Sunday, April 4, 2021

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - The Cold War Takes a Deadly Shift as Ellen Must Step Up in Her New Role at NASA in 'Don't Be Cruel'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 2.07 "Don't Be Cruel"

Ellen is challenged by her new role. Margo's allegiances are put to the test. Karen explores new opportunities - personally and professionally.

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.

"Don't Be Cruel" was written by Nichole Beattie and directed by Dennie Gordon

The space race became an extension of the conflicts happening on Earth. It is the new frontier through which all the battles between the United States and the Soviet Union are being fought. Any kind of retaliatory action between the two countries must consider their positions on the moon. Tragedy occurs early in this episode. The Soviets target and blow up a commercial plane flying out of South Korea. Thomas Paine was aboard. He dies. Ellen becomes the acting administrator of NASA. This episode actually details how she commands this job. Up to this point, it was often characters telling her that she was doing a good job with this promotion. It was different than being up on the moon as an astronaut. It utilized a different skillset. However, now the audience can see the life she has built with Larry. That allows her to step into this moment as a leader capable of bringing the agency through this crisis. She takes big risks. And yet, they pay off. She makes these big moves because she believes in the independence of the agency. Of course, she was also planning on leaving in order to fully embrace a life with Pam. That seems placed on the back burner here. She is still focused on the dream of sending a mission to Mars. That remains her greatest ambition. As such, she has to carefully navigate all the parties involved to ensure nothing compromises that future. It's intense though. Volatile figures remain present in this world. Mysteries still exist for why this plane was targeted. It appeared to be hundreds of miles off course. It doesn't make sense. The American government recognizes that the Soviets are covering up for a new military base operating in the area. That too introduces a debate about the responsibility each of these programs has to one another. If one makes a mistake that leads to death, is it then their responsibility to share that with the other side? Margo immediately recognizes the rocket design that the Soviets are preparing for their future missions. It's replicated from the work the Americans have already done. That suggests that the Americans have turned the tide and are zooming ahead in this war. They have made mistakes along the way. General Bradford doesn't see the need to communicate this problem to the Soviets. Their posturing has already led to numerous casualties. If their scientists and engineers are as smart as they claim to be, then they will eventually figure out the design flaw that Margo sees right away. He is comfortable making that rationalization. Margo isn't. She has formed a relationship with Sergei. It's because she leads with that connection that the agency makes contact with Dani in Star City. These relationships of respect on the ground allow conversations to occur that can help prevent the worst possible outcome. That diplomacy is necessary in order to lead through these crises. Dani is essentially held prisoner. She doesn't understand what's going on. She has stepped into history in this room though. She makes her presence known despite the mission imploding while she was away. It may not be seen as anything of value in the future. But she leaves her name behind to prove to whomever comes next the history of this moment. They don't know what will happen in the future. This episode feels like a breaking point. The Cold War no longer feels cold. The astronauts on the moon have to strike back in order to regain territory. They do so armed with weapons. They aren't prepared for everything they encounter in the field. However, they take the station without having to discharge their guns. In fact, it's a rousing moment for all involved. It's just like any other military operation. That's scary because of the hopes and ideals several characters proclaim in wanting the exploration of the science to lead this program. That's no longer happening. The moon has become part of the military complex. It's territory to be fought over. Lives are lost. Thomas Paine is the latest example. Space means everything to these political powers. It doesn't have to be for the individual lives on the planet though. Karen has the freedom to step away. That may actually provide the context for exactly what she wants out of life. Of course, it's still inappropriate and complicated for her to kiss Danny. She returns home to be with Ed. That's a new expression of their love that hasn't been seen this season. It also happens at a time when Kelly is investigating her birth parents. Sure, it's convenient that her biological father emigrated from Vietnam and is now living in Arlington. That ensures more insight will be coming rather quickly. These changes happen. The players involved may be familiar. They constantly have to adapt to new situations. They throw their plans out the window. They remain of service for as long as they can. That's only true so long as they maintain their sense of identity. That too is shifting though. It may not be for the better either. It may only further increase the war-like posturing that defines so much of humanity.