For All Mankind 3×06 “New Eden” is a strong, if absolutely infuriating and heartbreaking, hour of television. Despite so much progress in the series’ alternate universe, there has always been a terrible undercurrent of homophobia. “Undercurrent” probably isn’t even the right word. After all, it’s been a pretty big deal for Ellen Waverly and Larry Wilson. But in a situation like this, there probably are no right words.
Because it’s painfully, horribly believable that LGBT+ people would be treated like this. Even on a series with such a hopeful vision. If the series has, at any point, dropped the ball, it has always been here. Not because the progress didn’t extend to dismantling homophobia sooner — again, it’s achingly realistic. But because so much of Ellen’s story, especially in Season 3, has been background at best.
That all changes in For All Mankind 3×06, as Will Tyler, one of the first men on Mars, comes out as the first gay man on Mars. We wish we could say his truth is met with a different sort of reception than Ellen’s was decades ago. It’s not. Damningly, not for the series but for the human race itself, while everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed.
In this house, we love Commander Danielle Poole. But, in “New Eden,” she’s clearly in the wrong. And we need to recognize that without bashing her or holding her to an impossibly high standard. People are complicated. Privilege, and its many layers, are complicated.
Being Black in America, and at NASA, has been difficult for Dani. Being a Black woman, of course, adds another level of struggle. We’ve borne witness to that. And we’ve pointed out Ed showing his racist and misogynist leanings earlier in the season, back when he was, essentially, saying Dani only became Commander of Sojourner 1 because she checked some diversity boxes.
Y’all remember, right? “Qualified but” and “other factors.” All that bullshit.
But, because of the way the world works, Dani is the one with the privilege in this episode’s central conflict. Much like Ed did earlier in the season, she shows her ass here. Notably, it comes when she asks Will why he couldn’t have just waited to come out. She’s more worried about the mission, and all he wants is to be seen. And Will deserves to be seen, just like Dani has always deserved it.
All Will wants to do is be himself and show the kids at home they can be themselves, love who they love, and still get to be somebody. So, yeah. Dani deserves every bit of pushback and frustration she gets out of Will. But, of course, it’s not a simple, black and white, situation. Privilege never is.
“…they’d what? They’d judge you. Just for living in the skin that you were born in. Come on, Will. I have been in this program for more than 20 years. And not one second has gone by that I am not aware of how they…see us. So don’t you stand there and tell me that I don’t know what it’s like.”
For All Mankind 3×06 asks us to look at the situations where, despite being used to being the minority, we, too, might actually be the one with privilege. And the episode does it so well through Dani. Because she’s right when she tells Will she knows what it’s like to be judged for who she is.
“Being gay is different than being Black.”
…but she’s also wrong for having the audacity to tell him that being in the closet is some kind of luxury for him. And she’s out of pocket for thinking her struggle as a Black woman is identical to his struggle as a gay man. She can identify with his Blackness…She knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of racism. But she can’t know what being on the receiving end of homophobia is. Just like, as a Jew, I know antisemitism — but I can only bear witness to, not 100% know, the experiences of people like Dani and Will.
So, Dani doesn’t get Will here. She can’t. And that would actually be ok, if only she’d hear Will and support him. No, that doesn’t mean she’s supposed to fix NASA’s homophobia either. It sure the hell isn’t on a Black woman to carry the world on her back and fix all the wrongs.
However. To paraphrase Pirkei Avot, it’s not her duty to finish the work. But neither is she at liberty to neglect it.
In For All Mankind 3×06, Dani shows that she’s imperfect.
She is, however, far from being a bad person overall. The best thing she does, for Will, is push back on Rolan’s bullshit fear of magically catching HIV from him.
Because of how she engages with him overall, though, she falls short of being the leader we know she is. We expect Dani to be our moral compass — the best of us — but she isn’t this time. Not when it comes to helping Will build a better world. She scolds Will for trying to reach a hand down, provide a hand up, to other gay kids. She has swallowed the world’s poison and needs to work on ridding herself of it.
