Sunday, March 21, 2021

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Ed Places Himself in a New Position of Power While Dismissing Gordo and Dani's Struggles in 'Pathfinder'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 2.04 "Pathfinder"

With a little help from Molly, Ed plans a career change - as his old Jamestown crewmates Gordo and Danielle struggle.

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.

"Pathfinder" was written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson and directed by Andrew Stanton

Ed assigns himself command of Pathfinder, the cutting-edge spacecraft that centers the future of NASA technology. Meanwhile, he relegates Dani to lead a mostly symbolic mission to ease tensions potentially between the United States and the Soviet Union. They both beam with pride as they look on at the ships they will lead. It's simply a searing condemnation of the leadership structure of this organization and the ambitions that each individual is allowed to have. Ed is a simple guy. Things have to be pointed out to him in an extremely obvious way in order for him to actually acknowledge that's what is going on. Karen has always known that he wanted to return to space. He simply made a promise to himself that he would never abandon his family like that ever again. He blamed himself for Shane's death. He couldn't be with Karen to mourn with her. It was pure agony. She signs off on him fulfilling that pledge though. He never would have considered this mission for himself. She has to tell him it's okay to go off and explore space again. She gives him permission to have that dream once more. He takes ahold quickly. His life is invigorated once more. The entire original Jamestown team is returning to space. It's a major achievement. They are still at the forefront of the space program. And yet, the dynamics are eerily similar even though it has been almost a decade since they last went up. In a similar way, Dani is called out for allowing her sense of patriotism to drawn out everything that Clayton could feel in their marriage. She was certainly blind to some things. However, he carried issues as well that didn't lend themselves to an open dynamic. His family has never been close with her. It's easier to blame her for the problems they have long endured. She feels responsibility for that as well. She too made a sacrifice. She committed to her marriage. After his death though, she is right back to wanting to go to space. That remains her dream. And now, she is inspired to dream larger. She must advocate for herself. She must ask for more because that's the only way to force change. Race relations in the country haven't improved despite the diversity of the space program. The leadership wants to believe that is all in the past. Ed is annoyed that this conversation is happening on his last day. An opportunity simply arrives immediately thereafter. It all works out. He believes he has made everyone happy by giving them what they want. He is essentially telling people how they should feel. They should be grateful for what they get from him. As such, they shouldn't complain or question it. Molly can assign herself to a mission once she is cleared by medical because she takes over for Ed. Dani gets to be the first Black woman to command a mission. Going to space isn't a fix for the various personal issues happening on Earth though. It is certainly used as a crutch to offer a shiny object that can perhaps distract from glaring issues elsewhere. And yet, it's a significant problem that Gordo is claustrophobic in the spacesuit. He has a panic attack from the sheer sight of ants. He is not mentally fit to go to space. He has that clarity. He bears his soul to the one person who is suppose to understand what is happening. He feels the weight of always having to be strong. He can't carry it anymore. He is weak and broken. He beats himself up. Ed belittles him for that reaction. He simply has to man up and do the job. Gordo always cleans up for the mission. That's how he has always operated. This time is different though. Gordo knows that. He and Ed can return to the same tricks they pulled in the sky. It's always been dangerous though. Those consequences haven't gone away. They can have a severe impact throughout the world as well. Everyone watches television and reacts to the growing geopolitical tension. Space offers a new hope and horizon. It's not an escape from this world. It's still prone to the same failings that define human conflict on Earth. Ed has long been oblivious to those issues. Dani has to pump herself up in order to enter into this world. She still demands what she deserves. People support her as well. Ellen, Margo and General Bradford have no qualms whatsoever. But again, it's a conversation dictated by what Ed wants and believes others need. He can be vulnerable as well. His family has required that as of late. His responsibility extends far beyond that. And he judges someone purely for having red hair. That's his leadership. Things are changing. He is getting back in the action. He prioritizes his agency above all others. As such, it's fitting that he's the one who has to eject himself from the jet. That will startle everyone. Those potential consequences linger over everything. Ed has to be careful and aware of these concerns. He frequently misses them though while trying to seem like the good, responsible guy.