Friday, June 17, 2022

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - A Restructuring at NASA Compels Ed to Make a Bold Move to Regain Relevance in 'Game Changer'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 3.02 "Game Changer"

A commercial spaceflight company makes an announcement. The choice over who'll command the Mars mission leads to a shift in personnel.

"Game Changer" was written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson and directed by Sarah Boyd

Ed Baldwin is an American hero. After four decades as a pilot, he feels he has nothing to show for it. His life is nothing but a hollow shell. He's so full of pity and self-destruction. He still agonizes over not being the first man on the moon. That action happened many years ago. He still views it as the most pivotal decision of his life. A lot of consequential things have happened since that fateful day in 1969. The Space Race was suppose to energize the world into the future. Instead, it has only offered more tribal divisions that have left everything stymied in the past. Ed and Molly are horrified by the changes Margo is implementing. She is destroying the program they love so much. It's no longer the institution they were willing to give their lives for. Now, it's all about the politics and the need to make everything present as special. It's miraculous that humanity has ventured into the stars. Everyone has their eyes set on Mars. That's the next destination in the race. The colonies have grown on the moon. The surface is still deeply divided. The Soviets control their half. The Americans have theirs. That has been the status quo for over a decade. Things have to change. Dev may represent that. He sees the brilliance in offering the privatization of space exploration. The governments of the world shouldn't have complete control over space. Karen and Sam had a brilliant idea to make space tourism accessible to everyone. They envisioned a world of possibilities. One where anyone could leave this planet and gain a new perspective altogether. One tragedy doesn't have to derail the potential they represented. In fact, the parts that make up Polaris can help propel Helios on their own mission. This company is the future. Anyone would be excited to be a part of it. It's the shiny, new thing while NASA is stuck in the past. NASA has lingered with the same leadership. Margo has carved the agency into her own image. She gets to dictate complete control over the program. That extends to deciding who gets to lead the first mission to Mars. Molly has her choice. Margo feels differently. They go behind each other's backs to flex their influence. It showcases how the institution itself is a relic of the past. The leadership from decades ago still holds so much reverence. Ed and Molly are beholden to the standards Deke Slayton set. The program has evolved. So much rigidity is present too. As such, it may not be enticing to have Ed move over to the private sector. It's seen as a no-brainer because he is a legend in the industry. However, his presence doesn't represent the future. Instead, he lingers over doubts of past mistakes. Space exploration is all about being the first and not knowing how that step forward for humanity will have far-reaching repercussions.

In making the announcement, Dev lists off Ed's accomplishments. He manned the Jamestown station for months by himself. He was the first person to captain a nuclear-powered ship. People idolize Ed. They are in awe of what he's achieved. He doesn't have the same understanding of his own importance. Instead, he's continually chasing a new high. He has to keep being the best. That's the only way his life has value. He has to always be in the conversation of who gets to lead the new innovative missions. He needs that responsibility. He's worthless without it. He falls apart when the Mars mission is taken away. He assumed Molly had the authority to give it to him. Margo had different plans. Everything changed in that instant. Ed was suddenly the old man complaining about how irrelevant he has become. He still has to be seen as important. He looks to space to fill that void. Of course, Ellen is more than the amazing feats she accomplished in space. She was more than comfortable taking that narrative and morphing it into a new career. People recognize her for the tank maneuver. It was absolutely incredible. Now, she's on the verge of becoming the next President. That's amazing too. It's a story that has taken her far away from the program that was once so fulfilling to her. She has made sacrifices in order to achieve this new life. It's come at the expense of so much of her personal happiness. But that transition has been successful. Everyone else remains fixated on the same goal. That evolution is key. Of course, the trade off may not be worth it for Ellen. She's had to settle for a family with Larry. She still sets the terms of government. She represents the future of leadership for the Republican party. She is the standard bearer. The astronauts at NASA feel a similar burden. They all want to be the best. When Ed was recruited into the program, he was told they were working towards a miraculous future. They achieved many successes. And now, space exploration has become so available. Many people have made the trip. It's still magical for Aleida. She never dreamed this could have happened for her. Her mission goes smoothly. It's a life-changing experience. That awareness is still mesmerizing and cathartic. It's a freedom given to her. Plenty of people in power operate with the ability to give that unforgettable experience to other. Since they've had it for so long, they've grown numb to the expectations and responsibilities. Dev believes he runs a company with an atypical structure. He's the CEO but the choices are made as a team. He has to rely on Karen and Ed to make this dream a reality. His ambitions are altruistic while the Baldwins are simply seeking relevance. After all these years, they still demand to be the center of attention. It's admirable in certain situations. It's devastating in so many more. That creates the expectation that neither will find any peace or clarity by the time the season reaches its most climatic and unexpected moments.