The thing about the people in power is they do this to us, though. The people really pushing homophobia (and transphobia, and antisemitism, and racism, and misogyny, and…) are the enemies. Not a woman like Dani. And certainly not a Black, gay man like Will.
Our real enemies, the purely evil, drive wedges between the rest of us. Because they fear us. They hate us and hate the idea of us helping one another rid the world of their hate. It’s horrifyingly timely to see For All Mankind 3×06 expose this right now when a very particular type of supposedly “religious” people are actively creating that division. It is no surprise that, in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, transphobia is on the rise in a so-called “feminist” movement.
I could name so many other examples here. But that’s the timeliest and most relevant as I’m writing this up last minute. (As one does, of course.)
So, as disappointing as it is to see Dani behave like this, as infuriating as it is at the moment, it is not surprising. And that is not an indictment on her as much as it is on the world at large. It may be easy to hate her at the moment, but the only way we defeat the true evil in this world is by not falling into the seeds of hatred they try to sow between those of us they deem less than.
I will leave direct discussions on homophobia in the Black community itself to people better equipped to have those discussions. But if I go back to my own personal experience, in my own “lane,” I can certainly talk about how white women consistently vote against our own interests as women. Or about racism against Jews of Color. It all winds up pointing back to the bigger, grander scheme — at least in part — though.
What I’ll say is this: I see Dani, though I can never be Dani. Just as I am heartbroken and angry for Will — I see him, though I’ll never be him. I just wish I could’ve yelled through the TV (or the laptop, technically) to remind Dani of Emma Lazarus’ words:
“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
If Danielle Poole doesn’t, as the leader we know she is and as someone who has already overcome so many obstacles, know how important the LGBT+ community’s freedom is, how can anyone? And yet, it’s really not on her.
…again, it’s complicated.
A lot about For All Mankind 3×06 deserves praise, though. Take, for example, the heart Robert Bailey Jr. shows as Will. There is so much hope when he looks out across the emptiness of Mars for the first time. Even when everyone else is suffering the effects of broken temperature controls and water rations, he still sees the beauty in everything. Because he never thought he’d be here. The world didn’t want him to survive. But he did.
I just wish the incredible passion in Bailey’s performance didn’t have to come from this. Not in this alternate timeline…or ever.
And if I got it wrong, on behalf of any community that needed me to do better here, I apologize in advance.
They really did “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” huh?
I’ve wondered, since the start, how Ellen
Waverly Wilson could run for President as the Republican nominee. How she, a scientist, could pick an anti-science running mate…But, of course, that all goes back to us buying into the same system of oppression that holds us down. Same shit, different timeline, if you will.
In For All Mankind 3×06, President Wilson has the chance to make the “New Eden” Will Tyler envisions in his argument with Commander Poole. She knows Will’s pain better than almost anyone else. But it’s because she’s been swallowing that pain, allowing herself to normalize it, for so long that…
…well. Here we are.
First woman POTUS. Gay. And she basically pulls a Bill Clinton. While not expressly calling it “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Ellen signs an Executive Order that is exactly that. She “protects” gay members of the military by keeping them quiet. As a predictable and familiar result, she pisses off both sides in the process.
“We had so much progress on so many things, and..here we are.”
Certainly, no matter where the series takes her, this will not exactly be Ellen’s proudest moment either. But, much like Dani, how can we judge her? Once upon a time, Ellen tried. She told Deke Slayton exactly who she was. And it ended badly. As if viewers could ever forget that moment, For All Mankind reminds us, through Ellen’s eyes:
“I’ll never forget the look on his face. It wasn’t anger…or even disgust. It was just…disappointment. He said, ‘never tell anybody else. It’s all they’ll see.'”
It’s another case of: How could she not do for Will Tyler what no one was willing to do for her? But also, how can we, from our position of privilege expect her to put everything at risk? Isn’t it enough that she was one of NASA’s first woman astronauts? And isn’t it enough that she’s in the Oval Office, trying to do good…which she can’t exactly do if she leaves in disgrace?
