When For All Mankind returns to Apple TV+ this Friday, ten years will have passed.
That’s a significant chunk of time for anybody in real life or on a TV show, but For All Man Kind Season 2 is jumping ahead ten years during the space race.
While our own race to space was internationally victorious and, after a dramatic push in the ’60s, fell out of favor nationally as the years progressed, things are a lot different for the NASA employees, astronauts, and the families on For All Mankind.
We’ll be reviewing the show weekly as it unfolds on Apple TV+, so if you haven’t signed up for the inexpensive streamer with heavyweight originals, then it’s a good time to do it.
It’s a good thing we’re reviewing it weekly, as the information that drops can be overwhelming at times, and there is a lot to unpack. Thankfully, we have been chatting with some of the cast and the creators and producers of the show, so we’ll have a lot of good content to share as the season unfolds.
So what can you expect of the new season?
In most cases, I’m not permitted to say. There is a list of embargoes three pages long! And trust me, that’s how you want it. Still, we managed to get some juicy nuggets to tease the new season.
As you’ll recall from For All Mankind Season 1, Ed and Karen Baldwin suffered a catastrophic loss with their son’s death. Shantel VanSanten told us where we could find Karen after that tragic event. “I think where we find her will feel shocking at first. I think on the outside, it may seem like a lot has changed, but I think as we dive into the character and learn more, we see that it’s not so different.”
Caring for others is what really rings true for Karen, VanSanten said. “Where she’s at is only another extension of a way that she can do that. Of taking on too many tasks that she probably shouldn’t, filling her plate full.
“There are ways that she still behaves that are very familiar to me, as playing Karen. Then there are some ways that I find she still wants to break out of that, to not identify with certain parts of who and what she has come to know as familiar, and really find her own truth — Whether it be within her family life, her home life, her marriage, her work atmosphere.
“Once again, I feel as though she goes on another journey. The difference is, this time, I think a lot of it is more self-induced than life-induced.”
For viewers, Karen is the thread that holds them close to the space action without being a part of it. She represents the audience, so how she reacts to the changing times is imperative.
“I think if you didn’t have Karen fight to stay who she was, and what she knew, and fervently want to remain unchanged across the board, then you wouldn’t notice how much was changing in the world,” VanSanten said.
“I also know that that came from a place of fear and wanting to control, and that’s something I can relate to. So, it is interesting that in the second season, it’s not as much… there’s a little bit of life, of course, but a lot of it is more her learning to make choices, even if they suck or they’re wrong.”
Joel Kinnaman, who plays Ed Baldwin, thought the time jump offered a lot of room for the second season to burst forth with storytelling opportunities.
He found how the writers used Ed and Karen’s tragedy to unlock new challenges for the actors quite impressive. “Of course, when 10 years have passed, those wounds aren’t right out on the surface anymore; they’ve had time to subside, and of course, you don’t move on from something like that.
“You’ll always be the person before and after that happens. It’s going to show itself in a different way. And I think it’s going to show itself in a way that you didn’t expect. And I thought they did a fantastic job of portraying that.
“At first, I was almost shocked reading the first scripts, where we find Ed on the ground. He seems to be at peace in a way that we haven’t seen him before. We don’t see much of his anger outbursts, and he almost seems to be happy. I found it almost provocative at first, but then as we moved along in the season, I thought it was just brilliant to portray him in that way.”
Viewers soon discover that Ed’s new post as Chief of Astronauts has taken him away from the dazzling spotlight under which he once stood. Being stuck on the moon while Karen struggled with their son’s accident alone down below had a significant impact on Ed.
“What we’re playing is that Ed has made a sacrifice; he’s sacrificed his passion of reaching further into space and then to explore space. And he’s sacrificed that to be present with his family.
“And if anything was ever to happen to his family, he knows that he, prudential, is going to be there when it happens. This has created a different kind of person. And at first, it seems like he might even be happier or at peace, but I think there’s always a trade-off of giving up your dream and your passion and being able to provide that security.
