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For All Mankind finally deals with the repercussions of past mistakes.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of For All Mankind is called “The Sands of Ares” which naturally is another way to refer to Mars, as Ares was the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Mars -- but there’s also a thematic connection to the fact that Mars/Ares was the god of war. Because of the horrible accident caused by a strung out Danny last episode, for the first time all of the three space agencies work together to try and save the day.
At first we catch up with various people to see how things are going -- at NASA everyone’s fine and they are able to detect that the quaking is actually from a landslide. We then see Alexei manage to dig himself out of the ground and find a sadly dead Nick on the ground, then later finds Louisa also alive -- she notes that Isabel is also gone. It’s not long before we find that one of the Helios habitats is fine (thankfully the one with the Russian doctor Mayakofsky still in it) but the other one, where Ed and Danny took refuge, has been buried under the sand.
In there, the two have managed to survive, albeit in bad shape, and we continue to cut back to them throughout the episode as things get worse in multiple ways. On Earth, the storyline with Ellen is fairly quickly wrapped up, as she has to deal with the Mars catastrophe. Pam admits that she lied because she thought otherwise their relationship would’ve been built on a compromise and never would’ve lasted. But at least Ellen is able to say that Pam is still the love of her life, which Pam clearly still appreciates hearing.
We get a lot of legitimate growth from our friends on the Earth, as Ellen cuts Larry out of a high level meeting, which doesn’t bode well for their marriage of convenience. Dev is able to slightly redeem himself by giving a stirring line about solving their engineering problem, while Karen insists on going to visit Amber Stevens herself and being an understanding “astronaut wife”. There’s still the little matter that they don’t know how the astronauts will be able to make it home, but that’s a problem for next week’s episode.
Dev admits to Margo about how his backstory isn’t nearly as positive as he makes it appear, a nice sort of admission that makes him more well-rounded and not as much of a jerk. The two share tales of their complicated fathers, but this doesn’t help the lingering problem of Aleida’s suspicion of Margo -- sure, she doesn’t really push it at the moment due to the emergency, but she does ask Bill about the Russians.
But the actual solution, setting off an explosion to let them see the sand from above, is very clever, and it even lets us get a chance to see Rolan and Will perhaps reconcile over their heroic actions.
Naturally, the episode ramps up the dramatic tension by cutting back and forth between the Karen/Jimmy and Ed/Danny scenes. Jimmy confronts Karen about using Danny -- she admits she was mad at Ed and Danny was simply convenient and easy to use in that way. We get a lot more insight from Jimmy that Danny was always trying to live up to the example of what everyone else expected of him, which was only made worse by his parents’ sacrifice.
Whether or not Jimmy will still be caught up in the conspiracy nonsense after this remains to be seen, that’s still an unresolved domino. Back on Mars, the Danny/Ed situation goes all over the place, as Danny has basically kept Ed alive but is also talking about how they’re doomed. After Ed calls him a quitter, Danny tells him the horrible backstory that Shane was actually terrified of his father and that Karen was the only good parent -- naturally Ed punches Danny, worsening his injury.
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But after this moment, Ed is able to reflect on himself and his own temper, admitting that he left both Kelly and Shane in bad places and arguments. The last thing he said to Shane was to “be a man” -- shades of how he deals with Danny and everyone, and Ed is seeing now how toxic that’s always been. But Danny doesn’t let him take the full blame, and admits he blames himself for Shane’s death and has tried to live the life he thought Shane would have -- suddenly just about everything falls into place about Danny’s messed up mind.
Of course, as soon as he’s about to tell Ed “something else” I knew it wouldn’t be revealed, and sure enough, they are immediately interrupted by the explosion. And the episode is clever enough simply to reveal they are able to be rescued.
As for Alexei, as soon as he mentioned a headache that wouldn’t go away, I knew he was doomed -- it was obviously a brain injury, and sure enough, the episode ends with Kelly bawling over her dead lover’s body while Ed looks on in confusion. The Russian commander and the doctor talk afterward, and Commander Kuznetsov offers a touching note that the doctor did the best he could.
But we can’t simply leave it at that, and they discuss how they now know Kelly is pregnant (naturally) and they need to tell Moscow and Danielle about it -- as she’s a risk to the mission. In fairness, a pregnant astronaut they are unprepared for is certainly a terrible risk.
Overall, it was a really great episode, one that shed light onto the complicated Stevens brothers and helped us dislike Danny maybe a little less. The character moments and science ideas really worked well here, and it helps set up the rest of the season where it’s hard to say what will happen next.
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