It should be no surprise that For All Mankind 4×01 “Glasnost” is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, as touching as it is tense, and as familiar as it is foreign. It brings us into a new decade. Which means that, as expected, there are new challenges for our heroes — both old and new — to face. But that also means even more victories over the years between when we last spent time in this better, yet still flawed, world and now. And those positive changes are what we always, always must hold onto as we begin taking our small, difficult steps toward mankind’s next giant leap.
This series has always been incredibly effective at marrying these two ideas, of hope and turmoil; and it’s nothing if not fantastic about telling a very human and grounded story, even as it sends many of its core characters out beyond the heavens. “Glasnost” is no different. It is yet another premiere with the difficult task of creating setup for new stories right in the middle of the one we’ve been following since day one.
And it is, quite simply, brilliant. Also brilliant: SAG-AFTRA finally has a deal, just in time for “hi, Bob” season. Everyone who matters wins!
The new guys
If For All Mankind 4×01 has any “weak” spot, whatsoever, it’s in the way it introduces some of the newcomers. To be clear, though, even that is still significantly stronger than much of what we usually see on TV. What both works and doesn’t here is the way these people fit with returning favorites. Ed’s young crew members almost instantly feel like part of the family. That’s completely down to how they interact, not just with Ed himself — although, he’s obviously the most important as an “in” for us — but also with each other.
Marv from Home Alone Administrator Hobson, based on both Dani and Aleida’s reactions to him, feels like someone we need to watch out for. Regardless of whether or not that’s a true assessment, he still doesn’t feel like a stranger. Technically, he has been at our fictional NASA for a while now — we just didn’t see it. But, of course, that doesn’t even matter. He seems like he’s already part of the story because he’s already part of their story — Aleida’s and Dani’s, even Ed’s. Which means he’s already part of our world, whether we knew it before “Glasnost” or not.
Miles, however, is the odd one out. So, when we see so much of his home life, something feels off. There’s no shortage of emotional moments — whether it’s Miles watching his daughter sleep or even the very clear sense of instantly-dashed hope when he sees just how much he doesn’t “fit” with everyone else interviewing for the job he wants. Completely isolating him and his story to show he’s definitely an outsider — at the start, at least — is certainly effective. So, too, is his characterization.
Miles is clearly established as a man left behind and actually set back by progress. His marriage difficulties seem blended in shades of the Baldwins, the Stevenses, and many others. We get the feeling of a reset, almost a reboot, through him. All of this has the potential to make him yet another emotional anchor for us going forward, especially as he lies his way into employment. (Kids, don’t try that at home.) But — and this is also not meant as any insult to Toby Kebbell, whatsoever — because his story begins in a place that’s so far away from every single old friend we were anxious to see again, we find it difficult to make the same connection with him as with other new characters.
It’s a season premiere. We have not seen Margo or Ellen, or Dani, or Aleida, or Ed in over a year. So, while watching For All Mankind 4×01, every time we take a trip to Baton Rouge, all we want to do is go back to space. Or to Russia, to Houston…to spend time with anyone but Miles and his not-quite-ex. But we trust these writers, and we’re nothing if not viewers who hold this series and all its heart very near and dear to our own hearts.
So, we look forward to, in the coming weeks, looking back on this initial sense of “ok but why is he here. Can we please see Dani now” and laughing at how foolish we once were.
Meanwhile, in Russia…
For All Mankind has several important traditions: The alternate history timeline fill-in at the beginning of each decade,
making me cry, “hi, Bob,” and the obligatory “Margo gets ready for her day” sequence. Now in exile in Russia, Margo starts her day off with quite a bit less urgency than we’re used to. Because she has none left, no reason for it. And that contrast to previous seasons is like a knife to the gut. Here, Margo doesn’t have a mentor to please anymore, is no longer responsible for training astronauts or running things at Mission Control. Now, Margo’s days are simple and quiet (too quiet): a stop by the bakery, a trip to the newsstand, people-watching in the park, endless phone calls that go unanswered, and regular check-ins.
In “Glasnost,” Wrenn Schmidt paints an incredible picture of a woman who has lost everything. Her position, her home, her few precious friends, and even her youth. On that last point, look to Schmidt’s movement choices. She takes great care in showing the physical aches and pains Margo faces on top of all the emotional ones: slower movement here, a bit more care stepping down onto a sidewalk there. And everything about her, around her, is just…diminished. Muted. Despite this series being one with so much warmth and hope, Margo’s story falls somewhere in the realm of hopelessness. And her world is, quite literally, cold.
But there’s still some of the Margo from before, the one we met several fictional decades ago. One ignored call to Catiche too many, and she’s got that fire back in her eyes. She’s taking a long, long journey to at least try to force a meeting. And even as she’s in the midst of getting brushed off and sent home without an audience, she asserts herself. She reminds people who have no respect for her exactly why they’re wrong, and even if she doesn’t get the outcome she deserves, she still makes an impression. Because Margo Madison has always been nothing if not someone who will make an impression. She might not make the impression she wants, but folks still take notice.
