The Right Stuff 1×04 “Advent” is a much more political episode than the previous ones have been, but as the requisite Christmas episode, it’s also a much more human one, with Gordo and Trudy seeming to find a middle ground, Glenn trying to use his power at the behest of his wife Annie, and the ugly truth of the importance of von Braun to the space program at the forefront.
It’s especially the last thing, and the focus on the actual race against the Russians that makes this an interesting episode. In other respects, it almost feels like one of those filler hours, except I will say I do appreciate how we get more of a focus on someone other than Gordo, Glenn or Shepard, for once. This is supposed to be the Mercury 7 I’m following, not just three of them!
Deke Slayton is the one that gets the spotlight this week, and I already like him about 75% more than I did before, by virtue of just feeling like I know him better. And it doesn’t really take away from the story the show is trying to tell with Glenn – who in this episode remains everything we know him to be, or Shepard – who this episode is shown in his best, more human behavior.
But von Braun, von Braun is really the thing I want to discuss. For most of my life I didn’t know the importance he, and other top ranking Nazi scientists, had in the US Space Program, and many other of the country’s great technological achievements after the war. I didn’t know about Operation Paperclip. Maybe you don’t either, as you read this.
I first learned about it thanks to another show I reviewed here at Fangirlish, Timeless. And after the show introduced the idea to me, well, I did my research and I came out of it feeling properly torn about it all. So I invite you to take this moment to do that same research and then follow in my discussion about the morality of von Braun, since he’s the one this show is depicting, being in charge of …well, building the rocket that’s going to take these men to space.
At least someone brings up the fact that he’s a Nazi at some point in the episode, but even that is just ..brushed aside because he’s a smart Nazi that can help the Space Program get a win. And now, forgive me for being the one to say this, but we shouldn’t be brushing aside things like, you know, being a Nazi, for absolutely no reason.
Yes, this happened a long time ago, but I cannot, in good conscience, write a review about this and not bring up how problematic it is. I kind of hope the show doesn’t just throw one instance of “He’s a Nazi” at us and then just expects us to ignore that tidbit for the rest of the run.
The other part of the episode I really want to bring attention to is Annie Glenn’s suggesting that John use his power for good – or basically to stand up for what he believes in. This message resonates so much in the world of today, and it doesn’t surprised me that it would come from Annie, but it speaks well of John that he would follow her advice. It speaks well of John – it always has – that he’s always treated his wife as a partner and not just …a trophy to be kept at home.
In a way, that’s what Trudy wanted to be to Gordo, and what I’m not sure he has always understood she deserved. And that’s what Louise deserves, even if she never asks for more than Alan is willing to give her.
But we get a glimpse of how Alan Shepard became the man he is by meeting his father, and boy, does a lot make sense now. We also get a moment of the best Alan Shepard as he deals with his niece, Judith, or Martha or whatever the girl is going to end up being named.
All of these things help because it was becoming a bit one-note to only root for John Glenn. I mean, we all know how this story ends, and we know rooting for Glenn isn’t exactly the wrong choice to make, but as I said before, this is about the Mercury 7 astronauts, so it’d be good if we could it within ourselves to care about all of them.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think about The Right Stuff 1×04 “Advent”? Share with us in the comments below
The Right Stuff is available to stream on Disney+.