For All Mankind Recap: Polaris

“NASA may be changing Margo but space remains an unrelenting bitch.”—Molly Cobb

When Apple TV+ debuted in November 2019 much of the focus was on The Morning Show, which featured a high-profile cast and concept. But in among those initial releases was the drama For All Mankind, which offered an alternate take on the space race. It begins in the 1960s but instead of America landing on the moon first, it’s Russia. Since it’s debut, For All Mankind has been the best of the Apple TV+ originals. Its second season, delayed due to the pandemic, featured the best hour of television in 2021 in the final, “The Grey.” It was a beautiful and emotional climax to a stunning season.

Now, For All Mankind is back for its third season, jumping ahead to 1995 and focusing on Mars. Each week I’ll be here to recap the action as one of the best series on television is back for a brand-new season.

When last we left off, the battle for the moon was raging between Soviet Union and the United States, quelled by the bold move from Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and the sacrifice of Tracy (Sarah Jones) and Gordo Stevens (Michael Dornan). It was 1983 and Cold War tensions, while high, seemed to be moving in a new direction.

In the opening minutes, we get a quick recap of world event pushing us to 1995, where season three takes place. In it we learn the story of Tracy and Gordo has been turned into a romance film starring Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, we see who the new President is, we see that the actions of Ed helped spur a thawing in the Cold War, while the Soviet Union continues aggressive expansion. In addition, Ellen (Jodi Balfour) is a senator who is now running for President, presumably still harboring a big secret.

Meanwhile Karen (Shantel VanSanten) has teamed with Sam (Jeff Hephner) to make her vision of bringing space to the masses a reality. Polaris is the first hotel in Space, making Karen famous worldwide. And while she and Ed are still friendly, their marriage has ended.

At NASA, Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) is running the show and Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger) is feisty as ever, still running astronaut assignments. The United States is taking a manned mission to Mars in 1996, but they need a mission commander. Margo is pressing for Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall), but Molly still isn’t sure. She’s still leaning toward Ed.

The choice of mission commander is far from their only issue.

The New Space Race

As the United States prepares to head to Mars, testing of a new space engine begins on the Moon. It’s not going well. The engine has flamed out and Aleida (Coral Pena) is still struggling to come up with ideas. She’s also still close to Margo who decides Aleida needs to achieve her lifelong dream of going to the moon to personally oversee the work on the engine. A lot is riding on the Mars mission.

Especially after the Soviet Union announces its own mission to Mars. They are also aiming for 1996, creating a brand-new space race. This time Margo and the United States are determined to win. The problem is Margo is still working with Sergei (Piotr Adamcyzk), unaware he’s trying to turn her for information. That seems like a problem—but a problem for another day.

Polaris

While Molly and Margo are weighing the pros and cons on Earth, Ed and Danielle, as well as their families, are headed to Polaris. They’re at this hotel in Space for a wedding, as Tracy and Gordo’s son—Danny (Casey Johnson) is getting married. Karen is hosting the first wedding in space, despite her complicated past with Danny and some of the guests, including Ed.

The ceremony goes well but the reception has its ups and downs. Danny’s brother, Jimmy (David Chandler) is still struggling with the loss of his parents and their depiction on screen, leading to a difficult wedding toast. But Danny and his new bride, Amber (Madeline Bertani), get a warm recorded message from Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu), who is stationed in the Antarctic. But things take a rough turn when a piece of debris from a failed North Korean space launch flies into Polaris, causing a malfunction.

The gravity is rising to a dangerous level, forcing an evacuation. As things unravel, Ed suffers a broken leg trying to help his date, Yvonne (Ashley Jones), hampering his efforts to get out. It’s also likely Ed’s injury will impact the looming command decision. Meanwhile the elevator to the escape shuttles is destroyed, taking Sam with it. Just when it looks bleakest, Danny steps up.

Danny climbs the ladder, grabs a suit and heads out to disable the thruster that’s causing Polaris to spin out of control. He makes it just in time and the rest of the guests are saved—for now.

The beauty of For All Mankind is the way it’s written, showing both a profound love for space exploration and the real dangers of space. This episode captured both beautifully and was an incredible ride. The show is back, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Episode MVP: It has to be Danny, who’s now an accomplished NASA pilot. On his wedding day he ventures out on a dangerous mission and ends up saving the day. He’s setting up to follow in his parent’s footsteps.

Episode Grade: A. This episode had everything you’re hoping to see. Great start to season three!

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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