For All Mankind 4×02 is damning evidence that, even in the much-preferred timeline that this series has established, the human race is (apparently) incapable of letting go of its class systems of “haves” and “have nots.” That is, at least, the main idea this episode covers. And seeing as how nothing gets resolved there, we’re guessing this will be a major driver of conflict going forward. That’s not the only story in “Have a Nice Sol,” though. Back on Earth, the after effects of trauma continue to plague Aleida, which is gutting. As a nice surprise and silver lining, however, leaving her job helps her to be in the right place at the right time for forming a new friendship with Kelly. Which, to be clear: This is a thing we never knew we needed in our lives, but now that we have it, we’d die for it.
…and then, as this series always does so well, it all ends on a shocker that leaves us desperate to know more.
The lower class
As much as we’d like to just dive in to talking about our beloved team of Dani and Ed, or even our new besties Aleida and Kelly, we have to first start with the glaringly-obvious differences between how all of those people live…and how those below decks do. When Miles (Toby Kebbell) arrives at Happy Valley, he’s expecting the place to live up to its name — or, at the very least, for his experience to live up to what he was promised before signing on for two years in space. As we see through him and his bunkmates, though, expectation is the opposite of reality.
Miles won’t be doing the work he came here to do. No. And he won’t even get to see the vast landscape of Mars, with Sojourner 1 still off in the distance, again any time soon either. Forget about that space rock for his adorable daughter back home. Also, speaking of the folks back home: No, he won’t actually be speaking to them anytime soon. The video mail is glitchy way down in the deep, dark hole where the maintenance workers have been stashed and mostly forgotten…and has been for weeks. Meanwhile, even with the satellite problems, astronauts and kosmonauts are able to communicate with their loved ones just fine.
“He barely even looked at me. Like I didn’t even exist.”
Adding insult to injury, Miles has to overhear some upper class guy’s video call while he’s fixing an air duct. The other guy only acknowledges him — as anything other than a prop in the background, at least — to demand that he fix the sink. Not his job…but no one’s listening and no one cares. This doesn’t even begin to describe how badly these workers are treated; it’s like their lives are just one slight after another. Meanwhile, despite coming to Mars to make money to support his family, Miles’ paycheck falls pathetically short. It comes without his promised bonuses, yet it’s littered with deductions for all the basic needs the base is barely providing in the first place.
For one, Miles has to pay for food…but it barely looks edible, whereas upstairs, there’s a chef. And let’s not start on the state-of-the-art technology for Dani’s coffee versus….whatever it is that Miles has to drink. Let’s just call it an abomination and abuse of caffeine because, to be perfectly honest, we actually can’t even describe it without feeling attacked. Sure, Miles may rightfully hate it here, but he doesn’t exactly have the option to just go home. If he does leave early, he’ll have to pay a huge penalty — damn the fine print — and it’s not like the trip would be quick anyway. All these words, and we still haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of just how different it is to live as the “help.”
The split-screen view comparing Dani’s day-to-day experience with Miles’ is extremely effective. The lighting on her side is bright and happy, filled with the type of optimism this series promises. But, right below her — next to her, for viewers — there’s the darkness, barely any color contrast even within that palette, and nothing but hurt and frustration. Even when For All Mankind 4×02 separates the scenes instead of providing that side-by-side comparison, the differences are glaring.
Throughout “Have a Nice Sol,” Kebbell does a fantastic job of portraying Miles’ mounting irritation. Another highlight comes from the hurt and the hopelessness, especially when you consider it in comparison to the initial awe. With that being said, his performance is probably at its strongest when Miles watches all those missed video messages. He’s so excited and relieved to see his family. But the pain of all the character has missed, especially as video after video shows subtle changes in how much the kids’ smiles fail to meet their eyes, is etched all over Kebbell’s face. It’s gut-wrenching.
We’ve come a long way since Season 1. Nobody should have to be left with poor communication systems and nothing but old episodes of The Bob Newhart Show — and each other — for company. And yet, one can’t help but see that at least some people in space would actually be happier living Dani, Ed, and Gordo’s difficult and maddening reality from decades ago. At least then, the folks back home were trying to help them and even saw them as heroes. In the case of folks like the Happy Valley maintenance workers, they’ve just been abandoned in favor of those deemed more important.
One can’t help but wonder how long they’ll be able to suffer in silence. Especially after the one time Miles did try to speak up, Ed so brutally and bitterly mocked him for it.
There are two sides to the Dani/Ed story in For All Mankind 4×02. First up, let’s get the frustrating part out of the way. Just like in the second episode of last season, “Have a Nice Sol” is incredibly clear about how different these two characters are as people. Just as we see Ed react extremely poorly to Miles’ complaints below decks, we see just how purely ugly he is about the overall situation when Dani brings it up over their chef-made meal.
