Friday, April 23, 2021

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - A War on Many Fronts Proves Who Is Capable of Finding Creative Solutions for Peace in 'The Grey'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 2.10 "The Grey"

Tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union reach an all-time high on the moon, throwing multiple missions into jeopardy.

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 season finale of AppleTV+'s For All Mankind.

"The Grey" was written by Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi and directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

This season has been defined by near constant escalating tension. The United States and the Soviet Union are always wary of what the other is capable of doing. Their intentions are both shrouded in secrecy. The space program has been militarized. Margo believes she is head of the program. And yet, she is completely blindsided by the decisions the military leadership made. She has strong working relationships with General Bradford and Ellen. However, they took nuclear missiles to the moon and didn't hook them up to a backup power supply. That decision ends in tragedy. So much in this finale could end that way. The two countries are fighting this war on multiple fronts. Of course, the action happening in space is much more dramatic as it features each character having to make significant choices. Some of them have to decide to break from the orders given to them. They are suppose to express their individual identities as captains trusted to lead their missions. They know exactly what they are capable of doing. They are trusted with the lives and well-being of those who serve alongside them. For a long stretch of time, it seems like war is inevitable. Both sides have already had casualties. Rossi is tortured until he hands over the Soviet defector. Jamestown is under attack. The folks at Houston aren't even aware of that for the longest time. The actions taking place in space are happening far away. It's miraculous that the program has the technology to remain in contact. The machines monitor everything going on. And yet, that can only go so far. Blindspots still exist. As such, the people on the ground have to trust the people they have up in space. The Apollo-Soyuz mission was initially laughed off as an idea. It was an impossible plan that could never realistically happen. Both sides are that cynical of the other. They posture in the hopes of seeming like the benevolent world power. They don't want to back down. Each side has to prove their dominance. All of society is on the brink of collapse though. This mission happening at this precise moment deescalates everything significantly. It showcases the power of diplomacy. It's the necessary action even when military minds are the ones driving the conflict. NASA looked to the military in order to find its initial pilots. So many of the captains have still been trained with that mindset. Ed was conditioned to never question the chain of command. He has orders that must be followed. Right now, he only questions them because Karen has also introduced the concept to their marriage. She doesn't know what she wants from her future. It's just important to leave certain things in the past. She is still unsure about her marriage to Ed. Kelly has questions about that as well. This personal drama shades Ed's thinking. It's incredibly intense when he relieves Ride of her post and she pulls a gun on him in response. Any of these actions could significantly compromise the mission, which would send the United States into full-on war. That conflict already seems present. And yet, peace can still be negotiated. That comes out of Dani choosing to ignore orders and go ahead with reaching out to her Soviet counterparts. In that instance, she had the opportunity to form a personal connection with them. They have an open dialogue. Each side is devoted to their countries. Not everything is perfect within their societies. They are proud to serve. They are proud to complete this mission as well. It's something that must happen. The symbolism is simply too important. President Reagan isn't even mad when it happens. It took that visual to actually inspire hope. The President had to be reminded of that. It's much too easy to escalate this conflict. The world was on the precipice of nuclear war. Dani had the opportunity to gain permission for her actions from NASA. Ed doesn't have that luxury. He doesn't even tell his team what's happening. He launches missiles. They don't target Buran though. Instead, he destroys Seadragon. It's a display of force. This is what the Americans are capable of doing. It's also a moment of salvation where he can present as a great tactician capable of recognizing when a different solution must be found.

American heroes still die during this conflict though. Everyone is quick to pull the trigger. It's incredibly dangerous to do so on Jamestown. All it takes is one bullet to go astray and hit something crucial. The cooling system for the nuclear reactor is verging on total meltdown. It's only because Gordo and Tracy establish contact with the ground that Ellen, Margo and Molly are aware of everything happening on the moon. And then, it's up to them to save everyone at the station from dying in a nuclear blast. They leave behind a family on Earth. They are both willing to make this sacrifice. They are each aware of what the other is capable of doing. Both of them had their skillsets on the moon. Their jobs weren't flashy. However, they were necessary. They allowed military operations to take place. But they come to this place of clarity where they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country and declare their love for each other. Gordo came to realize that he was happy when he was with her. He needed to fight to win her back. He respected Tracy as an independent person in this world. It was ultimately up to her to decide what she wanted. She was spiraling when she arrived on the base. This environment was so alien and uncomfortable for her. She eventually found a way to thrive. She succeeded because of the support of others on this base. She has to give back to them. She also felt immense happiness when she was with Gordo. Their relationship ended for a reason. They were both miserable for a decade. The space program gave each of them purpose. They serve their roles. They achieve all of these great things they aspired to have when they were younger. They are proud of their boys. And now, they have to walk outside the base without suits. They can only rely on some duck tape and face shields. They believe they are physically capable of triggering this manual switch. It's an action that must occur. There simply is no time to wait. They succeed in this mission. They are heroes for charging into this unforgiving environment. They die as a result. They die in each other's arms. Neither one of them was willing to leave the other behind. They complete the mission. They rely on the other for support in the hopes of making it back to the chamber and regaining pressure. The lunar surface is brutal and unforgiving to anyone out there without the proper equipment. Every single step taken on the surface is a miracle. It's because of innovations sparked decades ago that the program has gotten this far. Peace is established between the two warring powers. But again, it comes at this great personal cost. Moreover, the Cold War continues. Neither country is going to change their ways as a result of coming so close to nuclear war. They are still looking for every possible advantage they may get to pull ahead of the competition. That's how this relationship is. Nothing can change that. The show once again ends its season by jumping forward in time. It leaves the future unknown for which characters will return and remain relevant. The space program lands on Mars in 1994. Ellen seemingly achieves her dream in that regard. She has proven herself to be trustworthy in this mission. It has cost her so much. In fact, this show reveals all the people willing to give their entire lives to this program. They have nothing of meaning outside of this work. That has been alienating to Karen and Kelly. It leaves the Stevens brothers without parents. It may leave Margo susceptible to being turned by Soviet intelligence. It's all agonizing and grueling. But the potential of exploration remains so intoxicating. The mission changes. The conflicts are familiar. The personal drama keeps everything grounded while also sharing just how intense and bombastic these international conflicts can become in such a short amount of time. Our leaders must be trusted to act in the world's best interests. Sides have different views of how to achieve that. Some people are heroes regardless of that though. They deserve that recognition and honor. Gordo and Tracy certainly do.