“You always wanted to be first at something dad, now maybe you’ll be the first to kill life on another planet.”—Kelly Baldwin
We all have things we hold tightly and sometimes we build these things up on the wrong kind of foundation. It becomes a house of cards, waiting to cave in on itself. As we’ve moved through the third season of For All Mankind, we’ve seen this struggle in the characters on the series. They’re all holding on to things too tightly, building a house of cards in their lives that is teetering on the brink of collapse. But what will go with them when they do collapse? We begin to see the foundations slipping away in this week’s episode, and we’re heading toward a collapse of epic proportions.
The episode ends with one such collapse on the Red Planet. But before we get to that, let’s look at the other situations teetering on the brink.
Secrets and Lies
Both Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) and Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) are holding on to secrets that have come to define their lives. And both ties back to love, and their desperate attempt to have love. For Margo, it’s the love of Sergei (Piotr Adamczyk). It led her to betray her country and now to fight so hard to free Sergei before it’s too late.
As the hour opens, Margo learns the Russians no longer need NASA after their partnership with Helios, so Sergei is headed back. She knows this means prison and, likely, Sergei’s end. Margo is stricken. Her plans have failed, and worse yet she’s sacrificed all she believes in for nothing.
Aleida (Coral Pena) is like a dog with a bone. She wants to find the traitor, and when her estranged husband (Jorge Diaz) suggests it could be someone above her, she’s forced to face a frightening proposition. Aleida goes to Margo, thinking it could be a secretary. When Margo not only shuts her down but attacks her, Aleida knows the truth. Her mentor is the one to blame, and now she’ll be faced with her own tough decision.
For Ellen, it’s the same struggle of identity. She is a gay woman who’s suppressed her true identity, costing her love along the way. Now, she’s President of the United States but it doesn’t bring fulfillment. When Larry (Nate Corddry), facing his own potential outing, says they’ve all sacrificed to create the perfect life to sell America, it doesn’t sit right with Ellen.
We end the episode with her making an off-the-books trip to see Pam (Megan Leathers). Could Ellen be on the bring of deciding that happiness is worth more than getting ahead in her career?
The Stevens Boys
For Danny (Casey W. Johnson) and Jimmy (David Chandler) the search for love has led them to all the wrong places. Jimmy is hanging out with the wrong crowd, and when Sunny (Taylor Dearden) asks him to help her steal a NASA ID, he goes along. Jimmy has misgivings. He misses his mother and begins to realize that grief turned to rage is leading him down the wrong path. But it seems to be too late, and it’s clear this won’t end well.
Still, Jimmy is in far better shape than Danny, whose deadly cocktail of rage, jealousy and narcotics has him on the razor’s edge. Worse yet, he’s in space, where the consequences are real and immediate. The Helios Team and Russians are on the cusp of drilling for water, but Danny isn’t ready.
Kelly (Cynthy Wu) urges her father not to drill yet, either. She’s concerned they don’t yet know enough about the ecosystem on the planet. She tells her dad he’ll likely be the first to take life on Mars, which proves to be fitting foreshadowing, but possibly misplaced.
Ed and Danny have it out but Danny can’t stop with the pills. We began the season with Danny stepping up in a crucial moment, saving lives. This week, drugged out of his mind, he falters. Ed pays the price initially as the drill explodes and punctures his suit. By the end, the mountain is imploding and it looks as if much of the Helios and Russian team are caught in the crossfire.
But we won’t know the full extent of the damage—or if Alexei (Pawel Szajda) is OK—until next week. It’s going to be a tense seven days.
Episode MVP: Aleida. It’s not easy to doggedly pursue truth and it’s not easy to go against a mentor. She does both here, despite those challenges.
Episode Grade: B. It’s a solid and tense hour, one that foreshadows more tense moments 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.