Watching the finale episode of Season One of For All Mankind, and it really is a well-written show.
Two particular moments stand out so far, and for almost opposite reasons –[SPOILERS]
In the first, two astronauts stranded in a capsule face almost certain death, a male and a gay woman. He’s her superior officer at NASA and was the one who trained her. She’s been keeping her sexuality a secret because it’s the 70’s, and a gay astronaut would’ve been completely unacceptable and considered a liability. Given the hopelessness of their situation, she confides in him. For a second, he laughs, and both she and we think that he took it lightly, that he thought it was no big deal. It’s an apparent moment of relief during their crisis.
But no, he was laughing at how ridiculous it was or how foolish he was not to realize the truth because one second later, he’s pissed off and silent. She says she wishes she had never told him, and he says he wishes the same.
It’s great writing because it acknowledges the mood of the decade, the reality of a man during that time. He’s not an asshole; he just realizes how she endangered the whole program, the whole mission, by keeping something like that a secret. He’s realistically and convincingly disappointed and angry. It may not be what we in the present day would have wanted to see from a character portrayed as a good guy, but the show maintains integrity and doesn’t cater to our current views but forces us to deal with the reality of its setting.
The second scene is when an American astronaut inside a moon station talks to a Russian cosmonaut he’s imprisoned. The show has the nuance to portray the Russian cosmonaut as level-headed and kind. Despite their animosity, the Russian recognizes that there’s a crisis, tells the American that, according to international law, when a ship is in distress, all are obligated to assist in the rescue. He says this calmly, unflinchingly, honestly. The next scene is as moving as it is cliched, and the two ride along on a moon rover to help the other astronauts. For a moment, you want everybody on the planet to see the Earth as a ship in distress and want all the people and all the leaders to come to their senses, you want level heads to prevail, and you want to see the whole situation righted.
All of this is made more powerful by the candidness of the presentation. There are no close-ups, no orchestral swells to tell you how you should feel, just a drama playing out.