Okay, today, I’m going to step in it. Feel free to disagree, but after a stellar first season of FOR ALL MANKIND (Apple TV), I was hugely disappointed in the second, which changed writers and leaned heavily into kitchen sink melodrama. What began a brilliant science show took a hard turn into becoming a soap opera.
It’s 1983, Reagan is president, and both the USA and USSR have bases on the Moon. As Cold War tensions escalate over rival lunar mining claims, the Department of Defense gets involved in the space program, resulting in militarization. To alleviate tensions, the superpowers plan a joint Apollo-Soyuz mission with astronauts and cosmonauts shaking hands in space, but it may not be enough to prevent hostilities from breaking out on the Moon and spilling down onto Earth as World War Three.
What I liked: anything having to do with the Moon and space program. Seeing Marines fly into combat on a lunar lander was fantastic. The Jamestown base is awesome. The problem solving at NASA is less prevalent but when it happens is terrific. One thing I particularly appreciated was seeing how the space program produced consumer technology far ahead of its time, just as the real space program eventually gave us things like videocameras and so on. I also loved how NASA licenses mining rights and tech to the private sector, resulting in the agency becoming self financing. It’s beautiful and sad to see what might have been, particularly in light of seeing billionaire tax dodgers taking vanity rides in space yachts. The season begins with a series of quick news images showing how history changed because of the space race.
What I didn’t: New writers were brought in to pump up the drama, which takes over the show, forcibly shoves out the hard sci-fi focus, and kitchen sinks it with melodrama in which characters do all sorts of what-the-hell things the show didn’t need and I didn’t care about. As a result, the climax, which is brilliant, wraps up too quick and neat, robbing the show of what really makes it work for me. As a side note, Reagan is continually lionized as some kind of poetic, saintly cartoon character of how he’s remembered rather than who and what he was, which was off putting.
Overall, I was disappointed, as the show’s roaring first season had set me on a path of high hopes for the second. I understand I’m in the minority here, as the second season was highly praised by critics and fans. For me, though, it took a bad turn into becoming a soap opera.