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For All Mankind gives us four cliffhangers for the price of one.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of For All Mankind is called “Coming Home”, and it’s when everything finally goes completely wrong. After a cool-looking montage of the Mars crew digging out the sunken MSAM, we check up with the gang -- Danny seems to be clean, working with Louisa on the repairs, but he never told Ed the complete truth about Karen. As we hear the 1996 song “How Bizarre” we also spot Ed walking with a limp and Kelly now visibly pregnant -- there’s even a sweet scene where they listen to the baby’s heartbeat and Ed melts.
But back on Earth the news of Kelly’s baby is amusingly shown with a host of news programs of all stripes reporting on her and the team’s efforts to make it back home. The first potential catastrophe is when the Republican congressman shows up to demand the NASA oversight bill -- when Ellen pushes back, he threatens blackmail about arresting Larry and impeaching Ellen for obstruction of justice (shades of the whole Clinton scandal of course).
When the two listen back at their recorded conversation, it’s even more incriminating than they remember. Larry offers to throw himself on his own sword to make up for getting them into the mess in the first place, but we can see that Ellen is conflicted. Before the end of the episode and the press conference, Ellen looks at pictures of Presidents on her wall -- Lincoln, Washington, and Nixon (an unusual trio to say the least) -- but also photos of her family.
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So we anticipate something happening, if I wasn’t sure about it -- Ellen really shouldn’t be punished here, not really. She interrupts the press conference to come out to the country and issue an executive order allowing gay people to serve in the military openly, a real shockwave -- we see Margo smiling, the Republican blackmailer surprised, and Pam crying. On Mars when they hear the news, everyone congratulates Will on the news -- and they are potentially halted by Rolan’s request to say something.
But he only tells Will he’s a brave man and he’s honored to be his friend -- now maybe we’re all crying. It’s hard to imagine that things are simply going to go easily for Ellen after this though. Otherwise on Earth, Aleida shows Bill her evidence against Margo, and he insists on going to the FBI even though Aleida is adamantly against it -- she hates them after all for what they did to her family.
It only gets worse from there, as Bill goes behind her back and tells someone from the FBI anyway (understandably to some extent, Margo really is a spy like he said), but he doesn’t quite understand the depth of the pain Aleida is dealing with, even he seems to understand why she says he’s dead to her. Back home it’s even more painful, as her father comes by to see her ripping down her evidence wall but calls her by her mother’s name -- a very sad note.
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At Helios, things are going badly for the bottom line, and the board pushes back on Dev’s desire to have a permanent Mars colony -- Karen offers a potential lifeline to sell the ship to NASA. This added to Dev’s continued refusal leads Karen to being given the CEO role -- quite a big change for her from the second episode where Dev basically saved her. A complicated place for her, but maybe the only one coming out of the episode in a better place than it started, other than Will.
But the life threatening fun is truly at play back on Mars as the team decides to track down a North Korean probe to find necessary parts to let them back into space. Suddenly Danielle and Kuznetsov must partner to drive to the probe, by process of elimination, only they can go -- the two commanders alone at last. It’s the sort of thing I would’ve liked to see an hour of them together, but I suppose we can’t have everything.
While this is going on, the team also gets back the accident report which blames Nick, much to Danny’s chagrin who maybe wanted to get blamed himself -- his guilt and anger are mixing up again unfortunately. The episode ends with two pretty ridiculous cliffhangers -- Kelly collapses on the floor and the team is scrambling to help her. And at the probe, Dani and Kuznetsov discover that the probe is actually occupied by a North Korean astronaut, who is armed and pointing a gun at them -- it’s that tease from the start of the season for the North Koreans coming back again.
Overall it was a packed, emotional episode that certainly sets up a finale to remember. It’s been a great season so far, I only hope that they can pay it all off in the finale as per usual -- but they’ve had a solid track record until now.