This review contains spoilers
While many of our favorite sci-fi shows seem to either be on hold or suddenly canceled, Apple TV+’s For All Mankind shows no sign of stopping. The alternate history show is blasting off with its fourth season on the streamer this November and, as always, the premiere is the most exciting part of the series’ return for those who are curious to see where all the characters have ended up after the traditional massive time jump.
The season four opening montage sets the stage for a new era, and clears away anything surplus to requirements. Unfortunately, that means that we’ve likely seen the last of Jodi Balfour’s Ellen Wilson for a while, as we’re informed that she and Bush won re-election, but the Democrats then swept to victory four years later with President Al Gore now in charge of the country. Ellen and Pam seem to have retired together, which is sweet but does leave a bit of a void in terms of any LGBTQIA+ representation in For All Mankind this season.
Elsewhere, there’s a job boom on both the Moon and Mars as an antitrust lawsuit opens up job opportunities for regular folk, while Helios invents a new plasma engine that vastly reduces the time it takes to travel from rock to rock. We also find out that Jimmy Stevens struck a plea bargain over the climactic season three NASA bombing, and meet Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern), who apparently saved Chrysler and is now looking to pull NASA up by its bootstraps. Additionally, there’s good news for fans of For All Mankind’s Steve Jobs stand-in, Dev Ayesa: he’s making headlines with what will no doubt turn out to be a “Chekhov’s Robot” kinda company.
The montage ends with Al Gore proudly announcing that the Cold War is over, but I am willing to bet good money right now that it is not.
We flit from planet to planet finding out what our main players are up to in episode one, catching up with where they’re at in their lives. Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) has made a life in the Soviet Union, but it’s not much of one. An aging Ed (Joel Kinnaman) is suffering from a secret illness. Danielle (Krys Marshall) is trying to decide if she should go back to Mars, but there’s not much tension in it, as at no point do we think she’ll choose to stay Earthbound.
We also get to meet this season’s new blood in the form of Servant star Toby Kebbell, who immediately jumps to second billing after Kinnaman. Looks like we’ll be seeing a whole lot of Kebbell’s ex-rig worker Miles, who has designs on a Mars job in the hopes that it’ll restore some respect toward him as the breadwinner of his family. Miles seems okay so far, but he’s a bit of a bland addition in this premiere. Perhaps we’ll see him become more complex later on, but otherwise he comes across as kind of an avatar for the audience to experience what it might be like for a regular Joe to get a space gig – which is fine, but I do hope it leads somewhere interesting. Like many Mankind fans, I’m just relieved he’s Not Danny.
Meanwhile, with humanity having successfully having expanded to the Moon and Mars, it’s now setting its sights on asteroid mining, and that appears to be the larger scientific focus in season four. It feels right on cue, given the recent 4.5-billion-year-old Bennu sample headlines, and I’m interested to see how these asteroid operations affect Mankind’s alternate future. It continues to amaze me that this show manages to explore stories that our own version of reality is just getting to grips with in such a compelling way, but it still feels so far beyond our reach.
Sadly, even with all its 2003 technological advances, Happy Valley’s debut asteroid mission goes tits-up, with lovable commander Grigory Kuznetsov (Lev Gorn) sacrificing his life as Ed’s mission to latch on to an asteroid goes terribly wrong. The disaster is sure to cause friction between the Soviets and America, but whether it will be enough for Al Gore to announce the Cold War is already back on remains to be seen.
“Glasnost” was a solid premiere for the show’s fourth season overall. It was clear that the ongoing story needed a shake-up after season three’s grating focus on Unhinged Danny, and some viewers will likely be keen to see whether Mankind will try to move on from Mars in the coming episodes. As Miles and Danielle are heading there at the end of episode, I suspect that won’t be the case, but the mission to mine asteroids may yet prove to be a fascinating one.