Why ‘For All Mankind’ Is TV’s Next Big Drama
Although humans landed on the moon before the advent of commercial cell phones or the Internet, we are still years, if not decades, away from the first manned mission to Mars. The most optimistic projections indicate that NASA will send astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s, and even then there are still many hurdles to overcome given that astronauts are expected to spend approximately seven months in low gravity while being close to each other. Would humanity’s progress to Mars be vastly improved if the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union had not stopped?
On AppleTV+ Alternate History Drama For all mankind, the Soviets beat America to the moon and drove the space race for decades to come. The competition is precipitating impressive scientific breakthroughs as the two countries established research bases on the lunar surface in the 1970s. The progress could be the result of a dick-swinging geopolitical contest, but at the same time, the show contends that these lawsuits are only made possible by brilliant individuals determined to do great things for the benefit of all humanity. (It’s right there in the title.) But while For all mankind has already surpassed our IRL accomplishments around the moon in its first two seasons, Season 3 takes it even further by bringing astronauts (and cosmonauts) to Mars at a time when Nirvana is throwing hits and Bill Clinton is showing up to the Presidency. Although some technologies exceed what we have achieved, the 90s For all mankind feels much closer to our present, for better or for worse.
After narrowly avoiding a Third World War at the end of its formidable second season, For all mankind returns with the Soviets and Americans coexisting on Earth and beyond. With the moon successfully colonized, world powers have set their sights on Mars. For the Soviets, being the first to land on Mars would cement their dominance in space; the Americans, meanwhile, are determined to make up for the loss of the race to the moon. But the countries are not alone in their pursuit: a third challenger comes from the emerging private sector in Helios, an aerospace company headed by enigmatic billionaire Dev Ayesa (played by Edi Gathegi), whose ambition – and deep pockets – threaten to poach some of NASA’s best.
As intriguing alternate history details continue to pile up with each season, the biggest suspension of disbelief required to watch the show is how much its core cast of characters have shaped the world around them. Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), once a standout test pilot in the days of Neil Armstrong, seeks to crown his career in space by being the first person to set foot on Mars; her friend and colleague Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) hopes to do the same, leading to a good-natured competition between them; Ed Karen’s (Shantel VanSanten) ex has gone from stereotypical astronaut wife to business mogul responsible for co-founding the first space hotel; Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) consolidates more power as NASA administrator, even at the cost of pushing others out of the agency; and former astronaut Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) leads the Republican presidential ticket against Clinton while remaining a closeted lesbian. All that [deep breath] doesn’t address Ed and Karen’s adopted daughter Kelly (Cynthy Wu) who pursues the discovery of microbial life on Mars, the Soviet supporting characters ranging from sympathetic to Machiavellian, or the many subplots that make For all mankindAlternate history feels so lived-in, even if its universe is somewhat confined to a select group of extraordinary people.
While relations between the United States and Russia remain fragile in the real world, For all mankindThe third season of initially stems from the conflict of government space programs competing with private industry. If geopolitical tensions once drove the series to the brink of nuclear war, now capitalism threatens to pull the rug out from under two world powers in the three-horse race to Mars. (Another sign of changing times is that The Outpost, once a charming, rustic bar that astronauts frequented in Houston, has transformed into a global franchise similar to the Hard Rock Cafe.)
But for all the innovation the private sector brings to the show’s universe, Season 3 also highlights the extremely thin margins between success and catastrophic failure in space, and how those conditions aren’t exactly conducive. idealistic billionaires. (The SpaceX parallels likely won’t go unnoticed.) To that end, the season premiere is largely set in the aforementioned space hotel, which quickly transitions from wish-granting tourism to the setting of what’s essentially a disaster movie. by Roland Emmerich. It’s a jaw-dropping episode and a confident statement of intent for a season that leans more towards the realm of sci-fi despite still being set in the past.
As humanity continues to make giant strides in the solar system, For all mankindThe sprawling nature of the series is grounded in the show’s dedication to the interiority of its characters and their lives. Every little exchange within the set, whether it’s body language in the elevators or thinking about career milestones over homemade edibles, is treated with the same consideration as splashing life sequences. or death that drew viewers to the series. At a time when television can have a scale and production value comparable to that of a summer blockbuster, For all mankind understands that the great moments will not land without the emotional groundwork posed by all the little ones. It’s what separates a purely entertaining drama from a great one, and what made For all mankind an unlikely contender as the crowning glory of Apple’s streaming service.
The morning show has the power of the stars, Ted Lasso has the feel-good factor, and Breakup has the juicy “did Apple just make a psychological thriller based on itself?” premise, but For all mankind is first and foremost a serialized drama with an unwavering attention to detail. Strip away the jaw-dropping special effects and what you’re left with is a show that cares deeply about cause and effect, and how seemingly minor decisions can have serious ramifications for countless characters down the road. For all mankind takes the idea that the world would be radically different if the space race never ended and uses it as a guiding philosophy where actions have consequences in all aspects of its storytelling, whether they lead to death tragedy of a character or simply an expression of love.
For all mankind has a seven-season plan that, if lucky enough to complete its story, will go from the height of the space race to a future where interstellar travel moves to the far reaches of the solar system – and possibly to the -of the. Three seasons in, For all mankind is nearly halfway through that ambitious undertaking, and rather than crumbling under the weight of its increasingly convoluted alternate history or shifting its characters across decades, the series is as strong as it gets. has ever been. And with You better call Saul only six episodes from completion and Succession producers pointing out that the show will not exceed five seasons, For all mankind has the track to become TV’s next great drama.
Compared to You better call Saul and Successionthat illuminate the dark side of human ambition, For all mankind has a more optimistic view of humanity despite our flaws. Even when the characters are entangled in corporate greed or geopolitical confrontations, they struggle to find common ground in the common pursuit of scientific discovery. Their world is far from perfect, but For all mankind presents an alternate history that imagines what people can achieve when logic and empathy largely prevail. The fact that it’s one of TV’s best shows only makes its message of hope more resonant. When it premiered as part of the AppleTV+ launch in November 2019, For all mankind was just a small step in the company’s push towards streaming. Four years later, the series is following the lead of its characters and reaching for the stars.