FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 10 Review: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad


Matthew Kresal lights a candle as For All Mankind reaches its third season finale.
When For All Mankind began its first season on Apple TV+ in the fall of 2019, it promised a compelling alternate history imagining a space race that never ended. From its first episode, the show began delivering on that promise, including a mix of intriguing and all too flawed but ambitious characters to bring it to life. With its second season, it also began a decade hopping narrative that brought the show first into the 1980s and then, earlier this summer, the 1990s as the series reached out from the Moon to Mars. And now, with Stranger in a Strange Land, the season ends dramatically and poignantly.

With an 82-minute run time, the season three finale is, to date, the lengthiest episode of For All Mankind. Though it needs every minute of it, given the storylines up in the air as it begins. The first it tackles is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the unexpected appearance of a North Korean astronaut at the end of Coming Home the previous week. Taking up a dozen of those minutes is his backstory that takes a twist that divided opinion on social media (to the point some accused the show's writers of jumping the shark) and makes it plausible inside the show's universe. Not to mention paying off a moment set up back in The Grey, last season's finale.

Indeed, much as The Grey structurally mirrored season one's closer City on a Hill, so does Stranger in a Strange Land. Writers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi start with that cliffhanger on the cliffhanger from its predecessor and address the various plot threads dangling from earlier in the season in the hour that follows. Only, in doing so, taking things from bad to worse over and over again. Given how tense and moving The Grey was, with literal end-of-the-world stakes, you might think there's no way they could even hope to match it.

But they do. Wolpert and Nedivi, along with director Craig Zisk, may not have Cold War tensions threatening to go nuclear this season, but the stakes or no less high. Or, indeed, personal. From the Oval Office, where astronaut turned President Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) faces her political future, to events in Houston surrounding both NASA and Helios as both their heads, Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) at the former and Dev Ayessa (Edi Gathegi) at the latter face the ultimate consequences of their actions throughout the season, with Aleida's (Coral Peña) suspicions and Karen's (Shantel VanSanten) business dealings having a role to play. Finally, after a couple of quiet episodes for him, Jimmy Stevens's (David Chandler) group of conspiracy theorist friends prepare to make a very public declaration, to put it mildly. Not to mention the return of a familiar face to NASA, too. That's just on the Earth-based side of the episode, to boot. On the Red Planet, there's not only the North Korean to worry about but there's also Kelly (Cynthia Wu) and her unborn child, the grandchild of Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), leading to a race against time and a desperate action that brings some truths to the surface.

As that might suggest, a lot is happening. Even so, everyone's storyline gets a moment in the sun thanks to streaming, allowing freedom of running time beyond the 40-odd minute box of traditional broadcast for drama here in the States. Everything comes together in a mosaic of interconnecting subplots that meshes together and pay off. Not always in the way that viewers might expect, either, though that's one of the thrills of this show, particularly when it subverts expectations. A thrill tempered by the fact not everyone will make it through the finale in one piece, emotionally or health-wise. As viewers of the show's previous finales might expect, there are a few emotional gut punches before the end credits roll. Triumph and tragedy play out across the board, as does a passing of the torch in a few scenes in one of the tensest, emotional, and punch the air filled pieces of TV you'll see this year.

Given the events of the episode, particularly in its second half, this is a difficult episode to review without spoilers. Suffice to say that before its 82-minutes is up, Stranger in a Strange Land delivers on the promises made throughout For All Mankind's third season. As the series has done before, this finale presents the closing of one chapter in its incredible story, not to mention the beginning of another. This season proved that the race to Mars was literally only half the story, and if the final moments of this episode are any indication, that is true for the series as a whole.

And with season four in production and the promise of moving into yet another decade, For All Mankind will continue looking to the stars and into human nature for a while yet.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad