Friday, December 22, 2023

REVIEW: 'For All Mankind' - A Strike Causes Desperate Actions to Be Taken as Kelly Returns to Mars in 'Crossing the Line'

AppleTV+'s For All Mankind - Episode 4.07 "Crossing the Line"

A group on Mars takes drastic measures. Margo grapples with a new assignment. 

"Crossing the Line" was written by Andrew Black and directed by Maja Vrvilo

Alex was the first child born on Mars. He remains the only child born off-Earth. He's very unique. Upon landing on the red planet, his health improves. This environment has the potential to benefit his family in numerous ways. Ed has refused to ever leave. He's not driven by some ideological pursuit. That's the reality nonetheless. Alex is eager to be with his grandfather. However, he's awkward when it comes to the actual social interaction. Ed continues to impose his beliefs on anyone who gets close. He essentially takes over the strike. He becomes one of the core voices of the Helios workers. Danielle calls him out for the hypocrisy. He's just looking for a way to remain relevant. He pushes back against any settlement because he doesn't know what the future holds for him. Dev has an intriguing offer. One that addresses the situation as it actually is. It plays to Ed's ego as well. That defines this entire conflict. It's all about powerful people flexing their influence because they are used to getting what they want. That authority is misplaced in several ways. Many suffer as a result.

The Helios workers have genuine grievances against the company. Their contracts are changed in the middle of the agreement. They are deemed powerless and expendable. Of course, they wield some significant power because of the time crunch the base is now operating under. Danielle has a short window to deliver what the M-7 nations want. Goldilocks has the potential to unlock so much. Time is lost because of the strike. Danielle has empathy for the noble cause. She commands the base. However, she doesn't have the power to dictate the terms of these contracts. Dev does as he is still the CEO of Helios. He is expected to land on the base with a strategy. The strike happened midway through his journey. It's convenient. He makes it more personal. He also breaks the strike the same way he has always conducted business. He offers one-time bonuses for those willing to cross the line and get back to work after a tragedy. Those back on Earth were eager to get the base operational again. The engineers can fix many problems. That worked with fixing the satellite to restore bandwidth. It produces grim outcomes when trying to override a crucial regulatory system.

The striking workers are deemed responsible for that loss of life. Several individuals on the base are deputized and given the authority to crack down on the population. It's absolutely horrifying. Moreover, the strike is ultimately in pursuit of an unobtainable goal. They have lofty ambitions to keep their jobs prosperous on Mars. The M-7 is willing to negotiate on their concerns about safe working conditions. However, they can't provide the guarantee that goldilocks will be mined on Mars. It's not financially beneficial to their goals. Everyone still views Earth as home. No one has moved beyond that distinction no matter how much time they've spent on Mars. Dev has a different perspective. The Baldwin family may have to accept that too. The majority still see any prosperity needing to be redirected to Earth. That's how every development becomes personal. Shifting identities may occur over time. The nations aren't at that place just yet. The Americans and Soviets have spies embedded on Happy Valley. They are armed. They could be activated to quell this conflict. That option isn't pursued. It's now a tease that lingers. It could very well happen sooner rather than later because of how volatile the situation remains.

Ultimately, Dev is looking for the true believers amongst the crowd. He doesn't particularly care how his workers are treated. He sees all of them as greedy and corrupt. They are just looking out for their own interests. None of them should be blamed for that. They were sold on the prospect of this work on Mars being lucrative for their families. Instead, they are barely making by. It's then appealing when Dev dangles those bonuses in front of them. It has the potential to make all of the current tension disappear. That's completely shortsighted. It's not setting the future of the program up for success. It's just kicking the can down the road and making it someone else's problem. Sure, one can argue that the average workers aren't being served well by their leaders. However, Ed and Sam are looking to the future. They see more for Mars. They aim to maintain this livelihood. Expansion of humanity across the universe is what has always been sold to the population. It was never meant to solely be about the benefits to Earth. That's the current understanding. Everything else is framed around that conflict. It's trivial to Dev. He knows how to operate through this kind of story. He's in pursuit of something more. He aims to steal goldilocks. That mostly just proves how he too is using the situation to advance his own interests even if it comes at the expense of lives elsewhere.

Much of the season has focused on the tension between the command of Happy Valley and its workers. It's created an upstairs-downstairs dynamic in an environment that has never depicted that kind of conflict before. As such, it was fully expected to come to a head with a strike. That was the only way the concerns of the workers would be heard and validated. Eli has a history of dealing with striking workers. He approaches the situation somewhat differently than the President and Irina. However, not enough time is allowed for nuance. Action must be taken quickly. It's up to Helios to decide when and how to end the strike. The company could agree to negotiate in good faith to resolve these issues. Instead, it aims to move around the workers. It wants to prove how nonessential they truly are. It backfires. It's a lot of drama. As a result, the weight of Margo's return to Houston is lost in the chaos. It's purely setting up story for the next episode. Right now, it's all about getting her back to her former home while Aleida is upset. Aleida is told she should take inspiration from how the Helios workers are fighting back. And yet, her attempts to do that evaporate as other plot concerns are more relevant. It's an unfair balance created by the episode having a shorter run time than previous entries this season. It makes for a faster pace. Parts of the story suffer because elements are shortchanged. That undercuts everything. That prevents a satisfying resolution to all that has come before while setting up the dynamics for the the season's final chapters.