TV Review: For All Mankind (Season 4) 

Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin in For All Mankind
Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin in For All Mankind Source: AppleTV+ Press Photo

When you describe For All Mankind to someone, it's hard to convey the "secret sauce" that actually makes it so compelling. My wife (lovingly) described prior seasons as a space soap opera, where we're seeing a very emotional, human story and it happens to be set in and around space. I think that was more true in earlier seasons, especially when looking at the exploits of the Baldwin and Stevens families, but I think the pendulum took a big swing toward "space drama" this season. The family and interpersonal drama is still on display but I think the scope of the questions and ideas that the show deals with has expanded just as the physical space the show covers has, all the way from Earth to Mars.

Spoilers, obviously.

Remote Governance

Krys Marshall as Dani in
Krys Marshall as Dani in "For All Mankind"

The underlying tension this season revolves around the push and pull for control of the Mars base by various forces on both Earth and Mars. Dan and Jason cover this concept incredibly well on the NASA Vending Machine podcast.

How much force can you (Earth and its governments) exert over a distance?

At what point does Mars become something else, separate and distinct, from Earth and its systems?

Even the idea of "sovereign North Korean soil" inside of a shared, international Mars colony is at play here.

I can't think of anything like this in prior seasons and it's super compelling to see characters that we've spent three seasons with fall along these lines.

Organized Labor

Tyner Rushing as Sam in
Tyner Rushing as Sam in "For All Mankind"

I'm somewhat biased because of where I am from but I find this kind of labor uprising story so compelling. If the macro plot of this season is about Earth exerting force over Mars, the micro plot is about the "boots on the ground" representing the militaries of Earth exerting force over an increasingly independent civilian workforce.

Who had Ed Baldwin pegged a union organizer?

I was so curious about Dale's character as the season started but as we watched him come into his own on Mars, it made more sense that we needed someone to follow within the blue-collar working class of Mars to see what life is actually like. 

Family Ties

Ezrah Lin and Joel Kinnaman as Alex and Ed in
Ezrah Lin and Joel Kinnaman as Alex and Ed in "For All Mankind"

The idea of Alex, Ed's grandson being the "first Martian" is at play in a big way this season. Ed has an obviously strained relationship (entirely his own fault) with his daughter Kelly, and by extension Alex. Ed's desire for Mars to become a home is reinforced so powerfully when you see Alex's medical workup (with a callback to his dad and his Russian lineage) though, driving home that he's not just from Mars but maybe belongs there in some way.

Aleida's family is also interesting piece of the puzzle this season. As Margo puts her in more and more dangerous situations, you have to seriously wonder what the Russians are willing to do to Aleida to hurt Margo.

I could go on and on here.

Margo's Van Braun-esque story deserves an entire blog series. And her...redemption...was a huge surprise as well. I didn't see her making it to the end of the season and I definitely did not expect to want her to make it after the way she handled everything. 

Kelly's discovery leaves an enormous thread hanging for next season. What did she find?

The music was awesome, the effects were great. If you ask me, there was not a single weak episode in the season.

The tease for next season was classic For All Mankind, showing us Dev looking up at the asteroid as it is being actively mined in Mars orbit in 2012.

The show hasn't been renewed yet but it seems insane that Apple wouldn't renew it and let them continue this story.