Mike Yarish/Apple TV+
No current television series attempts to cover as much ground, literally or figuratively, as For all humanity. The fourth season of the Apple TV+ series – set in an alternate version of history where the Soviets beat America to the moon, sparking a never-ending space race – splits its time between Houston, Moscow and Mars. It is, at various times, a sci-fi epic, a political cauldron, a spy thriller, and a workplace drama where one of the branches is on the hostile surface of another planet.
Throughout the series, characters have questioned whether the risk to the lives of people traveling in space is worth the potential scientific, political, and economic rewards of each trip. The simple ambition of F.A.M. has its own risk-reward calculation. When the series executes at its highest level — for example, when a trio of interconnected NASA missions averted nuclear armageddon on Earth and the Moon in the incredible second season finale — it can seem as captivating as any series of recent vintage. But there are also times when F.A.M. tries to do so many things at once that something inevitably goes wrong with a cascading effect, like how a malfunction in a minor part of a spaceship can derail an entire mission. The third season did a lot of great work, but the various errors were so bad – particularly a major subplot involving Danny Stevens, a dangerously bitter second-generation astronaut – that it was hard to notice anything else.
At the start of this season, veteran astronaut Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) takes over as commander of Happy Valley, the Martian base operated jointly by the US, Soviet and North Korean governments, along with the technology company Helios. Addressing her new troops, she said: “We must learn the lessons of our past, while keeping our eyes fixed on what lies ahead. »
The new episodes do their best to follow Dani’s advice. The creative team has largely internalized the lessons of season three. The types of characters and subplots that didn’t click before have been downplayed or outright removed, and the series leans more on its greatest strengths. Through the first seven episodes , it’s more coherent and satisfying than season three. But when you try to do as many things simultaneously asF.A.M.
not everything will work.
Because each season tends to be at its best in concluding chapters that tie up different threads, it’s difficult to make a full assessment without reviewing the final three episodes. But the season three finale didn’t cure all of that year’s ills.
The story picks up in 2003
, nearly a decade after we last saw Dani, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and the other survivors of the first manned missions to Mars. Happy Valley has grown from a glorified trailer park to a sprawling resort with hundreds of employees. The alliance between the three nations that rule the place, as well as between them and Helios, remains fragile. But space has become big business for everyone, especially when an asteroid loaded with valuable minerals comes close enough to Mars that Ed can lead a mission to capture it for orbital mining.
If you grew up in this particular era of music, this season’s soundtrack will be for you, with choice tracks from The Strokes, Gorillaz, The New Pornographers and DMX, among others.
Space as the new frontier of capitalism is the most important theme of the season. New to the cast is Toby Kebbell as Miles, a former oil rig driller so desperate for money that he signs up for a two-year stint on Mars. He quickly discovers that life on another world is much less glamorous – and lucrative – for Helios’ blue-collar workers than it is for a famous astronaut like Dani. Over time, he becomes embroiled in black market transactions, attempts to unionize the Martian workforce, and other conflicts in which Dani finds himself acting more like a middle manager than a Explorer. Meanwhile, NASA is now led by former Chrysler CEO Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern), who won’t keep quiet about his first glimpse of the assembly line in Detroit, nor his relationship with the UAW.
Related Toby Kebbell as Miles in “For All Mankind”.There are many other things happening on both planets. Season three attempted to largely ignore Ed’s advanced age. Here it’s part of the text, because everyone is in disbelief that this guy who flew combat missions in Korea 50 years earlier
still pilots a spaceship. Ed’s refusal to let go of his glory days puts him in conflict with Dani, with his astronaut daughter Kelly (Cynthy Wu) and almost everyone else. Kinnaman is most interesting in this role when Ed’s flaws are exposed, which is almost all the time now.
The hair and makeup team is definitely trying harder to age the remaining characters from Season 1, unlike Shantel VanSanten who wore a silver wig last year and otherwise still looked like a woman in her 30s. Kinnaman doesn’t completely transform into the septuagenarian Ed, but there’s enough effort there that you’ll accept it.Meanwhile, we spend a lot of time in Russia, where former NASA boss Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) has been living in secret since the KGB faked her death to hide the fact that she had provided them with classified information. (Even if she was coerced, it’s still a betrayal.) Once upon a time, Schmidt played Philip and Elizabeth Jennings’ handler in
, and this subplot feels very much like an extended version of that series’ story about Philip’s second wife, Martha, who finds herself in a similar Russian exile. Still grieving what she believes to be Margo’s death, as well as numerous real-life disappearances when domestic terrorists detonated a bomb at NASA headquarters, flight controller Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) suffers from PTSD and ends up asking Helios’ fallen boss, Dev, for help. Ayesa (Edi Gathegi).
With so much going on, cuts had to be made. After an appearance in the season premiere, Jodi Balfour is no longer on the show as astronaut-turned-POTUS Ellen Waverly. On the one hand, it is the loss of good character. On the other hand, last season’s arc about Ellen coming out of the closet while serving in the Oval Office seemed a bit disconnected from the rest of the series. Essentially, trading this portion of screen time for the subplot about Miles and his colleagues puts the focus back on the complications of space, which is the sweet spot of the series.
Unfortunately, Toby Kebbell is largely absent in this key new role, just as he was as the leading man in the Apple film.
Servant . He’s not charismatic enough to be the star of what is essentially a show within a show. The ideas presented with the Helios gang are interesting enough to largely make up for this, but not entirely. Wrenn Schmidt as Margo in “For All Mankind”. Still, Miles is a vast improvement over Danny, where the show’s characters and the people writing them seemed unaware of how terrible he was for too long. Danny is not present at the start of season four, and the few references to him are both vague and worrying, as if everyone (again, on-screen and off) would really rather never again talk about him.While it can sometimes seem both implausible and somewhat incestuous that so many key players in the Apollo program are still important decades later, the remaining players are pretty formidable. Marshall and Kinnaman are sensational whenever Dani and Ed come into direct conflict, while Schmidt more than ably carries the new Russian section of the series.
Tendency And more than anything else, For all humanity
remains excellent at simultaneously illustrating how beautiful and dangerous space exploration can be. Over time, he has had varying degrees of success in his ability to dramatize the geopolitical concerns surrounding the idea of sending people into the void. This year is pretty strong on that front, but when all else fails, it’s still so palpable that we’re watching people live and work on Mars, in a way that remains exciting when combined with everything else. Season four of For All Mankind premieres November 10 on Apple TV+, with episodes airing weekly.