FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 9 Review: COMING HOME - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FOR ALL MANKIND: Season 3 Episode 9 Review: COMING HOME

Matthew Kresal nears a journey's end.
When reviewing The Sands of Ares, I noted that For All Mankind had become a master of raising the stakes. The last two episodes, the aforementioned Sands of Ares and its predecessor Bring it Down, did so in spades. Now the series has reached the penultimate episode of its third season with storylines still in the air and across two worlds. How would Coming Home then begin to wrap things up?

Oddly though, this might be one of the quieter episodes of the season. At least in dramatic and set piece terms. Something that is perhaps welcome after the events of the previous pair of episodes, a chance for the series writers, characters, and viewers to catch their breaths.

That doesn't quite tell the entire story here, either. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that, like Game Changer or New Eden earlier in the season, this is an episode of consequence and transition. A number of the storylines clicking away across this season and especially its second half are in play here, including the aftermath of the landslide at Helios base to Kelly's (Cynthia Wu) health developments. Back on Earth, there's Aleida (Coral Peña) having her investigation come to a turning point, and the presidency of Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) with her husband Larry's (Nate Corddry) perjury potentially being exposed in political maneuvering by her rivals in Congress. And over at Helios, Karen (Shantel VanSanten) gets drawn into corporate warfare between Dev (Edi Gathegi) and the board. Writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson had a lot of plot to juggle in their script, and by and large, it comes off admirably.

Of those, it's perhaps Ellen's that comes across best. Ellen's rise to the highest office in the land would have seemed unlikely given the woman we met back in season one, but the events of season two helped pave the way for this plotline to be possible. Having gotten her into the Oval Office was, like the race to Mars itself, literally only half the story this season. The price Ellen paid to get there and remain there has proven that politics is more than the old saying of being "the art of the possible." Invoking aspects of real-life American political scandals along the way (albeit ones that didn't occur in the series timeline but knowing viewers should recognize), the events of this season and this episode lead Ellen and Larry into one of the most unexpected moments in the series to date. Doing so gives Balfour, who has spent much of these last two seasons lurking in the background, her best moments on-screen this season. The consequences are likely to play out more in the season finale, with it will likely go the future of both American politics and NASA itself.

Consequences are also playing out on Mars. Following a five-month time-jumping montage, the race to reach Mars has given way to a race to escape from it. The stakes in doing so include a very personal one for the Baldwins and space exploration as a whole. It's there, in the closing minutes of the episode, that the stakes are suddenly and dramatically raised. If not in visual effects set-pieces, to be fair, but in emotional terms. Not to mention one final scene that activates a plot twist weeks in the making but which has divided opinion on social media (though what doesn't these days?). It's a different way to end an episode, particularly leading into a season finale, but it sets the stage for it rather neatly.

And with the feature-length Stranger in a Strange Land set to stream at the end of the week, it seems almost certain that For All Mankind viewers are in for a treat.

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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