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'For All Mankind' Season 2 first look: In space, no one can hear you sigh

Jodi Balfour as Ellen Wilson in "For All Mankind" on Apple TV+.
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

In real life, space travel and exploration is slow. Exacting. You plan and prepare and practice and take things one step at a time. And if something happens quickly, it's usually because something very bad just happened. 

Same goes for the first couple of episodes in Season 2 of For All Mankind on Apple TV+. The series — which was one of the tentpole shows for the new streaming service when it launched in November — was birthed by Ronald D. Moore, also a driving force behind the beloved Battlestar Galactica reboot in 2004 after cutting his teeth on three Star Trek series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager) before that. The initial premise was fascinating:

What if the United States didn't win the space race?

That opened up a world of possibilities. The biggest was that in this fictional world, women were very much at the forefront not just of NASA itself, but also on the actual space travel side of things. Season 1 was very much an accelerated version of The Right Stuff (which itself has been retold as a new series on Disney+), with the early beginnings of the space program and some of the characters that came along with it, paired up with new, fictional counterparts. It was fun because we knew a little of what would happen, but not everything, so we had to wait and see how it'd play out. What if Gordo Stevens (a thinly veiled Gordo Cooper) wasn't so much the badass pilot he's been made out to be in the previous stories, but a bit of a burnout instead. (And who had to play second fiddle to his wife, at that.) What if the Soviets continued to kick our ass all the way to the moon? (And then continued to do so on the moon itself.)

It was a fun, fascinating watch. 

Season 2 of For All Mankind picks up 10 years later. Some of the protagonists are back on Earth, and perfectly happy to be there. Others, less so. The first episode was a mix of exposition and action, explaining what everyone's been up to (Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) now wears a suit and tie and teaches the new recruits while his wife, Karen (Shantel VanSanten) runs the local saloon. Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Tracy Stevens (Sarah Jones) have split up, with the latter doing the Hollywood thing as her ex-husband descends deeper in to a bottle. Badass pilot an astronaut Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger) was doing her thing on the moon and couldn't be happier. Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) is getting ready to finish her tour on the Jamestown moon base and head home.

That gives us three or four arcs of which to keep track at first. And none of them is moving at any great speed. That is, until a huge solar flare threatens everyone on the moon. Molly saves a Dutch astronaut caught outside, but she hides her own radiation badge in the cave in which she was seeking shelter, so nobody knows that she's just significantly shortened her lifespan, too.

Beyond that, though, it's just been a whole bunch of feelings these first couple of episodes. How everyone's dealing with being 10 years older with different roles and circumstances. You know — life.

What we haven't gotten yet is any of the flashy Cold War stuff that's been in the earlier Season 2 trailers. Nobody's rocking guns on the moon yet. (GUNS ON THE MOON!) The level of danger hasn't gone much past the Pentagon guys being worried that the Soviets could use the lack of visibility after the radiation storm to launch an attack — or wrongly assume that the U.S. would do the same — and it's all DEFCON 3 for about 5 minutes before we go back to someone pouting about something or other.

Presumably things will heat up at some point, and hopefully sooner rather than later. (Interestingly, Apple hasn't served up any images from Episode 3, skipping right ahead to Episode 4.) 

For All Mankind is available exclusively on Apple TV+, which is available on every major streaming platform. It costs $4.99 a month — but Apple throws in a year for free when you buy Apple hardware. (And it's extended the free trial given to everyone when it initially launched in November 2019.)

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of WhatToWatch.com.