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For All Mankind doesn’t let up on the melodrama as the first dominos begin to fall.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of For All Mankind is called “Seven Minutes of Terror” after what is explained in the episode is the unknown time that NASA has before they can know if there’s been a successful landing on Mars (as it takes about seven minutes to safely land a probe or a shuttle). Here those seven minutes grow closer as to be expected, NASA and Roscosmos have not so shockingly teamed up to get both crews to Mars instead of having them come home.
Although Danielle quotes MLK at the start of the episode that there is a democracy in death, not everyone thinks that way. Award winning director Andrew Stanton returns to direct this episode, and it’s a great one for him to come back to. Danielle is forced in multiple points to deal with the Russian commander Kuznetsov (played by the amazing Lev Gorn, who played Arkady on The Americans), but elsewhere on the ship a highly unorthodox flirtation forms between Kelly and Cosmonaut Alexei Poletov (Pawel Szajda).
Back on Earth, Margo is able to successfully get the USSR director Lenara Catiche, sort of Margo’s evil twin, to get Sergei there to collaborate. Naturally Lenara knows all about Margo’s treason, but she’s seems surprisingly unwilling to force the blackmail issue with Margo’s superiors. Perhaps because she really wants to get more out of her? Or maybe the Sergei ask isn’t such a big deal to them.
When he shows up, his lungs and breathing are quite bad, as the KGB tortured him in all sort of non-visible ways because he wasn’t agreeing to keep blackmailing Margo. Of course, he knows there’s a threat against his family, yet he refused? It can’t be an empty threat, otherwise he wouldn’t have said that was why he couldn’t flee to America. It feels a bit clumsily written for this show, not entirely thought out.
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In contrast, the problematic Danny storyline clearly is well thought out, as the dude creepily hacks into the ship's computer to watch Karen’s messages to Ed after she reasonably quits Helios. Dev continues to reveal his true awful self with his attempts to strongarm him after she resigns, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Ed/Danny stuff begins to heighten as they finally have a vulnerable discussion about grief, talking about Danny’s parents and Shane.
Ed talks about the power of forgiveness, but when Danny not entirely subtly pries about forgiving the man Karen cheated on him with, that’s still a bridge too far. Yet Ed still sees the potential in Danny -- he makes the once again really classy move to abort their landing attempt when he looks over at Danny, who’s desperate to prove himself and Ed realizes his own pride might kill them both.
At least the Detective Aleida storyline is interesting enough, it does seem to be setting up the hammer to fall on Margo and her potential schemes to save Sergei and her own reputation. And the actual scenes of descent were truly thrilling as everyone was trying to land on Mars -- the show really knows how to handle those tense action oriented scenes. No shooting or punching, just survival in the most inhospitable places we can fathom.
You begin to wonder about that theme brought up by Molly’s hippie husband Wayne, asking the question of what Karen’t story might ultimately be about. It’s something Karen might be figuring out, more than being defined by her one terrible romantic mistake -- one that hopefully Kelly doesn’t also fall prey to. The final moments of Dani and Kuznetsov pushing each other to get on Mars first only to technically arrive at the same time are both hilarious and troubling -- a great mix.
Other than the little logical issues I had with the Margo storyline though, and the lingering weirdness about the Danny/Karen stuff, a really stellar episode -- just maintaining the streak of a stellar season.