“Forgiveness is a long, hard road Danny, but at the end there is grace.”—Ed Baldwin
When last we left, things weren’t going well. The Russian ship failed and the American ship had to come to the rescue. In the process, lives were lost on both sides. That didn’t sit well with Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), who was effectively sidelined by Dev (Edi Gathegi). Dev took control of Phoenix, and as we open, Ed is in the process of taking back control. But more on that in a minute.
First, it seemed when the American team committed to getting the Russians, it was a one-way ticket back home. But upon further review, it seems the American and Soviet technology is compatible. So, with an infusion of fuel—and finding a new way to work together, the two combined crews can continue on to Mars. Some take to it a little better than others.
Love in a Hopeless Place
Last week Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) got a transmission from the Russian team that their mission was in trouble. This week, she meets the man responsible for that message—Alexi Poletov (Pawel Szajda). They have a chemistry and spark with goes back-and-forth throughout the episode. While some struggle to find a way to get along, Kelly and Poletov seem to have found a connection. Before the hour is up, sparks fly. Will this play a role in the hard times to come? It seems likely.
While Kelly is finding love, Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) is finding trouble.
A Conspiracy on the Brink
The Russians come to NASA. Since it’s now a joint mission, they are sharing the duties of running it. This comes with more pressure on Margo to, again, betray her country. This time she pushes back. She wants Sergei (Piotr Adamczyk), and she wants him in person. It takes some pressure, but she gets what she wants. She also learns Sergei disappeared because he was imprisoned for his work with Margo. He fears for his family, and Margo now has to figure out how to save them all. But it’s far from her only problem.
Margo trained Aleida (Coral Pena) because she’s smart and tenacious. Now, that tenacity is coming back to bite her. Aleida is wise to the fact the Russians have taken her engine design—or at least an older copy of it—and used it in their own craft. She is pushing Margo to blow the whistle, not realizing that for her mentor that will come with a stiff price to pay. Margo is able to hold her at bay for now, but a reckoning is coming. That will likely mean the end of Margo’s career at NASA and, possibly, a blow for diplomatic relations. I suspect we’ll see that come to a head before the season is over.
Speaking of a reckoning…
Danny (Casey W. Johnson) is a ticking time bomb. We’ve seen it churning all season and as we near Mars, it’s becoming dangerous. As a result of Ed standing up to Dev, Karen (Shantel VanSanten) quits her job at Helios. She also sends Ed messages as they’ve once again grown close. Danny spots one of those and, in a pang of jealousy, finds a way to break in and watch the messages. He’s obsessed, dangerously so. It’s quite possible Danny is a psychopath nearing his breaking point.
All the while, Ed views him as something of a son. As they play cards, Danny shrewdly gains insight, while Ed is sharing his life’s wisdom. He wants to reach Mars with Danny as a way to honor his friend, Gordo, and is son, Shane. Both are gone. He wants to atone for mistakes made in the past, but he doesn’t know if he can.
Phoenix makes it to Mars first, but the conditions aren’t right to land. The delay allows the American and Soviet team to catch up, so Ed faces a choice. With Danny’s encouragement, he decides to chance a landing. As he’s close to the ground, with the conditions going sideways, Ed is reminded of his friend. He’s reminded that he can’t risk killing his friend’s son for his own pride. Ed aborts, unknowingly furthering the rift between him and Danny.
Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) does not. The American ship lands, and the joint crew becomes the first on the surface of Mars.
Aboard Phoenix Ed is shaken, and Danny is enraged. Meanwhile back home, Dev is sullen. His gambit—and his vision—have been shaken.
And yet, Karen celebrates as her daughter, Kelly, is among the first to land on the Red Planet. We’re on Mars, but there’s still plenty of work left to do as For All Mankind heads toward the second half of its season.
Episode MVP: Ed Baldwin. Ed didn’t win the race and didn’t do anything incredible, but in an episode that was about moving the ball forward and setting the table, his wisdom and grace stood out. Whether Danny could hear it or not, Ed offered the kind of sage wisdom that comes with experience.
Episode Grade: B. This wasn’t the most action-packed episode but I’d wager when we look back we’ll see this one paved the way for all that’s to come.
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.