For All Mankind 3×03 “All In” is all about the final choices our characters make in what is now a three-way race to Mars. It’s about really setting people apart, based on what’s at their core and what motivates them. Should we think about loyalty when presented with the opportunity of a lifetime? Or is it more about what feels right, whether it may hurt those we love or not?
The episode seems to tell us that, under just the right set of circumstances, either method of decision-making can be noble and good. But. At the same time, there are some cases where it’s very clear people—mostly men, actually—are simply acting out of bitterness. Or out of fear. Out of convenience, and short-sightedness, and everything in between.
And then…there’s Margo, who’s just trapped.
All of that is to say, we have a lot to talk about here. And with good reason. Because through all of these choices, some tough and some remarkably easy, For All Mankind 3×03 is yet another brilliant hour for this series. Let’s break it down.
“Thanks, Peanut. I’m going to miss you.”
Karen Baldwin offers both Aleida Rosales and Bill Strausser the chance to work for Helios in For All Mankind 3×03. And it’s purely fascinating that, while Aleida stays at NASA and Bill doesn’t, there’s really nothing wrong with either decision.
Aleida’s moment of loyalty, of declaring that she’s happy to be “Margo’s girl,” is a thing of beauty. She’s bold, and so strong. Not to mention, she’s so beautifully sarcastic and shady when she throws that “Margo’s girl” line back.
“Engineers don’t normally make the trip up. But Margo made it happen for me. Aleida Rosales, a kid from Parras de la Fuente, picked up that rock from the moon. So, if I have to be known as ‘Margo’s girl,’ well. That’s a small price to pay. Thank you for your offer. But I’m not leaving NASA.”
With this, she chooses the person who gave her so many of her dreams—especially the biggest one—who picked her up when she was at rock bottom and gave her the final chance that turned her life around. But Coral Peña plays her moments of doubt, both immediately after Karen leaves and back at home in that stunning mirror shot, beautifully as well.
After all, the kind of compensation Karen offers could make Aleida’s life even better in a number of ways. But NASA is where she belongs. Her place is here, by Margo’s side. And she simply doesn’t need—or, in some very particular cases, want—the things all that money can buy. Or, at least, she doesn’t need or want them with nearly the same urgency that she feels she has to keep her family intact. This is true, both for her chosen family and the one she was born with.
Bill, on the other hand…
“I just want to go somewhere where I’m appreciated.”
Bill’s awkward moment with Margo is everything. He’s come so far from the man who played that prank on “…the only woman in a sea of doofuses in matching white shirts and ties.” He has grown into someone much better than the man who was also initially at bitter odds with Aleida.
But he wants more. He feels some kind of way about being called a “get,” and he doesn’t want to be the guy in the shadows, the “old shoe,” anymore.
Coming from some folks, that might seem like pure ego—like Bill’s just being another guy who’s hungry for power and money. But there’s something endearing about his walk down memory lane with Margo. And his hard-won respect and friendship with Aleida is a far too important. Their goodbye is a little bit too bittersweet for this to be about anything other than just wanting to try.
Sometimes, we need to move on, not even necessarily to bigger and better things—though, for Bill, that’s what a career at Helios has the potential to be. That doesn’t make leaving any easier. Just like, when we need to be the one to stay around, as everyone else moves on and the lights go down, it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily being left behind. But, of course, it can sure feel like it.
It’s kind of perfect how For All Mankind 3×03 manages, in a single scene, to create both the lonely image of Aleida staying behind and the hopeful one. The same can be said for the closure it brings, at least temporarily, to a story between two enemies, turned friends and coworkers, turned a new kind of rivals.
The Baldwin/Stevens problem
Sorry, Joel Kinnaman fans: Ed Baldwin doesn’t stop showing every square inch of his ass in For All Mankind 3×03. He also has yet to apologize to Dani for doing a racism and a misogyny, so we’re still mad at him. A lot.
Sure, he has one moment where he supports his daughter—only after some major pouting.
That does nothing to make up for the ego radiating out of every single pore when he sits in his fancy Commander’s chair. Or the way he mansplains away all of Dani’s concerns about Danny’s very real, very obvious relapse in his addiction. Which is, of course, part of a much larger problem in terms of him bringing a relapsed alcoholic onto his team. Because, knowing Danny’s problems, and Gordo’s past struggles, he should really, really, really know better.
For all his (valid) concerns about safety when it comes to the automated system, he seems to be just fine with a key team member being compromised before his crew ever takes off. Ed can be the right kind of petty in hopping over to Helios all he wants. But it is, without a doubt, the wrong kind of petty to scoop up Danny Stevens after a drunken night out gets him dropped from Dani’s mission.
Which, of course, is the point. Ed is not making good decisions. He’s not being a good person lately, and…Honestly, if it bites him in the ass later? Good. Let’s just hope that he and the younger Stevens don’t harm too many other people along the way.
