Friday, July 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - Compassion Defeats Arrogance in the Race to Land Humans on Mars in 'Seven Minutes of Terror'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 3.05 "Seven Minutes of Terror"

The race to land first on Mars brings together unexpected allies.

"Seven Minutes of Terror" was written by Sabrina Almeida and directed by Andrew Stanton

25 years ago, the Soviets landed on the moon. That one moment in history informed everything for the generation that came afterwards. So many of the people around at that time are still trusted with the crucial decisions that must be made in the space program. That history carries personal resonance for them. It may no longer make any sense for Ed Baldwin to continually be positioned as the only astronaut who could possibly lead these historic missions. This life is suppose to offer continual reinvention. He found a place to be championed at Helios. And then, he was prevented from making the decisions in the heat of the moment. Even when he's given that freedom, he may lack the ability to follow through. During the conflict on the moon, he understood the importance of waiting for the darkness to fade away. He couldn't be solely responsible for starting a nuclear conflict with the Soviets in space. That situation had a clearly defined antagonist. Those stakes were very real. He wasn't asked to empathize with the opposing forces. Instead, he simply needed the conviction to make the difficult choices. When it comes to matters of him accepting the weight of history himself, he falters. When he and Danny are making their attempt at landing on Mars, he is haunted by images of the moon. He has long been plagued over the missed opportunity to make that historic achievement. He missed out on his opportunity. He has still had a lengthy and productive career. He shaped the space program. He taught so many astronauts how to thrive in this field. So many conduct themselves based on his training. He is always so eager to return to space and conquer what has never been done before. He also faces the pressure of caring for others. He understands the humanity that must be exhibited in order to save lives in danger. He is willing to make the sacrifices for the greater good. He accepts his fate when situations change. In making those decisions himself, he doesn't operate with the best information. It's possible he and Danny could have safely landed. He aborted the approach because they were going in blind. That stands in contrast to Danielle's team. They had specific parameters that had to be met before making the approach. With Phoenix, it was all about trusting Ed's gut and the visuals on the screen. The science ultimately wins out. Sure, human ego still play a huge role. It's a major debate over who gets to be the first human to step onto Mars. Danielle has to race to share the title with the Russian commander. These humans are still selfish and pent up with so much conflict from the generation that came before. That only creates a reality where the same outcomes occur over and over again. Danielle has equally been trusted with crucial missions in the name of moving American greatness into the future. She's not haunted in the same way Ed is.

In fact, the members of the Baldwin and Stevens families are plagued with so much doubt and uncertainty. Ed sees the moon when he's landing on Mars. Danny is overcome with thoughts about Karen. He's distracted and needs to access every message Karen has sent to the ship. She resigns from Helios after Dev refused to let Phoenix break from its mission. He never wants to take responsibility for his actions. He believes he can hide behind the idea that it was a group decision. He leads this company. Everyone defers to his leadership. Everyone works in service of his grand goal. He wanted to prove that all of this was possible beyond government control. His ego drove the entire mission. It was such a tantalizing offer for the many people who used to work at NASA. Their opinions aren't given the respect they deserve. It's also Karen serving at the whims of whatever the narrative needs. In the first season, she was a housewife meant to grapple with an unimaginable personal loss. In the second season, she was adrift with no purpose. All she had was latching onto the symbolizing of what the space race means for the people in town and within her own family. Even in breaking free of those responsibilities, she still opted for space this season. She saw the invention of tourism. That imploded quickly. She then found a new opportunity. One where she was once again eager to take control. It was still Dev shaping who she was expected to be. And now, she lingers at home getting high with Wayne. All she can do is send messages to Ed. That's conflicting to a certain extent. She knows how intense the situation remains. She's removed from the process of it all. She believes she thrives when building something from the ground up. That offers no clarity in this moment. It's not peaceful for Danny either. He pries into how things ended between Ed and Karen. He refuses to listen to his commander's wisdom because he carries this secret. It's something he believes would destroy everything. Ed even offers that confirmation. It's all being done in the abstract. It's the thoughts that plague the minds of these characters. That prevents them from being level-headed when it comes to the high-stakes missions they embark on. Things are dangerous for Danielle too. She and her crew have to overcome their own problems. Meanwhile, Aleida discovers the Soviet designs are identical to what NASA was using two years ago. She sees the deception. It must be exposed. Margo still believes she can offer salvation to Sergei and his family. The walls are closing in. This momentous achievement occurs. The world celebrates. So few know the true extent of the drama that creeps into every single decision. That anxiety erupts where the audience doesn't know how anyone will react at any point. That's thrilling and creates a narrative full of unpredictable moments that still earn everything that ultimately happens.