It is not confirmed one way or the other what Mikhael actually does. There is just forever the fear that the Americans are constantly looking over their shoulders to catch some deceitful action the Soviets are partaking in. Ed is distracted because he is involved in an insane stunt in order to save Ellen and Deke. This season has done a solid job in showcasing just how scary but brave astronauts have to be. Each one of them has had a standout moment in space that shows just how capable and resilient they are. That is especially refreshing when it comes to the women. Four of them became astronauts. After that, the season made sure they each had a standout moment of success in space. They may be risking their lives. But that's what leads to potential glory. Ellen has to be willing to chase after the valuable package after it misses her ship. She reaches out not knowing if she will survive the journey. She does. It's thrilling and exciting. It showcases the physical prowess of these characters. But the focus has overwhelmingly been on the grounded emotions of these characters in their personal lives. They always hold out hope that they can rely on the people of this community as they grow closer. And yes, the teams in space frequently forge strong relationships. When Ellen and Deke believe they are going to die while drifting into deep space, they are more honest and vulnerable than they have ever been. Ellen confesses to being in love with Pam. It's absolutely devastating how severely he chastises her for that confession and condemns her to never share it with anyone else because of the scandal it would cause for NASA. That is so horrifying. There is the hope that society is evolving and embracing a better future. However, the world may still be full of too many people who hold onto terrible views and refuse to give them up. Deke dies a complicated figure. He fought for the female astronauts but doesn't quite accept the importance of that visual. Meanwhile, Margo fails to be there for Aleida when she desperately needs a support system to step up and help her. Of course, that whole subplot with Aleida and her father has been incredibly tangential and doesn't really have a meaningful payoff. It mostly hits the same thematic notes as everything else. Everyone wants to believe that their relationships are evolving and growing closer. Karen is there to comfort Marge after Deke dies. That is cathartic. But it's also just as devastating that Pam can't be open and accepted about her relationship with Ellen. She may forever be condemned to fear of the unknown and the perceptions of strangers. Ellen becomes the sole astronaut on Jamestown here. She takes on that burden from Ed. He can be with his family once more. And the space program will keep moving forward without him on the front line. That is the most significant message of this story. The finale can jump ahead a decade to a launch in the middle of the ocean. That's perfectly fine. It sets up new stories in a new decade. But it also means that these end points for the characters will start up in incredibly different points when the show returns for its second season. That will be slightly strange while confirming the contained arcs of this season. With that being the case, it's still difficult to truly appreciate and understand all of the subtle things the creative team was trying to do with its stories this year.