Sunday, April 4, 2021

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Margo and Dani Reach Out to Their Soviet Counterparts for a Joint Mission in 'Best-Laid Plans'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 2.06 "Best-Laid Plans"

American astronauts and NASA leadership prepare for a new mission with unlikely partners. Ellen gets in touch with an old friend.

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.

"Best-Laid Plans" was written by Joe Menosky and directed by Meera Menon

For decades, the United States and the Soviet Union have fought a war over ideology. It has absolutely caused casualties despite its overall cold posturing. It's a conflict defined by innovation. Each side is flexing itself as the superpower that can lead all other countries on Earth. They need to prove that their version of society achieves all the greatness that humanity can embody for the future. Not only that, it needs to solidify their enemy as being the embodiment of evil. Communism is not only a failing version of the societal experiment. It's actually evil that must be wiped from the planet entirely. The victor cannot allow the other side to operate any more. Those are the stakes of this conflict. And yet, fundamentally human stories exist on both sides of this Cold War. The societies are different. The conflict is still defined by a lack of empathy and willingness to engage. Dani is proud to serve as a representative of the American government in this first attempt at a diplomatic mission. This is her commanding the attention of the entire world. That is the overall ambition. However, many cynical people exist who doubt that this mission between the two countries will actually come to fruition. Efforts simply have to be made to give the impression that people were serious. Meanwhile, both sides will refuse to back down from their pedestals of superiority to actual find compromises to allow this mission to occur. The politics of this have already been set. However, the people on the ground still have to make an attempt. It could create a phenomenal story. One that parallels everything else being done in the space race. These ideals are noble. The political systems are set up for it to fail. And yet, the teams find a way to communicate and actually make some moves towards this mission getting off the ground. Part of this story is defined by the Americans being willing to engage and the Soviets shutting down every single idea. The story has to essentially deliver the message that democracy is better than communism. That has already been an understood part of the text. The narrative has been so driven by the American side of this conflict. The Soviet perspective could add some interesting wrinkles. It's significant that Dani and her team land in the Soviet Union at the conclusion of the episode. The various teams find ways to relate to each other's humanity as well as opportunities and freedoms found in the United States. Those pleasures may seem simple. But again, it opens the door to communication and connection. Margo and Dani are committed even though their bosses don't see any value in trying. It's all just a silly idea. And yes, this may not come together. It won't be because of the mechanisms and engineering of the mission though. It will be completely a result of human ego. That can mess up so much as well. People yearn to be understood and accepted. Ellen sees the necessity of coming out and embracing a life with Pam. That's what will allow her to be happy in a way she hasn't had in years. It devastates Larry. This is her truth though. It can no longer be denied or forced to live in the closet. Meanwhile, Kelly comes to accept that the marriage her parents have may only work because of the children they have. Without that connection, they would essentially separate. Adopting her brought them back together as a family. That is a lot of pressure and responsibility to put onto her. It has shaped her life in ways she hasn't even realized yet. She is suppose to present herself as a fully-realized adult in applying to the Naval Academy. She is still lost though. It can take awhile for that personal exploration to occur as well. Of course, Tracy and Gordo seem to be on the other side of it. They are more confident in their actions now. The narrative even teases a desire for them to reunite as a couple. Now, the viewer may not need that to actually occur in order to feel some sense of resolution to their personal stories this season. It certainly could be an ending for them this year. It doesn't have to be something that happens in order for their stories to be seen as a success. Sure, they are also helped by Tracy and Sam's relationship having no meaningful development onscreen. Tracy has always remained more connected to her family with Gordo. That may not signify some grand reunion though. Again, the stakes of what's happening in space can dramatically change in the blink of an eye. Tracy is flying soldiers around the moon to practice with their new weapons after all.