By the end of For All Mankind 4×01, we know someone is looking out for Margo. Or maybe they’re just watching her. Who knows? What we do know is this: Someone wants her to be patient, wait for her opportunity. For what, exactly? Well, we’re back in the realm of not knowing with that one — and Margo doesn’t have a clue either.
Regardless, we know one thing’s for certain: What we want is for her to find her way home, whatever that even looks like anymore.
Houston, we have a problem
We are, for the fourth season in a row, asking someone to please take care of Aleida. Life may have moved on after the bombing; something new and “improved” has been built out of the rubble, but people can’t just forget. A trauma like that stays with you, and in For All Mankind 4×01, we witness the toll it has taken on Aleida pretty much instantly. There’s a certain toughness she used to have about her that we just don’t see here. Much like with Margo, there’s something…less about her. She’s not masking her pain with the anger she once did, which is good, actually. But she’s certainly not dealing with it either….which is entirely not good.
Coral Peña, brilliant as always, makes sure the smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes when when everyone else is congratulating themselves on yet another victory. And even when Hobson’s attempt at conversation has its moments, Aleida’s light isn’t quite there then either. But it’s when she has the full flashback that we really see how deep Aleida’s wounds go. When the screen goes blurry and the camera follows Aleida’s exit to the hallway — the same trip she once took amidst the chaos in a very similar building — we see a horrifying picture of what it’s like for this character to live with her demons every day. PTSD is a monster, and it attacks her at will.
And Peña absolutely destroys us with her performance, between that sense of trying to hold it together and barely succeeding. It’s also not like an episode just…ends and leaves everything in a sense of relief afterwards either. No. The next morning, Aleida can’t even bring herself to pick up her steadily-vibrating phone when work calls. The way she holds her body so rigid, those eyes so terrified…it’s so good. We know she’s not really seeing the room around her even then; she’s back there.
We love how incredibly well done this is. But there has got to be a happy ending for Aleida. Or, at least, we need her to get Margo — one of the only people she’s ever let help her with anything — back, somehow. Not that we have a clue how that would even be feasible with where things stand. But we’re just saying.
At least initially, “Glasnost” finds Danielle Poole far from the action, taking a much-deserved rest. She’s spending her days singing happy birthday to Gordo and Tracy’s granddaughter instead of commanding missions. But that means having to be confronted by old family photos of Danny, having to feel guilt and regret all at once while in the middle of a very normal celebration. It also means learning the horrible news about Kuz back on Earth, surrounded by people who never knew him, never tumbled onto the surface of Mars with him mid-fight. It’s all a reminder that you can’t run from what haunts you — it will just track you down.
And all of the above means yet another multi-layered, emotionally-raw performance from Krys Marshall as Dani. No surprise there.
By the end of For All Mankind 4×01, after the offer from Hobson, we learn a lot more about what brought Dani home for what she thought was for good. She can hide behind just wanting to spend time with family all she wants, but the truth always comes out through all the emotions anyway. The joking around with Will is equal parts genuine and for show, trying to cover up something that Will sees right through and that viewers can’t help but miss through Marshall’s performance. She blames herself for Danny, and she’s experienced way too much loss, over decades of missions. At some point, it became too much.
“But that’s the thing. Because you don’t ever really move on. The people you’ve hurt, the people you’ve lost…you just…carry em around with you. Wherever you go.”
But Danielle Poole can’t change the leader she is and the explorer she is. Even before hearing what Hobson wants and before her moving conversation with Will, a certain part of Dani comes to life again just by walking through the doors of the space center. She’s all business. Something in Marshall’s posture, the way she occupies that space, is so much different than the Aunt Dani energy. So, even if the character has her initial insecurities, we never have any doubt that she’s still meant for bigger things. And, between Will’s support and her own belief in the importance of the mission, Dani has everything she needs to make her decision.
“Hey. That wasn’t on you, Cap. You gotta know that. We all do. There was just no other choice. You did what you had to do. For all of us.”
“I’ve been telling myself that for the last…seven years. Doesn’t help me sleep any better at night.”
After the little reunion, when it’s all said and done, Will gets back to work. And we get to sit with Dani for just the right amount of time. We get to see that little smile from Marshall, full of “what if.” So, the choice is obvious: One more trip. Off to Mars, to fix yet another mess, we go.
For Ed Baldwin, For All Mankind 4×01 features yet another loss that he can’t face. For a lack of a more elegant way of putting it, our hearts are full of warm fuzzies with all those initial “my friend” moments between Ed and Grigory. What a long way they have come — and not just the literal long distance to Mars. Just…as human beings, rivals, allies, and friends. But we know space does not care who we love, does not care how hard we’ve worked to prepare. The slightest error results in the most tragic outcomes…and that’s what happens to Grigory.
Much his fellow stars, Joel Kinnaman gives one hell of a performance in portraying the amount of pain his character experiences. Not just with this premiere’s big loss…but just…all the cumulative trauma. Unlike Dani who went home and left NASA, Ed’s way of handling his pain is exactly the opposite: He just never goes home. One excuse after another…and we have to watch both his daughter and his grandkid suffer the consequences. This behavior is on brand. It’s exactly who Ed’s always been, and as frustrating as it is to watch, we can’t help but feel for him. And, if some of the subtle moments we see — the slight tremor in his hand as he smokes at the end, the slow clenching and unclenching of his fist at another point — are any indication, Ed knows this is almost the end of the road for him, one way or another.
