For All Mankind is not even halfway through its season and yet viewers have been treated to world class writing and acting. Season 3 so far has been fun, exciting but not without the tension that the writers deliver perfectly. In episode six, there are a few call backs to the previous seasons and my favourite so far has been the ending shot used for season 2. An unknown team of Astronauts setting foot on Mars but now we know it was NASA and the Russians.
In all truth, the parts of this season that flow exceptionally well are the plots surrounding Mars and the different control stations at Helios and NASA. The odd scenes with young Jimmy Stevens (David Chandler) slowly going deeper into this conspiracy group to Ellen’s (Jodi Balfour) struggles with her presidency. For a show that has been almost perfect with its pacing and its flow, its plot aspects like that which has left them down.
With this episode, we are introduced more to NASA astronaut Will Tyler (Robert Bailey Jr). Will is overcome with the potential and hope that landing on Mars has given him and so he comes out as a gay person with a very thoughtful and beautiful speech, but it is not without its consequences. President Wilson must weigh up if she should dishonourably discharge him but when confronted with Danni, Will explains that he is tired of hiding who he has. God made the garden of Eden out of a desert, like Mars, and it’s society’s chance to plant a new tree of knowledge. Not everyone agrees with him, even his captain Danni Poole who explains Will has the luxury of hiding his sexuality, the first time I have not agreed with Danni Poole and even questioned her judgment in this matter.
With Russia and NASA teaming up, Helios is left to consider the grim reality of coming in second, but they have a chance to win the race for water, a nice little throwback to season 2 and Ed’s position. History with Ed seems to be repeating himself. Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten) proves her worth in every scene at Helios. From returning to Helios in a new position as COO and an office, Karen negotiates a bargain with the Russians. They need a lift to water, Helios wants fifty percent of all water recovered. It is a natural progression of where she has started at the beginning of season three to now, going head-to-head with one of the world’s superpowers.
Another delight in the show is Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and Kelly Baldwin (Cynthia Wu). Father and daughter on opposite teams but both making history being the first humans to land on Mars. What is truly heart-warming to see Ed acting like a concerned father as NASA’s CO2 scrubbers failing, causing higher temperatures and high CO2 levels. Ed brings the NASA and Russian’s astronauts spare CO2 scrubbers and plenty of decent food, things like bottles of Pepsi with a “Hi Bob” greeting that brings viewers right back to season one, something season three is flawlessly interweaving throughout these episodes.
While Ed is delivering food and supplements, Danny Stevens is letting his own jealousies of Karen (Casey W. Johnson) by spiralling on his own addictions and aggression towards Ed. What would normally be an annoying character, Johnson delivers a performance of Danny that still wants you to see more, despite the character’s impending and inevitable downfall with his petty jealousy over his commander Ed.
Overall, episode six has its great moments. From setting up the different stations on Mars and a glimpse into the everyday life of the astronauts to the drama that is unfolding on Earth. While the Earth plot lines are some of the weaker storylines (not including Helios and NASA), viewers can see how it adds and builds onto the world that For All Mankind has created. The episode does not have the nail-biting tension as the last episode, but it shows that its not needed in every single episode. As a viewer, it is good to get a respite and the writers are strong enough to not need the high dramatics for a strong episode. From acting to directing, the writing stands up as a great piece of TV to watch that will leave you craving the next episode!
Now for the MVC, and it has to go to Will Tyler. Will appreciates and understands the beauty of Mars, bringing in a new view of how it’s not just historic but also a chance for society to start anew and accept things they should have already accepted and delivered a powerful performance by Robert Bailey Jr.