FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 2 Review: The Bleeding Edge - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 2 Review: The Bleeding Edge

Matthew Kresal is back on Earth and on finds everyone on the edge...
When it premiered back in 2019, For All Mankind's first episode was spent establishing the alternate history setting while the second dealt with character arcs and setting up what was to come. Given how much Every Little Thing, the season two opener, mirrored its predecessor, it's no surprise that The Bleeding Edge should likewise be a character piece. And much to its credit, to boot.

Picking up in the aftermath of the climactic solar flare from the season opener, writers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi apply a laser-like focus to the show's ensemble cast. From Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger) putting on a brave face after radiation exposure to Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) dealing with tragedy by wanting to get back into space, the cost of space flight on the astronauts is dramatically present. Not just on them but those on the ground, such as Gordo Stevens (Michael Dorman ), whose drunken binges and frequently given talks have left him on the edge of a mental breakdown, while both Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) and now Ellen (Jodi Balfour) deal with administrative problems. Despite all the changes to history and technology, human nature remains the same, which this episode keenly presents.

There's always the risk with character pieces, especially in something seen as a genre show as For All Mankind might be, that such an episode will bring the narrative to a halt and risk boring your audience. The Bleeding Edge is not guilty of either, with its hour passing along at quite a lick. Something in no small part due to how strong the central casting continues to be. Sonya Walger as Molly hands in a strong performance here, mixing, on the one hand, a cocky 'I'm invincible' attitude with a hidden vulnerability in all of her scenes. Krys Marshall's re-introduction as Danielle Poole brings across nine years of off-screen events in the space of a couple of minutes in a manner that feels, without question, a continuation of the character we left behind at the close of the first season. The sense of maturity is also apparent in Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin, with scenes between Ed and Molly and, later, Ed and Gordo shining light as to how this gung-ho astronaut ended up behind a desk. That everyone gets their little moment, including a triumphant but humorous one for Wrenn Schmidt's Margo, helps keep the large cast in focus. Something which is no mean feat given its size.

Given its character focus, this episode isn't a particularly showy one in terms of visual effects. When it does use them, though, it is for maximum impact, such as a jaw-dropping shot pulling out of a cockpit as two of our characters prepare for return to Earth. Those who've seen the trailer will recognize part of the sequence in question and, despite its use there, seeing it in context makes it all the more worthwhile. Indeed, this episode is an example of where economy on the use of such shots heightens their impact, where "less is more," as the saying goes.

As a character piece, The Bleeding Edge is a worthy follow-up to its season opener. It expands upon and brings viewers up to date with these characters as times have changed. How they, astronauts, administrators, and families alike deal with those times will be as much a part of the season ahead as the Cold War tensions playing in the background.

And this reviewer is keen to see where they go from here.

For All Mankind is exclusive to Apple TV+.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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