“You’ve gotta keep your eye on the horizon…”—Molly Cobb
It’s not easy to be a Stevens. It wasn’t for Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Tracy (Sarah Jones), though they got their heroic ending in the Season 2 finale. As we’ve launched forward into the 1990s, it isn’t easy for their sons, Danny (Casey W. Johnson) and Jimmy (David Chandler). Both have struggled with rage and grief, and both have made catastrophic decisions they can’t walk back.
This final episode of the season brought those decisions—as well as the decisions made by Margo (Wrenn Schmidt)—home to roost. They can’t all make it forward, and this finale, like the finales before, saw that not everyone will make it home.
On Mars, everyone is rallying around Kelly (Cynthy Wu). She is near to giving birth and HAS to get off the planet. But there continue to be issues with the craft meant to carry them. Of course, one of those hiccups is getting the right part. That means retrieving it from a nearby North Korean probe. Except, as Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) and Commander Kuznetsov (Lev Gorn) learned, it wasn’t a probe.
As the episode begins, we see the story of the North Korean astronaut (C.S. Lee) who was actually the first to land on Mars. His co-pilot died, so for months he toiled alone, unable to contact home. He is weary of Poole and Kuznetsov, believing they mean to assault his base. They subdue him and bring him back to the Helios base, where we learn Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) actually speaks Korean.
With the card in place, the only challenge is not having enough fuel to break the atmosphere or carry everyone up to Phoenix for the ride home. To a man, the crew on Mars agrees to stay and await a second mission to bring them home—meaning years trapped on the surface of Mars—while the combined NASA and Helios teams on the ground work on a creative solution to bridge the gap and get Kelly all the way.
The problem is, Aleida (Coral Pena) can’t focus. She is consumed with thoughts of Margo’s fate. Margo, meanwhile, was warned by the Russians that she’s under investigation. They offer her a way out—if she’s willing to flee. Margo gets the news that Sergei (Piotr Adamcyzk) has been rescued by America and will be brought, with his family, to live in the states permanently. It’s ironic, given Margo’s situation, and means they will once again be close but not close enough to get their happy ending.
Margo knows that her fate is weighing on her protégé. She pulls Aleida aside and assures her it’s OK, no matter what. Aleida is able to then focus and comes up with a crazy, albeit possible, plan to get Kelly all the way there. It’s a risky mission, which Ed will pilot. He asks for a little guidance, which opens the door for Molly Cobb’s (Sonya Walger) return to NASA.
A Painful Admission
As Ed prepares for what looks like a potential suicide mission, Danny begs to be the one to go. Ed is unwilling. He thinks Danny is afraid for him, but Ed knows he must do this as a father. Instead, Danny admits that he needs this to atone. He finally admits his role in the drilling accident, something that enrages Ed. He tells Danny he can’t find absolution in volunteering for this mission. That when all is over, and Kelly is safe, there will be a reckoning.
It’s the ending that’s been coming for Danny for most of the season. Though his admission is greeted with anger, he feels a sense of freedom. Still, his punishment is coming.
Helios at a Crossroads
Meanwhile, back on Earth Helios is crumbling. Dev (Edi Gathegi), like Icarus, soared too close to the son. His company is reeling and while he wants to push forward, the board does not. They’ve lost faith. Karen (Shantel VanSanten) comes up with a plan to sell Phoenix to NASA, cutting their losses to regroup. Dev passionately disagrees, but the board sides with Karen. Dev is out at Helios and Karen is set to be the new CEO. Dev vows to win his company back, his relationship with Karen fractured.
Karen pushes on to NASA, seeking to observe as Ed tries to get their daughter to safety. There she crosses paths with Jimmy. Ostensibly he’s at NASA because of Danny, but really he’s there because of his bad decisions and the people he threw in with. Jimmy realizes too late that he’s made a mistake. But one last time, Karen comes to his rescue.
Inside, Margo makes her final mission speech. After years of dedicating herself to the space program, she knows her time is at an end. She retires to her office, handing the reigns to Aleida and accepting her fate.
Meanwhile, Ed’s mission launches. Kelly pushes toward Phoenix and makes it to safety. Ed, meanwhile, hurtles back toward the Martian surface. As his craft slams into the group, his fate seems tenuous.
On Earth, Karen finds the bomb that Jimmy’s friends placed. She gets Jimmy out and goes to sound the alarm when it goes off. A wall of sound and flame rips through the NASA headquarters. Karen is buried in the rubble. Mission control is destroyed. Margo sets about helping get people out—her lack of sight finally coming in handy as she guides people to freedom through the smoke. Aleida, meanwhile, makes her way to Margo’s office to find that it’s been blown away, and Margo is gone.
On Mars, Poole finds Ed alive. As he returns to the Helios base, he gets the news of the bombing on Earth—that Karen is gone. Karen never stopped giving of herself to those in need. As Jimmy returns to the bombing site, he finds Karen among the rubble. He holds her hand as she slips away, realizing he’s helped kill all these people.
As the episode ends, Ed and Danielle place Danny in exile on Mars. His actions have made him a liability. He takes the place of the North Korean astronaut, living alone with plenty of time for reflection.
Finally, we make our way to 2003—where our next season will pick up. We’re left with one last image, and one last surprise—a very much alive Margo living in the Soviet Union.
Episode MVP: Molly Cobb. Molly was set adrift in the season premier but she ends a hero. And in that heroism, the closing moments we learn NASA headquarters will be named in her honor. It’s a fitting end for one of the grittiest characters.
Episode Grade: A-. It’s a tough and emotional hour, but we’d expect nothing less.
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.