Stories of intergalactic travel and astronauts have often captured the imaginations of many over the years, and lately, the genre has exploded with a variety of iterations. While some stories explore themes of isolation, escaping a decaying world, and/or characters going in search of something bigger and better, none have attempted to do what For All Mankind does. The Apple TV+ original carves out a completely unique path, and the end result creates an incredibly engaging and stunning show.
For All Mankind is an alternative space race show which sees the Russians beating the Americans to become the first of the human race to land on the moon. This one occurrence sends this version of reality spiraling off course becoming a catalyst for other major changes during the period the show is primarily set, the sixties, and seventies.
Now in Season 2, the two countries both have a major permanent presence on the moon’s surface, boasting crews of roughly 15-20 people each. Tensions are escalating back on earth, however, resulting in the militarization of the astronauts as the effects of the Cold War expand into space and onto the lunar surface.
While the first season of the show took some completely ambitious steps, I was floored in the showrunners ability to advance the plot even further. Without a shadow of a doubt, season 2 is a huge step up in terms of plot, character development, and one of the best season finales I’ve seen this year.
The show wastes no time at all at introducing the new era of space travel, by highlighting the massive expansion of the Jamestown base. Astronauts from all over the globe are now present amongst the American crew, all led by Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour), the hero from season 1. We’ve barely adjusted to the new settings when the crew has to deal with a rapidly moving solar flare causing them to act. This one scene sets the tone for the rest of the season as episode by episode tensions skyrocket between the US, and the Russians.
The show doesn’t just rely on creatively imagined plot points and character drama, it also borrows from real-life situations in history and interweaves them to its main plot. These pieces of historical occurrences not only serve to elevate the show’s legitimacy, but also demonstrates that the show’s developers (Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, Ben Nedivi, and Seth Gordon) are carefully considering how those actual events would affect this reality.
All of the standout characters from the first season have returned, but as time so often does, they have all moved on, or at least attempted to. Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) is now running the astronaut program, while Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Tracy (Sarah Jones) Stevens have parted ways after being unable to reconcile their differences. The courageous Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger), Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall), and Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) all also return, with each of them getting prominent moments in the show that serves to push forward the large plot of the series.
That’s where this show excels, the cast, and the characters they play are given more than ample room to develop each having their own important part to play. I’d love to only highlight a few but the fact is it’s incredibly difficult to note one or two as there are so many.
Dorman put in an incredibly strong performance for the season, as he continues to battle with PTSD from the effects of an extended isolated period in the original Jamestown base. Honestly, his redemption arc, and acting, was so heartwarming to witness. Superb.
Sadly, there was one character I felt extremely let down by in the treatment of the choices she made this season. Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten) is now the proud owner of the Outpost, giving her agency outside of being the dutiful astronaut’s wife. This point was explored so well during season one, with the aid of Wayne Cobb (Lenny Jacobson), and has seemingly all been undone. During the latter part of this season, and without venturing into spoiler territory, Karen makes a choice that left me feeling horribly uncomfortable. While I understand the choice of the act itself, my issue lays with whom. Watch the show and let me know your thoughts on this issue.
This point was a small bump in the road for an otherwise incredible season.
Overall, For All Mankind Season 2 is unbelievably gripping, and I urge more people to watch this series. This show has tension for days, effects to compete with any other sci-fi story, and an abundance of well-written character drama. Simply put, if you’re not watching For All Mankind, you’re missing out!
For All Mankind Season 2
- Rating - 8/108/10
Overall, For All Mankind season 2 is unbelievably gripping, and I urge more people to watch this series. This show has tension for days, effects to compete with any other sci-fi story, and an abundance of well written character drama. Simply put, if you’re not watching For All Mankind, you’re missing out!