“And that’s sort of the story of Ed over the second season, is that push and pull between his passion and his family.”
Gordo and Tracy Stevens are also on a very different trajectory by the time we catch up with them ten years later. They struggled to remain on the same page, and they seem miles apart when the cameras roll again.
Gordo shocked everyone when he suffered a mental collapse on the moon at Jamestown, allowing Danielle to take the fall for him. We find him ten years later on the speaker circuit, telling tall tales of his space antics, loaded with guilt for everything that has happened professionally and personally as a result.
Michael Dorman weighed in. “I guess there’s a lot of guilt. He blames himself. And I guess it’s a case of him not realizing what he had to begin with, taking things for granted. And he fell into that classic case of when he was young; he had these aspirations. And he’s just running for them but not actually taking a really good clear look at what’s happening.
“And then you find him 10 years later where he’s forced to lay in the bed that he’s made for himself, but he still won’t look at the truth. So yeah, it’s an interesting cocktail of regret and self-loathing and guilt. And then just numb it. Numb it. Don’t face it, ignore, ignore, ignore. And you just watch someone just spin away.”
Spinning away is Tracy, who is reaping the rewards of her accomplishments in Season 2. She’s an international celebrity and represents NASA, especially the women of NASA, to the world.
Of that celebrity, Sarah Jones said, “I think it’s a double-sided coin in that here she is with all these achievements and accolades. And I think that there’s still a part of her that doesn’t feel deserving of it.
“Therefore, being in the spotlight, having the kind of attention that she has, is quite uncomfortable in a lot of ways. And I think that she tries to deal with that by drowning herself in denial about who she is, where she’s at, and her inability to give herself that approval that she’s consistently searching for.”
Jones sees a lot of commonality with Tracey and Gordo. “I think that in the same way that Gordo is looking back on his life and his youth and what decisions have put him in the space that he currently is in in the second season, I think Tracy’s doing the same.
“Because she’s a career woman, and it’s a new thing in this time; she’s still dealing with mom guilt. She’s still dealing with am I selfish for wanting a career over being the stay-at-home mom? And did I not choose family or what’s most important?
“I think she went through all of those kinds of things. And I think when you are re-introduced to her, she has just handled this seeking of validation in pretty destructive ways.”
As they interact in this new era of their lives, Gordo will have to do some soul searching.
Dorman said, “I guess it’s a case of he hasn’t figured out what caused the breakdown yet. He’s been doing all the therapy and everything, but he hasn’t found the seed yet. And so, he can’t unburden himself until he figures out exactly what the cause is.
“Eventually, he does figure out the catalyst. And it’s only in that, that then he’s sort of freed himself of that burden. But it just takes him a minute to see clearly. A lot of fun to play.”
For All Mankind asks big questions and is really aspirational. That it’s airing at a time when people really need that kind of inspiration feels very good to Kinnaman.
“Space exploration in reality and as fiction is aspirational and positive. And I think it can give us the inspiration to look further and to look deeper into space. I wish that we would focus more of our attention on space exploration and give more funding to Science, to do these things,” Kinnaman mused.
“During the Cold War, when the race to the moon was so prevalent, we were putting almost 10% of the yearly budget into NASA. And there was a lot of pushback then. There are so many issues that we need to deal with on earth, but that money wasn’t wasted.
“You know, we have GPS, cell phones, all this is a result of innovation that came during the Space Race.”
Kinnaman’s personal viewpoints expand far beyond our own species. “I think that we should strive to be a multi-planetary species. With the more time and effort, and money we spend on reaching deeper into space, we’ll also develop technologies and innovate things to help us back here. I think it’s just the process that should be accelerated.
“It feels great to be a part of a storytelling project that does that, that hopes to inspire to that.”
Keep an eye on TV Fanatic for more insight from the creatives of For All Mankind, and tune into the premiere, streaming Friday, February 19 only on Apple TV+.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.