The Right Stuff 1×01 and 1×02, titled “Sierra Hotel” and “Goodies” are perfectly serviceable ways for the show to get going. They serve as setup, and do enough to give us a glimpse of the characters we’re going to be following on this adventure, while making the story they’re trying to tell us interesting enough to keep us engaged.
But no, they don’t exactly hit it out of the park.
It could be argued they don’t need to. This show is what it is, more history than drama, more character study about real people than soap opera. In that regard, the show – as I said before in my advanced review – works because the actors make it work. It was always going to be the show that required it, and we should tip our cap to what is clearly a brilliant casting department.
Yes, the show is very, very white. It was to be expected, considering how white the story they’re trying to tell is, but I understand that criticism well. I wouldn’t have minded had they left out a little of the historical accuracy out in this respect, but that’s just something the show isn’t prepared to do. So we either have to accept it like that, or move on to other, more diverse things.
The show also seems, at least this early on, to have no intention of passing judgment on these men. The Right Stuff “Sierra Hotel” and later, “Goodies,” introduce us to not just the Mercury 7, but their wives, and though some of those introductions just reinforce the idea that love is real (hello John and Annie Glenn), most of the rest of them are just …sad.
It’s sad that Gordon Cooper has to pretend to still be in a happy married to get picked, and it’s even sadder that Trudy Cooper has to uproot her life, once again, for a man who has already proven he will not put her first. For a moment there, the show wants to make us believe they can get it together. They can work on it. But the truth is …being with Gordon wasn’t really Trudy’s choice, not this time.
It’s sad that Louise Shepard just has to …put up with whatever her husband does when he’s away, and he gets to have attitude about it, attitude everyone has to put up with because he’s …good?
Sad, but real. That’s the undercurrent of this show – and it probably goes back to its roots as a Nat Geo show. This are the facts, and though this is not a documentary, the storylines are more or less on us. The show doesn’t lean heavily on any of them, at least not in The Right Stuff “Sierra Hotel” or “Goodies.”
Not that I put it past them to go into them later, especially considering the one undercurrent to the first two episodes that we know will carry through the rest of the first season: the rivalry between John Glenn and Alan Shepard.
It’s not about who’s better – they’re both clearly very good at their jobs. It’s about who’s nicer. It’s about who’s more likeable. It’s about who’s better at selling himself, and the program. In that regard Patrick J. Adam’s Glenn is the clear winner, and boy, does that get to Jake McDorman’s Shepard.
This works – in fact, the whole thing works – because Patrick Adams might not be Suits’ Mike Adams anymore, but he can still dial up that charisma. It works because McDorman makes Shepard into the kind of character you want to hate, but never quite manage to. And, it works because Colin O’Donoghue’s Gordon Cooper, the other character who gets a fair bit of screen time in the first two episodes, is more clean shaven Captain Hook with good intentions than manipulative cheating husband.
But in a way, isn’t that always true? People are never just their worst parts, just as they are hardly ever just their best parts. By attempting to give us more fact than speculation, this show allows these actors to truly inhabit the characters, to make them three-dimensional, and therefore, real.
Only two episodes in, that’s a good thing. The next few episodes would do well to focus on the rest of the Mercury 7, because right now I only feel like there’s 3 of them I particularly care about, but other than that …I will say, there are worse things you could be watching right now than Disney+’s The Right Stuff. Trust me; I myself have had to watch some of those.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of “Sierra Hotel” and “Goodies”? Share with us in the comments below!