FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 7 Review: BRING IT DOWN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 7 Review: BRING IT DOWN

Matthew Kresal is starting to feel under pressure.
The first half of For All Mankind's third season was laser-focused on the race to the red planet. Having arrived at Mars at the season's literal midway point, the series essentially had a mid-season re-launch last week. With the set-up for the back half of the season done, it's time to get the ball rolling plot-wise. And with Bring it Down, this episode lives up to its name.

In large part because everyone is feeling the pressure of events upon them. With the teaming up of the Soviets and Helios, the Soviets are pulling out of NASA. While they both remove and add a burden to the space agency and the Sojourner 1 crew on Mars, it means something else for Margo (Wrenn Schmidt). Margo, after all, has been trying to get her Soviet contact and love interest Sergei (Piotr Adamczyk) to defect, plans which are ultimately for naught as the Soviets no longer need NASA (and therefore Margo's) cooperation. The scene between them is a powerful one that, as has been the strength of both Schmidt and Adamczyk, plays neatly on their repressed nature and subtleness. Something that, when it leads to an outburst, makes it all the more powerful. And with Aleida (Coral Peña) continuing to "play Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," as Margo harshly puts it, there's also every chance that she'll lose everything she's been trying to accomplish for over 25 years (and now three seasons).

Nor is Margo the only one facing that possibility. Indeed, there's been a sense for a couple of episodes now, since the time jump to 1994, that not all is going well for Ellen's (Jodi Balfour) presidency despite her meteoric rise to political power. As the closing minutes of New Eden set in motion last week, there's a potential sex scandal brewing inside the Wilson White House thanks to first gentleman Larry (Nate Cordry) getting involved with a less than discreet White House staffer. The results play out across several scenes in this episode, giving both Balfour and Cordry a chance to show how far their characters have come since the early days of the series set in the 1970s. Along the way, an (in)famous political operative appears in a nod to real-world politics, similar to Lee Atwater's cameo last season. Last but certainly not least, it also leads to rekindling a plotline that's been on-again-off-again throughout much of For All Mankind's run. Where President Wilson's future is heading is unclear, exactly where it should be, given there are three episodes left in the season.

The past is also catching up with another character, the younger of the two Stevens boys, Jimmy (David Chandler). Despite his having fallen in with a conspiracy theorist crowd earlier this season, things have been quiet for him until now. Convinced by them and a young woman named Sunny (Taylor Dearden), he returns to the NASA center in Houston as the first part of a plan to get to the "truth" of his parents' deaths. Yet, having spent so much time around those convinced of NASA's maleficence, Chandler wonderfully plays Jimmy's conflicting emotions at seeing how well-remembered both he and his late mother are during his visit. The conflict plays out as the episode comes to a close, and Jimmy's new group of friends pull a stunt that, while comical, also highlights the potential danger that the younger Stevens might be about to find himself in.

Being a space-based series, it's on Mars where things are coming together and to a head. Danny (Casey W. Johnson) has been on a slow descent into substance abuse and mental instability for much of the season that's been playing out by and large where only viewers can glimpse it. Bring it Down brings it into the open as Danny, like many addicts, starts letting his mask of normality slip. Johnson and director Dan Liu's shot choices neatly play up the sense of reality slipping away from the young astronaut that builds throughout the episode from a confrontation with Ed (Joel Kinnaman) right down to a repercussive decision, later on, setting in motion the cliffhanger ending.

Yes, another cliffhanger! For All Mankind has always known how to deploy them to maximum advantage, much to its credit, something this third season has taken up a notch. Even so, the closing minutes of Bring it Down find a way to top even Happy Valley's closing minutes earlier this season. And like there, it's made to work through a combination of the writing bringing a storyline to the point of no return, the performances of its cast, Jeff Russo and Paul Doucette's dramatic score, and visual effects worthy of a Hollywood feature film. The question viewers are likely to ask is, "Who is left standing after that?"

We'll know the answer soon enough, of course. Until then, there's going to be a heck of a wait. What's clear, without a doubt, is that this season continues to move from strength to strength and remains all the better for it.

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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