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For All Mankind - Hi Bob + Rupture - Review

For All Mankind 1.07 “Hi Bob” - Review:

Hi Bob was another slow-paced episode of For All Mankind but was an important one all the same, that followed the characters stranded on the Moon waiting for a relief team after the tragic explosion of the last Apollo mission. Gordo, Ed and Danielle continued their close-quarters confinement knowing that the Russians were out there somewhere on the moon and were almost certainly spying on them, limited to endless re-runs of the same Bob Newhart Show to keep them busy and Hollywood were forbidding new tapes to be sent up out of fear that the public would begin to realise that they could record shows and then that way, miss out on that sweet, sweet ad revenue. It was only a matter of time before the series did its own version of The Martian, complete with 70s pop in the form of America’s A Horse with No Name (featured a few years ago notably in Shane Black's 70s excellent neo-noir comedy The Nice Guys).

The bonding between Gordo, Ed and Danielle continued as they became more and more familiar with their shows and decided to turn to acting as a result of this, being so familiar with their show that they could watch them down and mimic them down to the letter, even getting the pauses for laughter to the exact moment. One thing should be clear by now is that returning to Earth, these three characters have spent so long isolated from the rest of humanity that they’d never be the same again. Ed’s short-temperedness comes to light too over the course of the episode, telling a story to Danielle about his past in the process as the two spend their time together on the moon. Even Danielle’s husband coming back from a Vietnam where they won the war has had some after effects, and he feels like a different man entirely, suffering from what looks to be a major case of PTSD.

The Russians meanwhile have been doing some exploring of their own and seem to have an advantage over the three Americans, possibly in manpower. Ed believes that the Soviets knew full well that they would find their tracks and report back to NASA, with the White House expected to demand some answers. Opting to write down exchanges to avoid the Soviets picking up their transmission, Ed revealed that there was no interference with the experiment whilst at the same time was told to begin surveillance of Soviet activities, through pen rather than words. In an interesting development of what life was like for the original crew of Apollo 11, the team that started it all, Buzz is now working with NASA themselves as a desk jockey, doing everything he can to try and get a relief mission to the three stranded on the moon. The whole show has been about the space race being escalated further and further so it’s no surprise that the stakes are only just starting to get raised in episode seven, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the confrontation between the Soviets and Americans came close to replicating the intensity of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

It was inevitable that one of the characters on the Apollo mission stranded in isolation would have a breakdown at some point after the tense conditions racked up around them and in this case, it was Gordo, echoing Jack Torrance in The Shining as the replication of the endless repetition in acting out of the television series got into his head, forcing Gordo to take over the roles of all of the characters. Ed believes that Gordo needs to get outside and clear his head, not taking his anxiety seriously enough, rather than call Houston to let them know, whilst Danielle is firmly on the side of calling the higher-ups as the problem escalates. He doesn’t want Gordo’s career to suffer because of this breakdown, and a walk in the Great Unknown with both Ed and Gordo would do them good.

Gordo confesses that he didn’t sign up for an extended stay on the Moon (86 days with no end in sight, and a constant “two week” delay going into the end of 1974), preferring to be a pioneer rather than a homestead settler, making a reference to western shows like Davy Crockett, and it’s clear that astronaut life has its downsides too. Michael Gordon brought his A-Game to the table in an impressive episode that was arguably the best performance on the series to date, with the scene where he suspected that there was an ant in his suit being instantly memorable, whilst it was Ed’s job to reassure him that everything was gonna be okay.

Both Ed and Danielle are understanding in terms of Gordo’s condition but realise that Houston have to be notified about the truth of what’s happening up on the Moon, they have a medical situation and need to power up the lifeboat to take Gordo home. It’s Ed’s fault for not seeing it sooner, and Gordo’s got to go back. Ed decides to send both Danielle and Gordo home, leaving himself alone in orbit, naming Danielle commander of the return mission. Ed knows that he has no way home until Apollo 24 if the lifeboat is sent home, and he says that he’s not abandoning the base to the Russians, and that’s his final decision. Ed does this knowing that Gordo’s career is over and he’ll never fly again, and the shrinks will yank his pilot ticket, military and civilian, but would rather witness his friend stay safe on the ground rather than lose his mind on the moon.

