This review contains spoilers
For All Mankind takes a tentative step into class conflict this week, as Toby Kebbell’s blue collar ex-rig worker Miles arrives at Mars’ so-called Happy Valley to discover that actually things are pretty Miserable Valley for people like him.
Miles steps off his flight to Mars and straight into the red planet’s version of an army bootcamp in episode two of the show’s fourth season, immediately discovering that due to the stalled asteroid mission, he’s been relegated from fuel technician to glorified janitor. Not only will he miss out on seeing Mars, but he’s been dumped in a dead man’s bunk underground with the rest of the proletariat. Any time he goes above ground, he’s forced to eat shit by the bourgeoisie astronauts and scientists, and he can’t even get messages from home because that kinda luxury is currently reserved for the people who “matter”.
It’s all a bit heavy-handed, and it plays out over an on-the-nose montage set to Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood, but it sufficiently makes us sympathetic to Miles’ plight. In the midst of all this, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) also becomes more of a villain than he’s been in previous seasons, dismissing Miles’ concerns and mocking his reasons for being on Mars in the first place. It’s up to Danielle (Krys Marshall), freshly installed in the leader’s chair, to call out the societal problems at Happy Valley and force change on her grumpy new Mars team, of which Ed is truly the grumpiest.
Despite Danielle’s best efforts to make Miles’ stay more palatable (and they do make a difference) it turns out he’s set for a two-year stretch on Mars where he’s viewed as “the help”, and his pay checks will provide no comfort as it turns out he’s going to be financially worse off on the red planet than he was back home thanks to Helios’ employee red tape. This is an odd tangent for the show to take, and I’d be lying if I said it was thrilling, but For All Mankind has proven to be great at slow season burns in the past, so I’m interested to see how Miles’ story plays out, especially alongside Margo’s (Wrenn Schmidt) new political plotline in the Soviet Union.
Much less exciting at the moment are Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) and Aleida Rosales’ (Coral Peña) distinctly B-flavored season four plots. You can practically hear the screeching of the gears trying to get these two together and give them something to do back on Earth, but at least the show hasn’t forgotten them, and they’d be hard-pressed to find another journey for Kelly worse than last season’s “unexpected pregnancy” nonsense.
Overall, “Have a Nice Sol” is mixed bag of an episode, but we’re still in the early stages of the season where new stories are being set up, and right now it’s not totally clear where any of them are going in the long term. In the short term, however, the episode takes time out to signpost a couple of things, including an illegal contraband operation in Happy Valley, and the strict presence of the North Korean Mars contingent. During each of these beats, the camera stops to let us see Miles’ brain whirring, and it’s clear that he will likely become involved in both issues during upcoming episodes.