The Laws of the Sea: For All Mankind 3.04 review

For All Mankind 3.04 still

The fourth episode of season 3 of For All Mankind opens in the middle of the space race. In a backdrop of stars, the camera pans over the different spacecrafts from NASA’s Sojourner 1, Russia’s Mars -94, its clear how similar the two ships are. Helios and Phoenix are miles ahead with NASA due to finish dead last. Ed is delighted. The joy does not stop there. Dev offers to split prize money with each and every one of his staff. Helios is a lone ember in the night sky, powering ahead of all the government agencies who made the space race possible. It is truly inspiring, but the game is not over yet. 

Danielle and Ed still communicate and despite being in competition with each other, there is still that playful banter. All seems lost for NASA until Operation Jolly Rodger which is one of the best moments of the episode. Once again, the writers of For All Mankind push boundaries and Sojourner 1 lets their sails loose. What makes the show special and different from most others is the innovation and thinking of the writers. Only For All Mankind could do an epic space race to Mars and have a spacecraft open with solar sails while NASA playfully broadcast a sea shanty to the other spacecrafts. The fantastic acting from all involved, from Ed suddenly overconfident and laughing to it dawning on him that NASA is not going to lie down and let the others win this race.  It certainly is a pirate’s life for NASA in the way they storm ahead. The complex character of Dev and his ambition is all put into question as you can see him now priotizing coming first on Mars rather than the safety of the Helios crew. It does shed a new light on Dev Ayesa and just how far he will go to make history for himself and for his company, all expertly played by Edi Gathegi.

One of the interesting plots that is not mentioned as much is the impact of the space race and its effect on the climate crisis. There are protests about Helium-3 fusion as a new energy source. It is a greener energy, but everything comes at a cost, a cost that the average American blue-collar worker is paying as it means less jobs. While the space race is capturing the hearts of the world, America is in turmoil with the average American jobless and blaming President Wilson.
Ellen Wilson is struggling as a president. Towing the line between being a president and fighting her own cabinet when they want to take money from NASA and the Mars programme. Towns in Texas are closing due to Helium-3 fusion, but Ellen’s priorities are to save NASA at a cost of the government closing. Ellen still holds her own. She is still the brave woman who is a veteran astronaut, but nothing could have prepared her or Larry for the turmoil of the white house. Both Jodi Balfour and Nate Corddryshow incredible vulnerability for their character and how together, they truly are a unit. The character may not romantically love each other but the care, respect, and admiration of the two are perfectly shown in this episode. 

Kelly Baldwin is a comforting light in space as she broadcasts different music to all involved in the space race as they travel through the stars. It is fascinating to see the differences on the spacecrafts. While the Russian and NASA craft is cramped and without gravity, Helios has its own greenery, canteen, and enough room for Ed to make his runs. If I were on any space craft, I would want it to be Helios. Not only do we see this, but we also catch up with Russian defector, Rolan Baranov (Alexander Sokovikov) who inadvertently was the catalyst to the Jamestown disaster. For All Mankind deliver information perfectly. In less than two minutes, we are aware of the struggles he and his family has faced since defecting to America but also, we get an insight into his budding friendship with young astronaut, Will.

Relationships aboard Helios are not too different though Danny certainly has some issues to work through. As viewers watch Danny (Casey W. Johnson) and Ed (Joel Kinnaman) interact, it is not just the secret affair with Karen that piques a viewer’s interest. It is hard not to compare Danny to his father and all the hopes he and Ed had of being the first on the moon. Now, they can make history and be the first to step foot on Mars. It is a dynamic that is incredibly acted by both Casey W. Johnson and Joel Kinnaman as you can feel the pressures of secrets and expectations slowly start to bubble up in Casey W. Johnson’s performance. 

For All Mankind writers are fantastic with writing history but also using the real life past as inspiration. In a desperate attempt to beat all involved, Kelly is warned that Russia is going to do something drastic. A cosmonaut calls for help as Russia fire up their nuclear engines. A desperate attempt, putting the chance to win above the safety of their own people. As the Russian’s ship is in distress, Dev makes the decision for Phoenix to avoid aiding the ship, leaving it up to the Americans. Helios would have been better to accommodate the extra souls on board but Dev ignores that for the sake of being first to land on Mars. Previously, he has been charming and likable but the dark turn could be an omen for something yet to come. Mars-94 is slowly killing their own crew with radiation yet Dev refuses to help, knowing full well that America may have to intervene or risk an international catastrophe. One he can avoid simply because Helios is a private company. One cannot help but think of the Titanic and how the SS Californian refused to answer the distress call, despite being the closest in the area. Dev’s greed gets the better of him, hidden behind a feeble excuse that it was a group decision. By the look on Karen’s face, you know that the rest of the group would not have gone against Dev and voted to appease and align their votes with the outcome he desired. Saving the Russians means a return trip home. A stark comparison to Danny offering to leave them. As Ed commands his ship, Dev has other things in mind as he pirates his own ship. Ed shows that he is a fantastic leader, valuing the lives of his rivals over his own chance to make history.
Margo’s own priorities comes into question as she would rather Ellen use the national guard to storm Helios and force their hand to help. Both Margo and Dev are very similar in the desire of their own ambitions and the cost of the human lives that will factor into it. Danni is incredible again, with not hesitating in offering aid. The only reason Margo helps is because it is her duty to, and Ellen will not use her executive power to aid her. 

One of the plot lines of this episode that did not hit as well as the others is Jimmy Stevens. The actor gives a great performance, but it is the writing that doesn’t quite live up to the normal plotting standards of For All Mankind. Conspiracy theorists is something that we all can agree we are sick of hearing or reading about but now, Jimmy Stevens is jumping feet first into this, seemingly because of his own grief but also what seem like a crush on new character, Sunny. In contrast to Danny’s plot, Jimmy is so far falls short in the anticipation and excitement that has been Danny Stevens so far in season three. 

The last ten minutes of the episode is one of the most intense of the season so far. The writers and showrunners truly do not waste a single second within this time. From the build up of tension from a rescue attempt to the Russian cosmonaut meeting the defector, it is only a taste of what is to come.  The control room at NASA is intense as the cost of the rescue attempt is made evident. For All Mankind fans will love the last ten minutes of this episode but will have you begging for episode five all at the same time. 

The MVC has to go to Dani Poole for her leadership and how she comes to Russia’s aid, knowing it could sacrifice being the first person on Mars.

Krys Marshall as Danielle Poole in For All Mankind

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