Sometimes a show takes you by surprise. You sit down without a lot of ideas of what will happen and all of sudden it’s eight hours later and you find yourself having watched a full season. That was me with the first season of For All Mankind. I sat down expecting nothing and by the end, I was fully invested. I love a good space show but one that takes history and rewrites it is even more interesting. For All Mankind asks a simple question, what if the Space Race had never ended? What if the Soviets arrived on the moon first? What would have happened? How different would America be today? The first season was something special, something different. The show had a clear line of sight and yes, rewrote part of history but also found ways to incorporate events that we knew about. It was a fresh take on the space war and a way for the writers to rewrite American history the way they wanted it to be.
Ending with a ten years time jump, the second season was set to be something different than the first but also because they were keeping the same cast, it wouldn’t feel like a totally new show. But pretty quickly, it was clear to me, that season two just couldn’t live up to the first season, at least for me. The problem with the second season is that it doesn’t seem to have an ultimate goal. The first season was simply, get to the moon. Once that was accomplished, it was to introduce women to the space program and then it was a base on the moon. Those three goals drove the whole season, it was the main objective. Everything was done towards those. After watching season two, I would be able to tell you what the goals of this season were. So much happened and yet, nothing happened.
Does that mean season two was bad? No, it was actually pretty good. Mostly because of the characters and the fact that even if the show doesn’t seem to know what to do half the time, you can’t help but be invested in them. These a characters that have dept and are well written, once you get caught up with what has happened to them, it’s impossible to not feel for them. The problem is that this season, they don’t have a lot of time to grow. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if by the end anyone is different that much from where they started. Everything felt rush and it was clear that the show knew it was already getting a third season because this season just felt like setups after setups.
This season felt like it was setting up the stage for season 3. Half of the season was spent catching us up to what happened in the ten years we missed but also trying to set up the future of the show. Because of that, this season doesn’t feel like a season really, it’s just catching up and by the time things start happening, only two episodes are left. For All Mankind seems lost in space, not knowing what to do, throwing everything at the wall hoping that it will stick. The problem with that is that it just doesn’t compare to the first season that was ambitious and well crafted. This isn’t a bad season, it just doesn’t compare. The problem is that the show is stuck in the middle, it has so much to set up that it just can’t advance. They have to set up where they are now, the Cold War amping up, the plan to get to Mars but also continue to tie in the real-life events with the show. Because of that, the show doesn’t get to spend as much time with their characters and by the end, doesn’t do them justice.
What I will give the show is that the visual effects continue to be great and it is easy to see that the show’s budget has gone up. The opening sequence of the first episode of the season was proof that the show knows what works, and if the show goes back to what we love, the characters will succeed. Because the show tries to juggle so much, it can’t quite get what it wants from its characters, instead just catching us up to them and not letting them grow. Really only Gordo gets to change a lot, most of them ending in the same position as they were at the beginning of the season even if their circumstances have changed. The show worked in the first season because of the characters and For All Mankind just needs to get back to that idea.
I am optimistic that the third season of the show will be able to redeem itself because unlike season two, a time jump doesn’t seem in the cards. Maybe it’s just me being optimistic for once, but honestly, I have faith in this show. For All Mankind season two isn’t bad, it’s just impossible for it to get you as excited as season one did. Maybe with time, my opinion about this season will change but for now, the show just can’t reach the potential it has but somehow still stick its landing.