FOR ALL MANKIND Season 3 Episode 2 Review: GAME CHANGER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND Season 3 Episode 2 Review: GAME CHANGER

Everybody's playing the game, says Matthew Kresal, but nobody's rules are the same.
After last week's dramatic season opener, it's safe to say that For All Mankind's third season was off with a bang. Having made it through the near-disaster at the Polaris space hotel, what would its ramifications be on the season about to unfold? In the season's second episode, viewers start to get some answers, which are, to paraphrase the episode's title, game-changers.

The ramifications are apparent from the opening scene. Private space flight's role this season has been hinted at from its earliest trailers, and we saw space tourism last week. The opening minutes of Game Changer introduce us properly to the next level of private space flight in the form of Helios billionaire owner Dev Ayessa (Edi Gathegi). Imagine someone with the (apparent) dreams and visions of an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos thirty years ago, and you'll have an idea of what we're talking about here, if in something more akin to a Dot-Com era company of the era. Like with those companies, the effect of Helios is about to make itself felt in the space industry and the world at large.

As the episode's title will attest, times are changing inside of this episode. The clash between past, present, and future becomes a recurring motif in the episode in which Helios making itself felt is but the broadest expression. Margo and Molly clash over the choice of commander for NASA's upcoming Mars mission, leading to moments between Ed and Daniele. Meanwhile, Aleida may have gotten to the Moon at long last, but clearly, things are not all well at home and, on the political front, Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour), now the Republican frontrunner for President, struggles to find a Vice-Presidential candidate she can work with, with husband Larry (Nate Corddry) pushing for someone to excite the party's evangelical base. It's a reminder that not only is the source of drama conflict, but in the different (and in many ways better) version of history the series presents, things aren't always perfect.

More than that, that these are flawed characters. Almost everyone mentioned in the previous paragraph has a motive for their actions, each determined that their course of action is the correct one. It's the butting of heads and what happens, as a result, that sometimes bares bitter fruit. Espeically in the case of Ed and Danielle, watching two old friends face off and say the things they do to one another, particularly in a scene at The Outpost late in the episode. Ed, in his bitterness, saying something completely indefensible, even if he's right to be bitter but expressing it in totally the wrong way. Finally, Margo commits herself to a course of action that has the potential to undue everything she's spent the previous two seasons (and nearly 25 years of her life) accomplishing, raising the drama stakes immensely.

Game Changer not only lives up to its title as an episode but also does a nice job of reminding viewers how far we and the characters have come after 22 episodes. It also raises the stakes with some daring changes to the series status quo, spinning this season and For All Mankind's alternate history in a whole new direction. Where the race to Mars goes from here is anyone's guess, and for this reviewer, at least, wouldn't have it any other way.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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