“Yeah, who knew it’d be hard living on Mars? What’d they think this is, a luxury cruise line? Come on, give me a break. When we went to space, we went for our country. For the mission, to push the envelope. These guys, they’re just up here to make a buck. And that difference…it’s what’s behind a lot of these issues that we’re having.”
Joel Kinnaman lays the mockery, complete with what we’ll call the “poor baby” voice, on thick. He transforms Ed into the pure embodiment of every out-of-touch old white dude who thinks “kids these days” have it easy — are just whining and want a handout — when, in reality, the system is just stacked against supposedly “young” millennials and younger generations. Ed seems to think, as he sits in his comfortable cafeteria and eats his dinner with his great view, that he had to suffer once so it’s fine that others are suffering now. Only “essential” needs matter, and those include his personal calls to Kelly…and anyone who’s not as privileged as him deserves nothing. Bootstraps, American dream — all that utter bullshit applies.
Meanwhile, we have Dani. She’s actually worried and even tries to remind Ed what they went through back in the day. How, once upon of time, as we alluded to above, all they had was “hi, Bob” and “a lot of promises made. But no follow-through,” thus placing their “morale…in the shitter.” When Dani brings up Apollo 22, she and Ed even get to have this beautiful moment of reminiscing over something decades in the past. Kinnaman and Krys Marshall give this stunning portrayal of what it’s like to look back with fondness, even when the times you’re looking back on were ones you once thought you’d love to forget.
But even as they share those memories and that ability to laugh about those old wounds, Dani’s reason for bringing them up is completely the opposite of Ed’s. It’s not in an “I had to do this, so now my younger crew must, too” kind of way. Instead, Dani has empathy. She, unlike her longtime friend, remembers those days and wants to make life easier for those below decks, make it so they don’t have to struggle just for basic needs. And it’s no surprise that she takes this approach. Because, as we’ve often pointed out here, Dani is the better leader and just…doesn’t come from a place of life automatically being easy for her. It’s not that she never fails and is never unreasonable — she just, overall, is the bigger person.
With all of that being said, we still love our occasionally-infuriating Ed way too much. And, seeing him and Dani share that first “hi, Bob” of the season — quieter now, even more history and mutual loss between them than ever before — is what we want to remember this episode for the most. The onscreen chemistry between Marshall and Kinnaman is as good as ever — better even, somehow! — to the point where we really, truly believe that these are two old friends with decades and decades of shared experiences between them. So many highs and lows are reflected in those initial greetings, those fond smiles…and yes, the back-and-forth, too.
It’s difficult to put into words just how great this pairing is or even to pick a highlight for their dynamic in For All Mankind 4×02. (Or, well. “Hi, Bob” always wins. But…aside from that.) Is it Dani’s tough love over the Kelly situation? Or, perhaps, it really is seeing how they have such a great difference of opinion over what’s going on down below, yet still clearly care for and, above all, respect each other deeply? (Ed is still wrong, though, either way.) Maybe, instead, it’s Ed leaning in close to tell Dani she’s “got some balls.”
No matter what, they are truly priceless. Nothing compares to this friendship. It is the reason we keep coming back. They are, more than any other characters or any other aspect of this series, why we can still call this a comfort show even when so much about it hurts so badly, so often. The alternate timeline is great, but it’s nothing without the humanity. Dani and Ed, individually, are essential to this series’ human core. (Yes, even when Ed is infuriating.) But their friendship is like a character all its own, the true, human heart of this series that pumps life into all else.
“To screwin’ up”
Even if no one will ever be on the same level as Ed and Dani, For All Mankind 4×02 does give us drinks with Aleida and Kelly. And to repeat and rephrase what we said at the top of this review, we never knew we needed this friendship…but you can try (and fail) to pull it from our cold, dead hands. First and foremost, Aleida needs someone. She hasn’t dealt with the trauma of the bombing, and it’s affecting her home life. Then, when she tries to go back to work, all it takes is a casual mention of Margo for Aleida to fully relive that moment when she saw her mentor’s destroyed office. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Do we even need to break down the myriad ways Coral Peña just continues to destroy us in “Have a Nice Sol”? The robotic, expressionless “the TV wasn’t working”? Or the utterly broken and lost “what do you suggest I do,” that’s simultaneously so full of emotion and, yet, muted? How about the way the life is completely just…gone from her eyes until just the right moment to signal Aleida has, in fact, come back from the flashback that occurs when she’s talking to Hobson? Maybe the desperation on “I can’t go back.” The list goes on…
…but, what we’d rather do is talk about how something comes back to life in her when she recognizes Kelly Baldwin at The Outpost. There’s something that makes these two just click. Maybe it’s as simple as the common experience of having lost someone to the bombing at NASA. (Or, well. Margo’s out there, totally lost — Aleida just doesn’t know it.) But whatever it is, even when Kelly and Aleida are both hurting and, admittedly, not dealing with their hurt in the best possible way, they are a delight to watch together. Why did no one think of this before? And how do we bottle whatever it is that Peña and Cynthy Wu bring to their performances that make these two devastated characters, just letting it all out…into so much fun?