And that, friends, is a thought we don’t even want to consider.
More on For All Mankind 4×01
- Real talk: All my friends know I call this show “space people” when I’m in a certain kind of goofy mood. So, my entire internal monologue watching this episode has been “space people, space people, space people are back,” on repeat. With the occasional “hi, Bob!!!!” thrown in for good measure, obviously.
- “We saw the impossible, and we made it possible. But there are those few among us who would try to pull us backwards. They underestimated us. Our resilience, our resolve, and our desire to look up at the heavens and never look back…” Nothing but respect for my President.
- The amount of hollering I did over Hillary dumping Bill and Al Gore actually winning in 2000…Y’all don’t want to know.
- And the Weinstein comeuppance…whew.
- But you still cursed us with reality TV, huh? Rude.
- …would watch reality TV on Mars if it was just Dani and Ed saying “hi, Bob” for an hour straight, though.
- “Those we once thought of as our enemies have become our friends, and a new era of peace and prosperity is before us.” Given current real-world events, this was a punch to the gut. Just…if only.
- “Yes. But by now, you must be used to coming in second, Edward.” Get him. (But also, look at the camaraderie!!!)
- “You ready to make history?” “Always, my friend.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
- That’s some beautiful
movieTV magic, showing us Grigory’s float through space to touch that asteroid. Score one for this series still having all the most gorgeous visuals.
- All that excitement, from Ed at his command, from Grigory, from the gang back on Earth…we’re BACK, baby! (There’s something in my eye.)
- “If only you weren’t too young to remember how bad it used to be, you wouldn’t complain about how good we have it today.”
- “Could you imagine me on the moon?” “No. Not really.” The delivery. THIS WOMAN IS DEADPAN AND BLUNT AND TIRED. Actually, more time with her. Less with Miles. Our original premise involved a bunch of badass women (and also Ed and Gordo), after all.
- If you didn’t start screaming “DANIIIIIII” the second that camera pulled back and showed her holding the cake, I don’t trust you.
- “I bet it feels so fucking great flying around free like that.” Same.
- I can not accept Aleida having a teenager, and I need Hobson to stop talking about himself. My girl does not seem interested in this story, and he is incapable of taking a hint. Watch that deep breath after he leaves. It tells several stories. Several.
- Oh, ok. We introduced this interesting little dynamic just to…ouch.
- “Here I thought you were a hero.” “Takes all kinds.” I could’ve shipped it if it weren’t for…uh…what a hell of a way to die.
- “You must cut me loose.” “I won’t, Grigory.” Someone yeet me into space and end me already.
- The look in Kinnaman’s eyes when Ed starts the controls to leave Grigory behind. Nope. I can’t handle this.
- Those barely held back tears on “goodbye, my friend.” Kill me now.
- My notes are a disaster, for what it’s worth. Case in point: “OH FUCK THE EMOTION AS SHE LEANS ON THAT WALL” and “CORAL GODDAMN PEÑA.”
- The way the world just…stops, like Dani’s all alone even when surrounded by others…Yep. Marshall nailed that.
- “So what, exactly, do you think you can provide that we are not better equipped to handle?” “Well, in your case, just about everything.” !!!!!
- Cause of death: Ed Baldwin looking at a cleared-out locker.
- “Promise. Promise.” In Russian: “What good is his promise? He promised to come back in ’09. In ’99. 2001.” English: “He’s not coming back.” The spirit of Karen Baldwin (RIP) was speaking through this grandma.
- So much about this scene between Dani and the new boss is just…It’s like she’s the younger Dani again, just briefly. The pleased, humble smiles…mixed in with the complete inability to hide her face’s very loud irritation when this man says stupid shit. The exhales, the eye rolls…Dani!
- “True. But people respect you. They look up to you.” Facts!
- “And they’ll all listen to you. Especially Ed Baldwin.” Tell me you’ve never watched a single episode of this series without telling me.
- “Ed Baldwin doesn’t listen to anybody.” There it is.
- From Aleida’s vibrating phone to Margo’s vibrating clock…a multi-layered attack on me, personally.
- Here for Margo’s growing “WTF is this” face. Stay patient for what?!
- The Will/Dani scene is just so…real. Not just because it explores this idea that you can know you did the right thing and still feel bad about it, not even just because there is so much fondness here that’s almost as good as getting an early-season “hi, Bob.” Just…something about it feels very authentic, like this is exactly how two people with a similar background and history would relate to each other.
- …and it gets us in the feels, as does everything else. Obviously.
- I want a space tent and that view. I do not, however, want that awful emotion of Ed’s as he’s surrounded by all those family photos, though. No thanks!
Thoughts on For All Mankind 4×01 “Glasnost”? Ideas about where this season is headed or where you want it to go? Leave us a comment!
New episodes of For All Mankind stream weekly on Apple TV+.