FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 9 Review: TRIAGE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND Season 2 Episode 9 Review: TRIAGE

Matthew Kresal performs triage.
There's an old saying: "When it rains, it pours." The sense that things will get worse before they get better. After And Here's To You's cliffhanger, viewers of For All Mankind's second season might well have been thinking of those words. With Triage, the season's penultimate episode, the truth of it would become evident.

From its cold open to the jaw-dropping final scene, writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle spend much of the episode dealing with the fallout of the previous week. Which, given that American astronauts shooting Soviet cosmonauts (killing one of them) is an escalation of the tit-for-tat tensions throughout the season, isn't at all surprising. Indeed, the sort of crisis it leaves in its wake is one that students of the real-life Cold War will recognize plenty of analogs taking place. It also has effects, large and small, upon many of our characters, from the stepping up of Pathfinder's first flight to a series of events on the Moon leading to an even larger cliffhanger than the last episode had. At long last, the season is finally delivering on the Cold War action in space promise of its pre-season publicity and is all the better for it.

Of course, in-between all of the superpower conflict, smaller dramas are playing out. The events of the last episode catch up with a number of our characters, including Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten), who decides to come clean to astronaut husband Ed (Joel Kinnaman) about her cheating on him, albeit without mentioning with whom. Ellen (Jodi Balfour) gets a potential future thanks to her husband Larry (Nate Corddry) taking a conversation with a surprising real-life figure, forcing her lover Pam (Meghan Leathers) to decide their future in a moment that's been brewing. Ex-spouses Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Tracy (Sarah Jones) deal with the fallout of the cliffhanger and the effect of their failed marriage, offering some tender moments that both performers play well. Last but not least, Molly (Sonya Walger) considers a radical solution to her diagnosis last episode, opening a rift with her artist husband (Lenny Jacobson) and the price they've both paid for her ambitions. All these plotlines help to reap the seeds planted throughout the season, perhaps a tad later than they should have been, but all have their role to play in setting up what's to come.

Yet, among all the tension, there's also some room for hope. Apollo-Soyuz continues moving along in the background, and there's a superb moment where Apollo commander Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) quotes a particularly relevant episode of Star Trek in summing up, for herself at least, what the entire mission might accomplish. There are two launches in this episode of two very different eras of human spaceflight, each carrying with them the sense of enthralling wonder that anyone who has seen a launch in real life has experienced. And with them the chance, however slim, that the better angels of our nature might prevail.

The only question left after the episode's final scene is what those launches represent: the end of a dream or the start of a new chapter? Where the road to the future will take characters and viewers alike isn't entirely clear, all the better, perhaps, for the finale. And this reviewer can't wait to see it. 

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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