Wu is delightfully hilarious as a hungover Kelly, waking up at Aleida’s place the next day. And then…then, we find out that Aleida isn’t giving up. This time, instead of staying up all night in pain, we find out that she’s been up all night coming up with a plan. She and Kelly are going to get funding somewhere else and, maybe, change the world. Just like all those women did decades ago when they joined the space program.
Margo would be proud, we think. But this isn’t about her, not really. It’s about Kelly and Aleida working toward a dream that’s entirely their own. We can’t wait to see it.
More on For All Mankind 4×02
- So, landing on Mars really is significantly easier now, huh?
- This Palmer dude is a redneck drill sergeant caricature. Ugh.
- “Old Man Mars Himself”
- “You couldn’t stay away, huh?” “Yeah. I guess I’m a real glutton for punishment.” Me at my shows.
- “For Grigory.” If you’re not crying watching these two work their magic…how?
- …but nothing for Tom. Ouch.
- Dani’s entire speech is so well done. The way we can actually feel her slowly, yet surely, remembering how to do this leadership thing. And the tiny emotional tells, like the lightness and little eyebrow raise over “Kuz.” Krys Marshall, you icon you.
- The whole speech is beautifully written, too. Preserving this level of art is exactly what this year’s strikes were about, folks.
- And that split second on Kinnaman after the “friend of mine” part of the speech. Just…a LOT of repressed emotion trying to force itself out as toughness from him.
- “This has to stop. Alright? Just moping around here, watching TV. Playing Guitar Hero.” Wow, ok. Way to attack my grad school years.
- “I know you’re going through a rough time, but…” Self-deprecating jokes aside, this is shitty. This, too: “Why don’t you just…hide here from the world, fix TVs at 3:30 in the morning. Because that’s totally normal.”
- Can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” was a perfect choice.
- Not Hobson kissing Kelly’s ass, just to pull her aside and crush her like that. I hate this man.
- “Mmm mm. Don’t be trying to put this off on me.” Get him, Dani.
- “I want to say you get used to it, but..you really don’t.” And you shouldn’t have to!
- “Yeah, but…isn’t that kinda what…being on Mars is all about? I mean, ever since the first Martian Thanksgiving. Sharing, sacrificing for one another…” “So you, saw the Disney movie.” I love her.
- “Central Comms take priority.” “Mmmhm. So. You. Talking to Kelly…counts as essential Comms. Is that right?” Again, I say: Get him, Dani.
- And we’re forever loving the delivery, that little eyebrow raise, that look of “Ed, we’re family, but shut the fuck up” that is forever all over this performance.
- “That’s not a simple request, Dani.” “So? Make it so, Ex O.” And their grins.
- “I’m fine.” (She is not.)
- “I’m no Margo Madison, that’s for sure.” No shit, Sherlock.
- “It feels…comforting just to be here, I guess. Especially when life’s kicked you in the guts.” When you watch the same Friends reruns every night and multiple SVU marathons per weekend.
- “I quit.” “Why?” “I’m not sure.” Probably the most genuine, important line from Aleida here.
- Oh, Ed. Fuck you and your “personal responsibility” and condescending slap to the chest.
- “But then, Margo…she took a chance. And uh…if she saw me now, she’d be so pissed. I could just see her face, you know? The disappointment. ‘Way to go, Aleida, way to screw it all up.’” I might actually jump. So much heartbreak and defeat here. Just. Ouch.
- The way Kelly talks about liquid…
- And the high fives!
- “It’s been fuckin bullshit.” My life.
- “The sigh of the oppressed, opium of the people.”
- Even by the end of the episode, the high point for the blue collar workers is, at best, survival. Upstairs, people get to celebrate the victory of a bold repair mission by watching a soccer game. But those (quite literally) beneath the “worthy” crew are left to do nothing more than forget their troubles with shots of airlock-made vodka in an underground (again dark) bar. This episode is not at all forgiving.
- “Happy Valley will kick your ass if you let it.”
- I don’t even know where to begin with Margo, other than that I am terrified for her — and Wrenn Schmidt killed that sense of mounting fear. Also: I thought nothing could ruin Swan Lake more for me than the two falls during the Bolshoi’s performance when they toured near my area. I was wrong.
- …everything other than that music and the sirens is just deadly silent until Margo gets to that mob…so powerful.
- The broken glasses…
- Everything hurts, actually. What did you do to Margo.
Thoughts on For All Mankind 4×02 “Have a Nice Sol”? Leave us a comment!
New episodes of For All Mankind stream weekly on Apple TV+.