“Major Tyler has served his country with honor and distinction but his actions violate current Department of Defense guidelines and he’ll be discharged from the Army upon his return.”—President Ellen Wilson
For years, the dream of humanity has been to continue our exploration of the cosmos. A big part of that means an expedition to Mars. While that remains a dream in our here and now, it’s the reality for the alternate timeline presented in For All Mankind, that dream is a reality. Getting there, it turns out, might have been the easy part. In this sixth installment of the third season, it’s about trying to survive on Mars and trying to live as our authentic selves. Neither proves easy in “New Eden.”
As the episode begins, Ed (Joel Kinnaman) and his crew have landed on Mars as well, but neither group is having an easy time of it. With Helios, the tension between Danny (Casey W. Johnson) and Ed is reaching a boiling point. When Danny watches Ed’s messages and learns he was the reason Ed hesitated and cost them the chance to land on Mars first, it fuels his anger.
Danny gets injured and in the aftermath blows up at Ed. He also starts taking pain pills, creating an unsettling mix of drug use and rage. When he sees a final communication from Ed, one that tells Karen (Shantel VanSanten) that he thinks Poole (Krys Marshall) was right, and Danny is cut out for space travel, it appears to be a final straw.
Danny is a ball of rage and issues. Substance abuse has been part of that checkered past and now, millions of miles from home, it’s clear we’re approaching a breaking point. It seems as though only one will make it back home.
An Uneasy Partnership
Things aren’t better for the Russian and American teams, either on Mars or on land. At NASA, Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) is working a back-channel deal to save Sergei (Piotr Adamczyk) and his family. On the Red Planet, both the American and Russian teams claim victory for the world, but tensions are high in their shared habitat, which is running low on rations, space and water since it wasn’t designed for this many.
The American ship landed on Mars first but suffered damage. All that means everyone will be going home aboard the Helios vessel. But the first task is to set up bases, which means finding water. The problem is, there isn’t any water to be found. But when the Russians think they’ve found it, they cut a deal with Helios to share the find. All that will leave NASA—and the American crew that saved them—out in the cold.
Kelly (Cynthy Wu) continues her romance with Alexei (Pawel Szajda), but keeps it from Ed. When he arrives with provisions to lighten the mood of the combined American and Russian crew, Alexei plays it to cool, failing to make a good impression. And when Sergei slips the news to Margo that the Russians found water and are holding out, and it makes its way back to Poole on Mars, relationships further fracture.
Alone in space, these teams need each other but the question is whether they can learn to work together. However, that was only a piece of the conflicts surrounding this week’s events.
A Big Admission
A part of the Mars experience is sharing with the world. For Major Will Tyler (Robert Bailey, Jr.) that means admitting to the world he’s gay. The announcement, from an active member of the Army that is one of the first on Mars, sends shockwaves through the world of 1994. And that puts plenty of pressure on President Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour).
For Will, things aren’t smooth in space. He receives plenty of flack from the crew and even Poole, who is trying to do something historic and sees the attention shifting. But on Earth, it sets off a firestorm. Ellen faces pressure from both sides to act, which naturally leads to plenty of introspection. Ellen—and her husband Larry (Nate Corddry)—are hiding their own secret. A marriage of convenience that helped them hide their true selves in a world that wasn’t ready so they could achieve their dreams.
Now, as President of the United States, Ellen is living a painful lie. Watching Will share his truth on the TV, Ellen weeps. We’ve seen her, at times, wish to be her authentic self, as Will is doing. Instead, in an act of political compromise, she and Larry craft their equivalent of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that was a part of our own past. And that means, when Will returns from Mars, instead of being welcomed as a hero, he’ll be discharged from the Army… at least that’s how it appears.
The frustration at Wilson’s legislation has people circling and it seems like the secret she and Larry harbor is coming closer and closer to being revealed. But all that is for another installment. With four episodes left, there’s plenty of tension and only a small amount of time before it’s released.
Episode MVP: Will Tyler. It takes courage to share your truth, and Will does that despite what it means.
Episode Grade: B+. This wasn’t an action-packed episode, but the emotion and tension of the episode made it incredibly gripping.
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.