Imagine if you will, that in July of 1969, instead of the Eagle landing on the moon, the Russians have landed first, thus changing history forever and allowing the space race to continue and escalate.
A "what if" of history is reimagined in the Apple TV Plus show, "For All Mankind." The very idea is an interesting and fascinating take on the early space program during the 60s an 70s. Filled with actual historical figures and fictional ones, it goes through the early days of the space program but due to the divergence, different challenges and new initiatives are implemented, creating a nbew timeline where many things that were supposed to happen don't and things that could happen, do.
Growing up, one of my all time favorite films was "The Right Stuff", a biopic of the Mercury 7 and the early days of the space program. They were first group of men selected through a series of specific qualifications, haphazard training exercises and grueling flight tests to go into space while the Russians were attempting to do the same. Even in seventh grade, I did a small project on the famed "Space Race" starting with the launch Russian satellite Sputnik 1 to the first lunar landing of Apollo 11. At such an early age, I loved the story and the history of such an amazing series of events.
Many years later, I finally got around to binging all of "From The Earth To The Moon", an amazing show about the Gemini and Apollo space programs and the behind the scenes of not only the astronauts themselves, but all those who were a part of making it possible to get to the moon. The first lunar landing is of course successful, and exploration of the moon continues up until the very last trip to the moon; Apollo 17.
"For All Mankind" seemed like the next show to watch. A dash of history and some sprinkles of science fiction, it's a very in depth and well thought out concept. While I was happy to see a handful of people I knew from books and movies, it also replaced others with fictional ones who I couldn't help but root for. The show focuses on several different characters and history manages to take some unlikely twists and turns. The first season manages to capture a journey of determination and hard work, and even fast forwarding some initiatives due to the space race never ending (including women being able to be a part of the program years before they were allowed in our timeline and diverging political events with very different presidents). It was interesting to see how such events would cause a ripple effect and jarring shifts. With new stories, narratives and people, it was a great take on where it could all possibly head. However, despite this unique take, the second season is not nearly as strong as the first.
Much like a recent popular fantasy show that had huge effect on popular culture but now no one really wants to talk about, having a show that's based off a book or in this case, historical events, things can get kind of muddy. Much like the aforementioned show, creating new events and stories can be hit or miss without having the anchor. While there was a nice blend of the two actual and fictional events in "For All Mankind" in the first season, the second season quickly jumps from 60s and 70s to the 80s, giving us a new alternate history where technology and exploration have taken huge leaps forward. While I appreciated some new ideas and stories introduced, there were a few that felt incredibly lazy from a storytelling perspective and others that were just going for shock value, with very little concern for repercussions. There were plenty of different tropes that were used (which is to be expected) but not used effectively nor creatively. Specifically, a small storyline crops up out of nowhere and it almost made me stop watching the show. Characters were making very poor choices that given their qualities, it made very little sense. However, while there were a few missteps, the season finale stuck the landing which convinced me to continue watching. A far cry from the rest of the season, it managed to hook me back in.
I will continue to watch and come June 10th, I will pick up where we all left off and see where it'll all go. It seems another time jump is to be expected so my hope it will address another series of diverged "what if" historical events.
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