FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 10 Review: THE GREY - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 10 Review: THE GREY

Matthew Kresal goes to DEFCON 2 as For All Mankind reaches its season finale.
"It's been a long road, getting from there to here."
Those words open the song Where the Heart Will Take Me, which was the theme of Star Trek: Enterprise. They also sum up so much of this sophomore season of For All Mankind. Since February, Apple's alternate history "what if the space race never ended?" series has been building up the world of its 1983, brimming with Cold War tensions and personal dramas among its characters at NASA. Now, in a move reminiscent of the great chess matches of the Cold War, it's moved its pieces into place for the endgame. And what an endgame that The Grey offers up across 76 minutes.

In earlier reviews of the season, particularly its opener, Every Little Thing and The Weight, I noted how newer episodes mirror their counterparts from the opening season in places. The Grey does that with City on a Hill, building on the cliffhanger from its predecessor and addressing the various plot threads dangling from earlier in the season. Only, in doing so, taking things from bad to worse over and over again. The big difference here is that the 1983 setting writers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi have to play with raises the stakes even higher. Which, given how tense the real 1983 was, is saying something.

The Cold War tensions affect everything, as you would expect, but everyone's storyline gets its moment as it unfolds, meaning there's a lot packed into the episode as a result. There's the maiden voyage of the Pathfinder, which takes Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and his crew straight into potentially deadly confrontations. Amid things, Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) and Apollo-Soyuz are caught in-between the superpower stand-off happening far away from them, ultimately faced with a choice of their own. Back down on Earth, mission control in Houston sees NASA bosses Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) and Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) deal with multiple crises alongside Molly (Sonya Walger) and Aleida (Coral Peña) as the world threatens to fall apart around them. Not far away, the Baldwins on the ground, Karen (Shantel VanSanten), and adopted daughter Kelly (Cynthia Wu) make decisions about their futures. Finally, there's a resolution to things between the two Stevens, Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Tracy (Sarah Jones), a significant plot point throughout the season. It's a delicate balancing act, but it's one that the writers and director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan pull off incredibly well.

They're not the only ones. For All Mankind as a series has always been a well-made one, even when it felt overly Earthbound earlier in this season. The Grey, though, exceeds all expectations, delivering on every front of production from costumes and sets to action set pieces. Indeed, even more so than the last couple of episodes, it's here that it feels like this season FINALLY delivered on its space war promos with spectacular results. Yet they also don't shy away from the consequences, either, as one particular firefight midway through the episode highlights tragically. In retrospect, it feels like the series spent its Earthbound installments saving up its effects budget for these final episodes, a long-game move worthy of one of those chess matches mentioned at the top of this review.

A highlight of the finale, and something that I surprisingly hadn't mentioned outside of my first season recap, was Jeff Russo's score. Whether it's building emotions in dramatic moments or adding tension ahead of an action sequence, Russo brings the right musical sound to each of the 20 episodes to date alongside songs from the period slipping into scenes. There's a cinematic quality to his scores, as sequences here in the finale highlight over and over again. Whatever else you might say about For All Mankind and this finale, it never sounds dull.

All of which adds up, of course. What it comes out to is a finale episode not only on par with last season's City on a Hill but even manages to exceed it. The Grey delivers on all the promises of this season, creating one of the tensest and fulfilling season finale episodes in recent memory. In fact, it might well be the single best episode of For All Mankind to date.

And if its final shot is any indication, we've got even more to look forward to one day.

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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