Friday, August 12, 2022

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - The Mars Crew Executes a Dangerous Mission to Get Kelly to Safety in 'Stranger in a Strange Land'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 3.10 "Stranger in a Strange Land"

The Martian crew debates how to save the life of one of their own.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" was written by Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi and directed by Craig Zisk

For decades now, people have been told the space program should inspire hope. It's the new frontier. It needs investment to offer prosperity to the people at home. However, it's mostly a battle of egos. People project importance onto their missions. People die in service to their countries. Many actions carry personal destruction. Lives are lost because of an inability to recognize the danger going on within one person. Of course, that would require the viewer to be engaged with the ongoing drama of the Stevens brothers. The show has certainly put in the time developing their concerns. When Danny makes his big confession to Ed, it's still uncertain over what he's exactly confessing to. Arguably, it's more powerful taking responsibility for the deaths during the mission to find water. He actively chose not to do his job. He was spiteful and willing to let others suffer. And yet, it very easily could have been Danny confessing to sleeping with Karen. He has long seen that betrayal as the most damaging secret he has. He still holds so many feelings towards her. He's incapable of moving on. That hasn't been justified either. The uncertainty that creates lessens the impact of Danny sharing the truth. Ed's rage is very understandable. It still pales in comparison to the Mars crew deciding to stay behind so Kelly can make it to Phoenix to deliver her baby. That's more important. Nothing else matters. The world doesn't operate like that. People navigate multiple issues at once. The space program is upheld as a vision of morality and the truth. Jimmy refused to believe that because he knew how his parents disliked each other. The hero narrative doesn't line up with the people he knew. Gordo and Tracy were heroes though. They saved lives. The actions of their children have ended lives. Sure, Jimmy can't condone his friends' tactics. He's kept out of the loop until the last second. The plan going awry still inflicts a ton of damage. The center of the space program is attacked in such a massive way. Karen tried to warn people of the danger. It was too little too late. It was all brought about by people distrusting the government. The truth came across as too convenient to be believable. Ellen shared her truth with the public. Congress is willing to impeach her over that. Her political legacy is uncertain. She doesn't know what the future brings. She has fought for support of NASA. She has very little control over what actually happens. She is always aware of the situation. Her former colleagues support her. She built a career on being an astronaut. That is no longer as aspirational as it once was. People still serve. They make the hard choices. So much corruption is also present. That's true both within the program and outside it. That can't be ignored.

Margo is warned the FBI is investigating her. She is offered a way out. It comes when the American government succeeded in securing Sergei and his family. They arrive in America to start new lives. Meanwhile, Margo's is ending. The walls are closing in on her. She knows that. She doesn't live in denial. She simply has to lead the mission. The focus has to be on saving Kelly. The engineers find a solution. It's absolutely crazy. Kelly and Ed pull it off. Their actions are perceived as the most dangerous. Their loved ones gather as they await word on their fates. Kelly and Ed have the expertise to do this maneuver. Kelly eventually gives birth and Ed survives the turbulent landing. The astronauts have clarity on what needs to be done. A punishment is even found for Danny. He's charged with living in isolation in the North Korean landing probe. In accepting that, he now has his eyes on what truly matters. That doesn't make up for all the heinous things he did. It's also a convenient parallel to the time Lee Jung-Gil has spent on the planet. He's the first human to step foot on Mars. That story is now known to the people in power. It creates political headaches on Earth. Lee was ready to give up until he saw Danielle and Grigory coming. They don't always work well as a team. They are moving towards the same goal. That's how the crew on Mars operates. It's what they need to do to survive. Meanwhile, the conflicts on Earth continually divide people. Dev learns how the board is plotting against him. He sees the spirit of the company being thrown away in service of financial prosperity. He still carries the charisma and vision to inspire his workers. He's ultimately an out-of-touch billionaire who believes everyone will loyally follow him. The fate of Helios is unknown because Karen dies from the bombing. Molly dies as well. Those are the major casualties. Their lives were informed by this program. They fulfill new roles to be of service to the Mars mission. They aren't protected. Instead, they are disposable. Molly is honored with a building named after her. Meanwhile, this chaos creates the perfect cover to smuggle Margo out for a new life in the Soviet Union. That's not the fate she wants. She may be forced to work for their space program. She devoted herself to this life completely. She had that clarity. And now, that can no longer be true. She betrayed her country. That was being investigated. She's now forced into a new world. People mourn her loss. It's ultimately all about the charade of presenting a rosy picture. That's not the truth. People believing in lies was enough for disaster to erupt this season. It was a bit distracting given how the audience knows the power of the truth. It read as a false choice instead of being internally consistent. That's the pitfall of taking major swings in storytelling. Not everything is destined to line up well. So much effective tension is still present in this finale. The underlying meaning behind it all got a little too lost along the way for it to be perfectly executed. The space program at least lives on to a new decade - with the power of some in leadership destined to shift after a lifetime in charge.