Meanwhile, a leader…
In For All Mankind 3×03, Dani continues to be…well, everything. She gives Danny Stevens every ounce of honest truth he needs. Even if it totally backfires, probably putting both him and Ed at risk going forward, her conscience ought to be completely clear.
When someone needs help, you tell them to get it. You do everything you possibly can on your end, and if they don’t follow through for themselves, that’s that. For a lot of people, that’s a difficult lesson to learn. But Dani is nothing if not kinda brilliant, so she gets it.
And speaking of brilliant.
Dani makes Kelly earn that spot. But it’s obvious, the entire time Kelly is explaining why she’s the scientist NASA needs to send to Mars, that Dani Poole is impressed. As she should be. Kelly advocates for herself the way far too many women don’t. Because we have been conditioned to do the exact opposite—to fade into the background and not be seen as too demanding. And, as Dani probably knows better than anyone, a confident man is respected, while a confident woman can, oftentimes, be judged for believing in herself.
“I plan to be the first human on Mars.”
Dani has earned her Commander position, has learned how to advocate for herself the hard way. So, of course she sees something in Kelly. Quite a few characters take long, meaningful looks in the mirror in For All Mankind 3×03. Though their backgrounds and lived experiences may not exactly be the same, both Dani and Kelly should realize just how well they work as reflections of each other.
When we speak of strong female characters, and when we speak of truly feminist role models on television, may we look no further than the likes of Danielle Poole and Kelly Baldwin.
For All Mankind goes “All In” on angst
Will we ever look at elevators, especially hotel elevators, the same way? No, we will not.
For All Mankind 3×03 starts us back in 1984, with Margo and Sergei in a particular, angsty place. And then, it drags us along through the years, with that tension just growing. Through all their awkwardness, all those words almost said but ultimately left silent.
There’s one moment, in 1991, with the barest touch between their fingers. It’s everything. And yet, they both have to be mindful of who might see. So, this moment, too, is given no resolution.
They never quite go “all in,” if you will, until it’s basically the end. Because, just as things finally heat up…there’s the massive threat. And there’s someone choking Sergei, even after Margo gives in and says to stop. They’ve been sharing secrets to help further space travel all these years. Now, however, the whole plot has met the only end it ever could: A bad one.
Often, it’s easy to just…list every single actor on this series and say how phenomenal of a job they’ve done. Or how underrated they, and this series, remain. It may sound empty, but it never is. Certainly, when I say Wrenn Schmidt’s full range of emotion—in all those hotel elevators, then in the hotel room, and ultimately back at NASA—is absolutely everything, I mean it.
There’s a lot, seemingly, left unanswered about whether or not Margo turned over the very information the Russians demanded. But they do safely launch for Mars, right as NASA and Helios both do. So, the outcome is probably not as much of a mystery as one may think.
What isn’t, at all, left open-ended is just how crushing seeing it all unfold is. Real people get caught up in all the political machinations of powerful governments. Good people, people who just happen to be from one place or another. Even when they try to do their little acts of protest, their rebellions and their attempts to create something more, something more powerful always manages to rip it away.
Do we give up, stop reaching across the world’s artificial boundaries, as Margo seems to have done in refusing that album from Neptune Records? Or do we find another way? The world wants us to give up. Let’s not.
More thoughts on For All Mankind 3×03
- Ok but Ayesa was…rather forceful when he told those workers to stop.
- And that shot of Karen looking through the wreckage of what used to be her hotel…Oof.
- The smirk during the whole “Danny Boy” thing.
- Literally every facial expression and reaction from Dani, in every scene, actually.
- If you don’t cry when you see the Tracy and Gordo statues, please tell me how.
- “Ice-solating.” A nerd with jokes. Love it!
- “Your dad and I have been through a lot together over the years. We’ll be fine.” Except what he said, and the way he continues to act, are not fine. Dani should not have to just excuse that.
- “And I guess if I’m being honest, I’d like to be on a mission where I’m not just there because my father happens to be the Commander.” This!
- On the flip side: Cops out here, helping white boys because their daddies are/were famous. Aww, just like the real world!
- “I’m always trying to get work done.” The. Mood.
- “This ain’t the 1960s,” Honey.” No, but I screamed.
- And Krys Marshall’s face before Dani yells at Danny about smoking!
- He called her “Danielle.” The contrition is legit.
- “A little drunk?! Ed. Danny’s in AA. He can’t just get ‘a little drunk.’” This times a billion. He’s not even supposed to have a sip, much less get “a little drunk.” WTF. Ed, you suck.
- The shot of Margo’s reflection against that old photo.
- And “Black Hole Sun” for Aleida? Iconic. Truly. She gets all the best ’90s tunes this season as she deserves.
- For the love of God, please tell me that Ellen being our first woman POTUS, in the ’90s, means what happened on June 24, 2022 will never be possible in this alternate timeline. I’m begging. I may have sobbed the first time I saw this episode and learned she won the election. But now, finishing this review on a very dark, dark day…It just hits even harder. What could have been.
Got thoughts on For All Mankind 3×03 “All In”? Want to strangle Ed with us? Drop us a comment!