‘For All Mankind’ is a science fiction television series based on an alternate history of the Space Race of the 1960s. It is created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi. The series has an exciting premise: what if the Soviets were the first to land on the moon? ‘For All Mankind’ answers this question, and its narrative follows the butterfly effect of this alteration in history. It paints a hopeful future as the Space Race gains momentum in the aftermath of the Soviet landing.
The Americans scramble together and change their foreign policy to counter the growing dominance of the Soviet Union. The Cold War rages on, and amidst this confrontation, the USA has to figure out ways to gain leverage in the Space Race and outdo the concurrent growth of the Soviets. ‘For All Mankind’ delves deep into the ramifications of this alternate history and creates a delightful narrative that keeps us engaged till the very end. Here’s everything you need to know about ‘For All Mankind’ season 1. SPOILERS AHEAD.
For All Mankind Season 1 Recap
Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov is the first man to walk on the moon, completing his feat in June 1969. Following this event, NASA scrambles its resources for an American moon landing. Astronaut Edward “Ed” Baldwin publicly displays his anger at NASA’s failure to complete a moon landing during the Apollo 10 mission of which he was a part. This criticism lands him in trouble, and he is removed from flight duty. Meanwhile, Apollo 11 crash lands on the moon, but Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are able to establish contact. Plans to build a lunar base are set in motion, but bureaucratic and political hurdles delay the development.
The Soviet Union trumps NASA again by sending the first woman on the moon. So, NASA develops a program to train women astronauts. Only five candidates remain after the arduous elimination process— Molly Cobb, Patty Doyle, Danielle Poole, Tracy Stevens (Gordo Stevens’ wife; he piloted the Apollo 10 mission), and Ellen Waverly. NASA finds water on the moon’s surface and plans to build a lunar base around the findings. Unfortunately, Patty Doyle dies as she crashes her module during a LEM mission.
The Vietnam War ends, and Ted Kennedy declares himself a candidate for the upcoming presidential election. To probe further into the findings of ice on the moon, NASA plans the Apollo 15 mission with Baldwin, Molly Cobb, and Frank Sedgewick as crew members. The Apollo 15 mission lands on the Shackleton Crater, which becomes the location for a future lunar base.
With the mission’s success, Molly Cobb becomes the first American woman to walk on the moon. Meanwhile, Karen, Ed’s wife, and Wayne, Molly’s husband, confide in each other regarding their filial problems. A subplot in the series depicts the life of Octavio, a Mexican immigrant who works as a janitor in NASA, and his space-obsessed daughter, Aleida. The FBI indicts Octavio for illegally crossing the American border, which leaves Aleida to fend for herself.
Jamestown, the lunar base, becomes operational on October 12, 1973. Baldwin, Danielle Poole, and Gordo Stevens are the occupants of the lunar base. On the other hand, the Equal Rights Amendment Act is ratified in the USA. NASA prepares the Apollo 23 mission to bring back the astronauts from the Jamestown base.
Unfortunately, the Saturn V launch vehicle explodes, killing most of the crew members. This devastating news has an adverse impact on Gordo Stevens, as he has a psychological breakdown. Meanwhile, the USSR has developed their own lunar base, Zvezda. Danielle and Gordo return to Earth as the former deliberately breaks her arm to hasten the process of their retrieval because of Gordo’s deteriorating condition.
Ed spies on the Soviet Base and finds that the latter have been keeping a tab on Ed’s workings. On Earth, Karen is devastated at the loss of her son, Shane, and deliberately keeps the information hidden from Ed. Apollo 24, with Deke Slayton, Harrison, and Elle onboard, launches to rescue Ed but gets caught in a technical failure. Apollo 25 with Molly, Dennis, and Tracy launches to repair Apollo 24. Unfortunately, Apollo 24 has a premature ignition, killing Harrison and knocking the module out of orbit. Despite the mishap, the Apollo 24 rescue mission is a success but ends in Deke Slayton’s death.
For All Mankind Season 1 Ending: Why Does Ellen Stay Back at the Jamestown Base?
The rescue mission undertaken by Apollo 24 faces some stringent difficulties that change its course. Due to a failure in the Flight Control Computer, the module fails to perform the necessary maneuvers. Nonetheless, Ellen manages to reach the base with the help of Ed. Due to the mishap in Apollo 24’s flight, Deke Slayton and Harrison Liu are killed.
Ellen’s decision to stay back on the base can be likened to a sacrifice made for the greater good of the space program. Moreover, Ed is stranded on the base for a long time, and his interaction with the captured Soviet astronaut turns out to be a harrowing ordeal. Ellen perhaps feels that Ed needs to be with his wife to share each other’s grief in the face of their child’s death. Another stark moment during the ending is Ellen’s disclosure of her sexuality to Slayton.
Her final conversation with Slayton is a poignant moment where she takes his dying advice to accept the reality of the fabricated marriage with Larry and keep her sexuality hidden to avoid a potential scandal. Even though Deke’s dismissal of her truth is somewhat harsh, the scene avoids a judgment on Ellen’s character. Ellen persuades Ed to leave the base and takes command herself because she might not be ready to face NASA in the light of the disclosure of her truth. It is a sacrifice made to achieve peace for all humankind.
What Happens to Molly?
Molly Cobb is the first woman to walk on the moon. She is dismissive of the brazen sexism and carves a niche for herself despite facing opposition from Margo Madison. In a rendezvous with Apollo 24 to solve a technical difficulty, she commandeers the Apollo 25 mission. During an extra-vehicular activity, the Apollo 24 launch vehicle ignites, which ends up killing Harrison. Molly, on the other hand, is stranded in space. Margo, who oversees the mission control, tells her to leave Molly and save the crew of Apollo 24. Tracy, who pilots the Apollo 25 module, has to decide between rescuing Molly and saving the other crew members.
Tracy does not pay heed to Margo’s instructions, and she manages to save Molly and escort her back to Earth. This particular moment shows that space missions depend on the impromptu decisions of the pilot despite being controlled from Earth’s base. Things can change in a matter of moments, and it is up to the astronauts to take the decisions that stem from moral resolve. Molly is saved from the impending doom, as Tracy’s empathy takes over Margo’s pragmatic approach. Nothing can be guaranteed in space flight. But the daunting pursuits make the possibilities worth the tribulations.
What Does the Post-Credit Scene Signify?
In the post-credits scene, we move to 1983, where Ed and Karen watch the debut of a new spacecraft. The spacecraft is a massive rocket launched from the sea, which is carrying plutonium. The spacecraft is based on Sea Dragon — a spacecraft that was designed by NASA but could never become operational. The spacecraft is set up in the narrative as we see Wernher von Braun holding its model in the second episode. Moreover, the one-upmanship between the USSR and the USA is limited to the Space Race. But as we move ahead, there are indications that militarization of the lunar bases is in the foray. The fact that the spacecraft carries plutonium indicates a weapon program exists that might alter the future of the Jamestown base.
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