Friday, March 5, 2021

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Past Actions Continue to Plague Ed as NASA Prepares for a Militarized Future in 'Rules of Engagement'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 2.03 "Rules of Engagement"

A dispute on the moon prompts NASA officials to consider arming astronauts. Ed's past comes back to haunt him.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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.

"Rules of Engagement" was written by Stephanie Shannon and directed by Andrew Stanton

Nine years have passed since Ed was on Jamestown. And yet, so much still lingers because of the decisions made at that time. It feels like the show is still dealing with the emotional fallout of the end of last season. These characters have found a way to survive together. They are bonded because of their devotion to the mission. Their lives have changed. But they still proudly serve. They are still defined by what was always important to them. Ed and Karen have both privately carried the burden of believing Shane died because of them. They felt responsible for that tragedy because of what they failed to do. They couldn't keep him safe. They haven't replaced him with Kelly either. In fact, her addition only shows how much love radiates from this family. But again, they haven't addressed these issues stemming from trauma for nearly a decade. As such, they each found their own coping mechanisms. That makes them terrified and react poorly when Kelly expresses her individuality for the first time. She wants to go to the Naval Academy. That's her dream. She is sharing it now with her parents. They are terrified that she could die as well. Ed's reaction is so severe and harsh. It extends completely out of him failing to deal with these emotions for a long time. He even needs help saying things out loud here. Ed and Karen still struggle to talk about Shane. They can remember him fondly. They can move on with their lives without shunning who he was meant to be in this family. They need to be open and honest with each other. The true honesty comes after the physical confrontation. The screaming and ultimatums doesn't lead to a productive conversation. It's in being afraid of where that came from and trying to understand it that a true breakthrough occurs with this family. They still aren't perfect. Ed is incredibly dismissive of Tracy's concerns about being in space with Gordo. She is afraid that the program is once again forcing her into a box instead of embracing the personality she has always been. Of course, she too embraces the familiarity of the life she once had with Gordo. It's easy to fall back into that routine. Her new fianc√© is distant. He doesn't present as an engaged part of her life. She is alone and terrified of how others perceive her. She speaks up to ensure that she isn't being billed as the American housewife once more. That's not a narrative she seeks to embrace. Her concerns are still shot down. Her career is put in jeopardy because she voices this opinion. Meanwhile, Gordo is protected. He is completely out of his depth. He no longer knows how to serve as an astronaut. He is revered for the adventure he's been on and the heroism he displayed. However, he stands out amongst the program. He no longer fits in. He too is dealing with his own personal trauma. He had a nervous breakdown the last time he was in space. Ed and Dani covered for him. Those issues still linger. He laughs them off. That may set the mission up for failure though. People are willing to embrace him because he is the lovable Gordo. That's a perception that isn't all that true though. He coasts along on mediocrity. He struggles and fails to face his issues. He is given the same authority as others who are working hard to succeed in this mission. The stakes on the moon are only getting higher. The American government believes the astronauts will soon have to be armed in order to protect their territory from the Soviets. Moreover, it seems as if a bug has been listening in on Jamestown for the past nine years. Ed was blind to that manipulation because he was in emotional turmoil. The program never checked if they were compromised either. That continues to present the Soviets as this all-powerful though rarely seen antagonist. They are an entity who always stand in the way of progress. They have long had the superior technology and drive to succeed. The Americans refuse to give up. That just places them on the path of increasing radicalization and militarization in order to flex just how powerful they believe all of this needs to be in order to deliver strength across the world. The actions on the moon impact the geopolitical stakes on Earth. They inform each other. It makes things very delicate with no room for error. And yet, the humanity of these characters always creeps in to reflect just how fragile all of this can be despite the strong conviction for service to one's country and the mission. Plus, the next generation is being inspired even if they aren't always given the tools to be understood and succeed.