The President has decided to promote Ed to Captain in position after Ed updates NASA of the situation, and decides to go along with the plan to send Danielle and Gordo back home to Earth. This emotional final meant that it could potentially be the last time that the three see each other together in space, and it hit home, subtle and punctuated by a strong score, with the two-leaving knowing that Ed would be stranded on his own, finding a way to link back once more to The Bob Newhart Show, marking the words “Bye Bob”, feel all the more emotional because of it, and the title, Hi Bob, perfectly chosen. In terms of departures from the Moon, this is the saddest and most sombre that For All Mankind has depicted yet, picking up the action on the ground ten days later with still no relief in sight, ending with a montage set to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Someday Never Comes, setting the stage for the next episode perfectly, showing Danielle back at work nursing an injury, whilst we see Gordo lazed away on his sofa at home, watching TV.

Whilst the storyline happening on the Moon was the most effective of the three in Hi Bob, it’s also important to remember that it’s not the only one, even if the other two were a bit more predictable in terms of traditional television storytelling. The FBI pushed Larry into a corner by targeting Ellen in a bid to out him as a homosexual, spotting that both might be covering for each other in a mutual partnership, and they suggest that a fake marriage might be the only way to cover up their relationship from the Government knowing full well the damage it could do to both of their careers. With Ellen and Pam’s relationship on the verge of breaking up, this is the final death bell for it – with Pam justifiably telling Ellen that the pair are over. It’s a choice that nobody should have to make, and it proved that the space farewell was not the only emotional moments of the episode, with the final beats all hitting home perfectly.

The subplot concerning Shane and his acting out whilst his father is in space is the weakest link of the three main storylines, right up until the end of the episode, where he ends up becoming the victim of a tragic accident that is bad enough for the police to notify a shocked Karen, who was expecting him to be in trouble. It’s a sombre end to the episode that sets up greater relevance in episode 8, Rupture.

For All Mankind 1.08 “Rupture” - Review:

Shane’s incident was never going to be a bad thing, and Rupture played on the confirmations of our worst fears to have the boy badly wounded in a collision with a hit and run driver. Rather than waste time on a whodunit, the show left the identity of the driver anonymous, as it put Karen, Gordo and everyone on the ground through a turbulent hour as they wrestled with what breaking the truth to Ed would mean, in what is perhaps the show’s most CW-style storytelling yet, did nobody really believe that the Russians wouldn’t try and get the news to the father at some point? There was always going to be a way that Ed would find out once the secret started being kept, and it’s just refreshing to see that this was relatively self-contained in an episode that had a dramatic effect on Ed’s wellbeing, already stranded alone 200,000 miles away.

Karen is the latest in the supporting characters to be elevated to the main narrative following Gordo last week and Sharon Vanstanten does an excellent job at portraying a parent and having to wrestle with important life changing decisions like these. Watching both her and Ed break down in that final scene after Karen lied about her son playing baseball was what the hour was building towards, and it more than delivered on its emotional set-piece. And Gordo is now regretting smuggling that bottle of alcohol up to the moon. If the last episode signalled the end of Gordo’s flying career, it’s hard to imagine Ed recovering from going through an utterly unimaginable sacrifice, and adaption to life back on Earth will never be the same again.

Ultimately this comes down to Karen’s call about being the one to break the news to Ed. She’s the one that Margo listens to, and her refusal to tell Ed is something that Deke, Danielle and Gordo listen to as well after whispering behind Margo’s back when she gets the attention of the whole NASA operations room. Many of these people know Ed personally, some were trained by him, and keeping a secret is going to be harder than ever. By this point it’s worldwide knowledge, the news has reached the press, and after it gets out, the Russians get a hold of it, who have been advancing closer and closer to Jamestown all the while. It’s easy enough to convince that “DEEPEST SYMPATHIES ABOUT YOUR SON” is just Russian mind-games, but the truth comes piling out after that, when Karen learns the full truth about Shane: he’s never going to recover, and it hits like a ton of bricks. For All Mankind has a sneaking way of building up subplots in the background and weaving them into the main narrative, hitting you with a full force when you least expect them to.

Case in point with background subplots like Shane’s coming to the forefront in albeit more emotionally devastating ways, Aleida finds herself faced with an important choice this episode that could have ramifications for her entire life; she’s now accepted into a new school that could see her set on a career path as an Engineer, but she’s torn between the life that she’s aspired to be ever since she was young and her friends and boyfriend at the school that she loves so dearly. Margo reminds her too that her life will be no easy ordeal – she’s always going to have to put in an extra 110%, turning up early and never making any mistakes. It’s how Margo rose to the top – and she wants the same path for Aleida.

For All Mankind may have been at its most predictable with Rupture but when it needed to it hit home, it delivered the most emotional hour yet whilst keeping audiences in the dark about what’s going to happen next. In comparison to last week’s episode that’s mostly taking place in space, it was somewhat refreshing to see a largely grounded episode (that’s not without Ed’s hijinks of his own in space), that should set the tone for the rest of the season.


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