FOR ALL MANKIND (2023)
Season 4 [Premiere]
Aired On: Apple TV+.
Release Date: 11/10/23
"In an alternative version of 1969, the Soviet Union beats the United States to the Moon, and the space race continues on for decades with still grander challenges and goals."
The alternate history - but man, don’t you wish this would have happened - of Apple TV+’s For All Mankind is rife with ups-and-downs. Apt for a show about rockets. There are victories in the space race, defeat on the homestead, and the binding politics of it all. While season three focused entirely too much on the soap-operatic heartbreak at home stories, the season four premiere takes a giant, zero-g leap right back into that final frontier. NASA now has a fully established base on Mars as part of a co-op with the still-functioning (but for how much longer?) Soviet Union. While life on the red planet has turned towards the pedestrian, there is no need to page Mark Watney just yet as the politics at home will no doubt reach out 234 million miles into space.
Season 4 opens in 2003. John Lennon is alive and rockin. Al Gore is president. The Soviet Union is still ruled by Gorbachev. And there was not a devastating attack on September 11; the terrorist bombing capping the season 3 finale served as a temporary proxy. Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) remains top dog on Mars, even though he is in his seventies and his body - featuring some incredible aging makeup - no longer has that Saturn V strength. Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) is still with NASA dealing with her own form of PTSD. Ed’s daughter, Kelly (Cynthy Wu), is with a tech start-up. And the questionably-traitorous Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) sits in personal exile back in the USSR.
The premiere kicks in, as these premieres inevitably do, with tragedy punching the cast. This time with an accident involving NASA’s nascent asteroid mining program. The premiere properly balances that dire action with the space-born drama, which is an element this program thrives on. It is when the stories ground into ordinary familial strife, that the load becomes weighty - and boring.
The new season introduces Toby Kebbel (Apple TV+’s Servant) as family man Miles. With his earthbound adventures stagnant in un- and under-employment, Miles seeks a new destiny in the stars. One that will, in a series of art imitating life, soon deal with workers’ benefits. Also joining is Daniel Stern (Home Alone) as NASA’s likable-in-a-middle-management-way Director Hobson.
For All Mankind has consistently skimmed that envelope of science-fiction and science-fact. The clever what-ifs and what-could-have-beens are believable, if not, sadly, attainable. Through it all, series creators Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert, and Ronald D. Moore have made their fantasy incredibly real. With both cutting-edge special f/x and a high-performing cast, For All Mankind has continually proven that it has the right stuff.