AppleTV+ For all mankind is a show that reminds me of what I loved so much about television in the first place. It perfectly balances sci-fi and period drama, understated storytelling and pulpy soap opera beats. I screamed watching For all mankind. I howled with laughter. I jumped up from my chair and paced around the room. For all mankind is one of the few shows on TV that consistently surprises me with both its spectacular sets and its determination to never leave a plot behind.
So it was a relief, a treat and a delight to me when the first eight episodes of For all mankind Season 3 was level with the show’s incandescent second season. For all mankindThe third season of pushes its ensemble cast into a 1990s version where humanity is hurtling to Mars and everyone is still dealing with their same old bullshit. I loved watching (almost) every second of it.
Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, For all mankind imagine how the world would have changed if the USSR had beaten the US to the Moon in the 1960s. This “sliding door” scenario ironically reinforces America’s resolve to explore the stars. More money is funneled to NASA, and when the USSR sends a female cosmonaut to the Moon, President Nixon asks the United States to form its own “Moon Maiden”. Four fearless women survive the training and head for the skies. In the 1980s we have an elaborate base on the lunar surface called Jamestown and there are turf wars with the USSR.
For all mankind Season 3 opens in the early 90s. The new objective? To get to Mars first. For Americans, Mars is seen as a remake of what they groped with the Moon. The Soviets, likewise, want to maintain their legacy as the first. However, joining this battle is a brilliant CEO named Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi). His private company, Helios, run like a Silicon Valley start-up and riding on epic capital, enters the race for Martian supremacy.
What’s so great about For all mankind that’s how it never skimps on a gorgeous sci-fi spectacle or gnarly human drama. The lavish sets showing disasters in space only hit so hard because of the time the writers invested in the show‘s characters. We saw Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) evolve from an ambitious young astronaut to a living legend struggling with his own slow descent into old age. Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) started out as a lowly “computer” on the NASA campus to become a bona fide leader in space exploration. Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten) is no longer the astronaut’s faithful wife, but a mogul; she is more confident and in control than ever. And Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) has made the journey from the first lady authorized to do the math in Mission Control to the woman in charge of all of NASA.
Following these characters over the decades not only gives us the opportunity to see how they all grew, but how they stayed the same.
For All Mankind Season 3 delivers more of what made its excellent Season 2 so thrilling. There are life or death situations where only a combination of bravery and math can save the day. The characters come to physical and verbal blows over long-held secrets. There are moments of ecstatic reunions and even a painfully sweet new romance. If there is a place, however, where For all mankind Season 3 might frustrate viewers, it’s the resurrection of one of the show’s most contested storylines. By the end of Episode 8, however, I could see where the writers were going with this story and its conflicted lead actor. Having not screened the final two episodes of the season, I have to hope the series sticks to the proverbial landing.
Globally, For all mankind is just a very good TV. Its brilliant VFX will make your jaw drop, but its brilliant cast of characters will also make your heart break. Above all, the ingenuity of the series is something impressive to behold. Science fiction and fantasy have recently been overtaken by superheroes, reboots and franchises. For all mankind, on the other hand, has the real goods to cure any viewer’s gender fatigue.
For all mankind Season 3 should be the season that hooks everyone.
For all mankind Season 3 will premiere on Apple TV+ on June 10.