Friday, June 10, 2022

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - The Space Race's New Era Is Defined by Tourism and Plans for Mars Exploration in 'Polaris'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 3.01 "Polaris"

Nearly 10 years have passed. Danielle and Ed attend a celebration, where things take a terrifying turn.

"Polaris" was written by Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi and directed by Sarah Boyd

This drama creates suspense and tension better than the majority of shows out there. This premiere establishes a new time period and circumstances for its main characters. By the end of the hour, it's perfectly comfortable blowing it all up to showcase the severity of the dangers. It moves boldly into the future. It acts confidently with each declaration of what the future has produced. It's an alternate reality where the space race is seemingly never ending. The conflict has been between the United States and the Soviet Union for decades. It can no longer be described as a Cold War. Gordo and Tracy sacrificed their lives when the Jamestown station came under attack. Every development in space had to be matched with an equally powerful show of force. Everyone is rushing to be the first to achieve all these grand accomplishments. It's not about the wonder of innovation. Instead, it's simply the pursuit of dominance. So many people have been wrapped up in this conflict for years. It now carries generational trauma and service. Ed and Gordo were some of the first astronauts on the moon. And now, their kids have also entered the program. In the early 90s, it's all about getting to Mars first. That's the new frontier. The Chinese and North Koreans have entered the competition too. The destruction of one ship after barely making it out of the atmosphere proves pivotal to everything else that happens. It's familiar territory for the show to discuss how one little detail going wrong can end lives in space. That has been central to many stories already. A decade has past since the conclusion of the previous season. So many of these characters still find themselves defined in the same way. They each have such grand ambitions for space. A normal wedding isn't good enough for Danny and Amber. Now, they must embrace the visual of Gordo and Tracy's son having the first wedding in space. It's the ideal of what American exceptionalism should be. The audience knows exactly how heroic those two were in their final actions. They were motivated by love too. However, they left their kids behind. Danny has a path following in their footsteps. He gets to be the hero who saves the day. Fortunately, he is tethered to the station. Even though he is eventually hit, he is still connected to the life he has always known. Meanwhile, Jimmy is adrift because he can't accept the narrative that has been told about his parents. He knows what they were actually like. It's hard for him to reckon with that ideal. It's easier to escape. Some dynamics have changed. So many patterns are still the same. That's comforting to a certain extent. It also highlights the sacrifices everyone must endure to make these dreams a reality.

Ellen appears as the only person who has escaped the pursuits of space. Instead, she has reinvented herself as a senator and presidential candidate. That's a completely new life for her. Meanwhile, Tracy's takes her to the stars as well. That's a significant course correction. She has always been the most tangentially connected to the drama up there. She hates space. She is constantly pulled into its orbit. She has the rational reaction to danger. Sam doesn't want to alert the wedding guests to the problem quickly spiraling out of control. No one can avoid that danger. Tracy has to order the evacuation. It's the only way to save lives. Even then, plenty of people are ill-prepared for this danger. Ed and Dani can recognize the signs of the changing gravity. It's not enough for them to pull others to safety in time. They feel compelled to do so. All of these naturally heroic impulses are still present. They each have their limitations. It's frankly astonishing that Ed and Dani are still being considered to lead the most pressing missions at NASA. Ed was flying planes in the Korean War when he was recruited. The program still sees him as the go-to figure to lead with respect for the rules while being able to adjust on the fly to whatever happens beyond the politics of Earth. He can't be the only person who meets those qualifications. It's what the offices at NASA always lean on. Ed and Dani can be trusted. It's simply up to Margo and Molly to critique which is better suited for the mission to Mars. It's all done in the abstract with an understanding of who these people are. It's very clinical though. It doesn't reflect the changing nature of the program. It's exciting when Aleida gets the news she will be traveling to space to make the necessary adjustments on the new experimental rocket. That wasn't a dream she could ever imagine for herself. She had to be completely devoted to the science. She was nurtured by a passionate mentor. Of course, Margo is still living out of the office. She still sees the benefit in an open dialogue with Sergei. The Space Race has evolved over the years. The dynamics and thinking behind it are still the same as they have always been. People refuse to move past that. Some of them can emerge with new and exciting personal relationships. Life moves on. The same arguments are used for the best way to lead this program. The United States and the Soviet Union have been going back and forth on domination. Each side refuses to submit. In always worrying about what the other side is doing, it leaves no room to explore individuality. The show never falls prey to the same concerns. It is compelled to look inward on these characters. Their lives are trapped in space. That's rewarding in so many ways. It's so richly tense. Something can still be lost by limiting the scope of one's imagination. Innovation has been possible. It's come at the expense of so much too. That is all too apparent now despite the passage of time. It's all within the refusal to pass the responsibility to the next generation. That may only set things up to fail because everyone wants to be at the forefront to receive the glory. Heroism doesn't necessary behave in that way. People are still slowly adjusting to that.