FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 6 Review: BEST LAID PLANS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 6 Review: BEST LAID PLANS

Matthew Kresal debates Apollo-Soyuz or Soyuz-Apollo.
As we enter the back half of For All Mankind's second season, it feels as though much of the last five episodes have been set-up. Set-up for character arcs and plots, much of it anchoring the notionally space-based series firmly on Earth. There are signs of that beginning to change with Best Laid Plans, kicking off the last half of the season and picking up on some of the threads the series has been setting up for the last few weeks.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, most of the attention is focused on Apollo-Soyuz or, as the Soviets would prefer it to be known, Soyuz-Apollo. With the Soviet cosmonauts and mission planners arriving in Houston, Cold War distrust, politics, and tensions are on display as the two sides find little to agree on with their joint mission. There's a fair amount of pleasure and even a bit of comedy to be drawn out of characters we often see as confident, if not in some cases a tad cocky, being thrown off guard by tight-lipped Soviet officials. Those who know the history behind the real-life 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission will likely get a kick out of recognizing some parallel events and situations, albeit reimagined through the prism of For All Mankind's alternate history and characters.

The episode's Apollo-Soyuz focus also affords a chance, for the first time in a couple of episodes, and a welcome opportunity for Wrenn Schmidt's Margo Madison to come back to the fore. Watching Margo trying to make the best of a bad situation, one where, on the one hand, NASA administrator Tom Paine is dreaming of making it a "city on a hill" moment and where Air Force Major General Bradford is rooting for her to fail, finally offers Schmidt something to do besides sitting behind a desk for a scene or two every episode. Like with the reintroduction of Aleida in The Bleeding Edge, her scenes with Soyuz project director Sergei Nikulov (Piotr Adamczyk) show how far the aspiring engineer we met in the first season has come in the nearly fifteen years since we first met her. It also lets character and performer alike, who've been underutilized in recent episodes, a chance to shine once more.

Margo isn't the only one seeing opportunities, either. Krys Marshall's Danielle Poole, commander of the Apollo side of the mission, tries to bond with her Soviet counterparts, offering her a chance to reflect upon her own choices that have led her to this point. Tracey (Sarah Jones) is adjusting to life on the Moon, offering viewers the chance to see how far she's come since the last episode (where things were going less than optimally) while Gordo (Michael Dorman) and viewers pay a visit to her current husband. More Earthbound, Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) starts wondering about her past as Ed (Joel Kinnaman) continues training for Pathfinder's first flight and Ellen (Jodi Balfour) and Pam (Meghan Leathers) start thinking about the future of their rekindled relationship. Perhaps Tracey and Ed's plots, along with the focus on Apollo-Soyuz, help balance things out as, despite the number of Earthbound plot lines, this episode feels like it handles the Earth/Space balance better than the show has been doing since the season opener.

Indeed, Best Laid Plans feels like a turning point episode for the season. The episode that, at last, picks up on all the strands that the show has been putting into place and gives them a pull, finally delivering on them. Not to mention helping return the focus a bit more on what it's notionally supposed to be: a space-based alternate history series. In fact, it's the best episode since Every Little Thing opened the season for precisely those reasons, and one hopes is a sign of what's to come in the remainder of the season.

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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