There is so much pain here. Jodi Balfour delivers an utterly gut-wrenching performance throughout. In particular, she destroyed me when Ellen watched Will’s full interview in her empty office. And in her naiveté, Ellen’s belief that she’s found a solution that will keep other service members “safe” is such a dazzling contrast. But we know how this all ends. Someone will tell. And that someone will get hurt.
From the looks of it, as For All Mankind 3×06 closes, we know who’s going to get hurt. And it’s the very people who have spent decades lying to everyone to avoid it. Instead of the Clinton scandal…here come the Wilsons.
It feels wrong to call this episode “good” TV. Because everything, under the surface, is so awful. But it’s just…it’s so well done. And it makes you think. I’d say the people who need to think the most won’t get the message — won’t even be watching, likely. But we can all do better. Even those of us who think we have it all figured out.
More on For All Mankind 3×06
- Um, so. Stan Krys Marshall harder than ever. Screw being a good actor, who kills it every episode. She’s also good people. See also: This tweet.
- The score, especially at the beginning of the episode with how it builds. This series is truly a gem, from top to bottom.
- But it hurts.
- “Where is it again? Oh, that’s right. It’s floating out in space with your ship.” One billion percent here for shady Kelly Baldwin.
- That “thank you so much” from Dani to Kuznetsov is the biggest “fuck you” ever heard in space.
- I’d like to nominate Danny to be the first human sucked into a black hole. I’m so tired of him. I don’t even want to say he needs to seek help because that stigmatizes mental illness. He’s plain rotten.
- Karen Baldwin in her Donna Paulsen era. If you have the good taste to know, you know. If not? Watch Suits. Learn.
- “Anything is possible.” If only.
- “It’s a shame that man put this…stain on your great accomplishment.” Congrats on your piece of shit VP choice, Ellen! He can join Danny in that black hole.
- So glad they mentioned Deke in that one scene, though, because my notes from the earlier meeting literally say, and I copy: “ELLEN, WHAT. THE. FUCK.*** She literally went through this with Deke, and he just…hated her for who she was.”
- Yeah, I put my notes in bold and star them. Now you know how the process works!
- “I was standing out there, looking at a new world, untouched. And I thought, what if this is our chance to plant a new tree of knowledge? To start again? Who’s to say here, a hundred million miles from Earth, what’s a sin and what’s not?” If you didn’t cry, I hate you.
- “This is not about God. This is about NASA!” Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.
- It’s just that Joel Kinnaman, on a solo video feed, discussing Ed’s regrets and wanting to look out for Danny…Danny can choke and all? But God, those messages continue to be fantastic material anyway.
- Mazzy. Goddamned. Star.
- Not “hi, Bob” making me emo again.
- “Chemistry” is discussed so often in terms of ships and romantic leads…But. Kinnaman and Marshall, as these old friends who went through something together and have that bond forever…That chemistry is some of the best. Ever.
- “Fuck them! I want them to hear this.” Continue to stan Aleida.
- “Let’s toast! To a beautiful new partnership: the Soviet Union and Helios. Communism and capitalism. A match made in heaven!” Shade queen.
- “Why don’t they just call it what it really is? Gays last.” Amerikkka in a nutshell.
Giving Will Tyler, and anyone who needs this message, the final word
“It was hard. I got bullied a lot. There were days where I felt like…I didn’t want to go on. Like maybe the world was better off without me in it. But I did go on. And now, here I am: the first gay man on Mars. So, if you’re a kid out there that feels like…maybe you’re broken somehow, like the world would be better off without you in it? I promise you, it’s the world that’s broken. Not you. Now, I know there’s probably going to be a lot of people out there mad at me for saying this. But…I don’t know. I feel like, if somebody like me doesn’t say it, who will? What’s the point of sending people all the way out here if we can’t look back on our own world and see it for what it could be?”
Thoughts on For All Mankind 3×06 “New Eden”? Drop us a comment. Homophobes need not apply.