FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 6 Review: NEW EDEN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 6 Review: NEW EDEN

Getting there is only half the story, Matthew Kresal discovers.
In reviewing Seven Minutes of Terror last week, this reviewer noted that, before this third season of Apple TV+'s For All Mankind season kicked off, there was an expectation that the race to Mars would be the season's dominant storyline. Instead, the midway marker for the season brought the race to a close in a tense, dramatic fashion. Doing so left an obvious question in the air: What next? New Eden begins to answer that question.

After all, there are still plenty of storylines in the air. The American and Soviet crews are still together, with the challenge of the episode's cold open being their staying alive long enough to reach NASA's pre-arrived habitat. From there, viewers familiar with season one's depiction of the early days of the Jamestown lunar base can likely guess what will unfold before the end credits start.

Members of crews from two rival countries stuck together inside a confined space in an environment hostile to human life can make for intriguing drama, as For All Mankind has already explored in past seasons. Here, the series writers attempt to put a new spin on it, using the Mars setting as virgin territory, the "new Eden" of the episode's title. To its credit, they find some new ideas along the way, including Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) having a burgeoning romance and the conflicts that arise between a multi-national crew tossed together in extremis.

It also explores it by dropping one heck of a twist into proceedings. It's perhaps inevitable that, as For All Mankind makes its way through the decades, the issues and sub-plots it features will touch our real world. Indeed, the series has never shied away from dealing with issues of sexism, racism, and homophobia. The latter of which raises its head here with a surprise revelation by a member of the crew, one that sends the already ailing administration of former astronaut turned President Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) into crisis, particularly given that both her and husband Larry (Nate Corddry) have their own secrets. Watching the effects play out across the episode can make for uncomfortable viewing at times, realizing that, while set in an alternate history, the views expressed by some aren't terribly far off reality. It's something driven home in the final scenes as tensions boil over on Mars while history begins to repeat itself back in Washington. As it did for previous decades, For All Mankind mixes nostalgia for the nineties pop culture and tech with an eye toward the past imperfect, if a tad too bluntly at times.

Nor are they the only ones with issues. Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) is working to establish Helios a base of their own, slowly realizing that history is likely about to repeat itself as he begins to sense Danny (Casey W. Johnson) is having similar issues to his father, the scale of which viewers have been watching unfold over the course of the season thus far. The sense of a coming confrontation is becoming ever more palpable, with Johnson neatly playing the descent. Meanwhile, at NASA, the tensions between the agency and the Soviets are likewise thick, reaching something close to a breaking point in the episode's closing minutes even as Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) tries to keep the peace and Aleida (Coral Peña) becomes all the more suspicious. The storylines for the season's second half are coming together, and where they'll go is anyone's guess.

New Eden is also a triumph from a production point of view. From the impressively dressed Oval Office set (including a portrait of Nixon over the fireplace) to the effects shots of the astronauts on the Martian surface, For All Mankind has rarely looked better than it does in this episode. Indeed, it remains to the series' credit that it covers the width and breadth of not only NASA but the White House and even Mars now with production standards worthy of a feature film. All of which give it an always welcome sense of scale, the stage upon which human dramas play out.

For, as New Eden proves, getting there is only half the story. Quite literally, in this case. And what the back half of this season is shaping up to be looks dramatic, to say the least.

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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