For All Mankind

For a show with Man in the title, there sure are a lot of women in charge.

Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison and Jodi Balfour as Ellen Waverly helm NASA in "For All Mankind"

Ronald D. Moore (or “L. Ron Moore,” as I’ve taken to calling him due to his tendency to inspire cult-like fanbases) is not shy about strong, complicated, flawed female characters. “For All Mankind” puts women on the moon before earth did and in positions of power at NASA. It shows women being courageous, firm, funny and smart.

Ron’s said many times that audiences are capable of following a story without seeing every detail unfold. Even though the pace feels slow, there are leaps and jumps in time that make the show progress quickly. It’s an interesting mix of character arc and action, between tension and holding an emotion in the moment.

The pilot of “For All Mankind” took me about a month to finish. I’ve been saying this was the slowest show to ever hit the airwaves. I kept watching because of Ron. Last weekend I wasn’t feeling so hot and needed to watch something that I didn’t really care about so I could pause it every few minutes. I ended up watching most of season 1. Then after work I’d watch an episode or two each night, strategically stopping about 20 minutes before the episode ends so that I could go to sleep without a cliffhanger until I finished season 2 this weekend. Now I wait until the earth orbits the sun and season 3 dawns.

Joel Kinnaman and Michael Dorman confront each other in foreground as Krys Marshall looks on in the background. Ed Baldwin, Danielle Poole and Gordo Stevens are aboard the Jamestown Moon Base in "For All Mankind" season 1.
Michael Dorman and Sarah Jones in “For All Mankind” season 1 episode 10. They are in the control room at Houston and Gordo is pinning a gold astronaut pin on Tracy as they look into each other's eyes.
Lit from background in silhouette, Gordo places clothes atop a sleeping Tracy Stevens in "For All Mankind"
There’s plenty of humor in “For All Mankind.” When Gordo follows a trail of clothes to his ex-wife passed out in his bed, he does the gentlemanly thing: piles the clothes on top of her and sleeps on the couch.

Another funny line is said to Margo: “I, for one, am confident in your ability to make things not happen.”

I could’ve sworn Kristen Bell was in “For All Mankind.” I remember the press release, I kept expecting her character to show up and when episode 103 came on I thought here she is… until Sarah Jones’ Tracy Stevens appeared. So I figured season 2 is when she makes her entrance, but that didn’t happen. Turns out that no, Kristen Bell is not in “For All Mankind” at all.

Whatever my expectations and initial reactions to this show were got turned on their head. I really fell in love with the characters of Ed Baldwin and Gordo Stevens. I should have predicted that the show would get so good – I’m kicking myself for ever doubting that “For All Mankind” would deliver for me. I really got punched in the gut at the end of season 2, and many times before that devastating finale.

I do wish that Ellen Wilson was able to come out as gay. It’s unfortunate that a show with such vision for women and space travel couldn’t push the bar forward in this one area. The show will go into 1995 next, which was still a long way from gay acceptance in our timeline, and even further from marriage equality. Ellen Degeneres came out in 1997 and was forced out of the public eye until Finding Nemo premiered in 2003. For this reason I can’t recommend this as a gay show… yet.

“For All Mankind” is a truly great show, though, and I do recommend it to general audiences. It’s got action, heartbreak and drama. It’s left a trail of moon dust on my heart.

Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin and Jodi Balfour as Ellen Waverly stand on the moon in their space suits in "For All Mankind"

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