Driving a classic sports car, reliving your glory days with age inappropriate adventures, developing a serious dad bod. All classic symptoms of the mid-life crisis. And astronauts seem to embrace it with gusto.
At the mid-point of season two of For All Mankind it seems the right time to examine its take on the mid-life crisis.
Time Is Not On Their Side
Set nine years after season one, it’s teasing us with a lunar firefight with the Soviets but the real enemy is Father Time who, last I checked, is undefeated. All the heroes who survived season one are now firmly in mid-life. I believe that just because your best days are behind you doesn’t mean good days aren’t still in front of you. But the astronauts are trying to relive their best days and top them. It’s not going well.
Ed (Joel Kinnaman) is leaving his desk job overseeing astronauts to fly a nuclear powered shuttle and taking his old sports car out of storage and flying jets like he’s a test pilot again. He’s sending Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Danielle (Krys Marshall) back to the moon. Danielle is dealing with the loss of her husband and fighting to lead mission. Gordo has a serious drinking problem which led to serious dad bod all while still being haunted by his lunar breakdown. Traci, now his ex, is a celestial celeb. Ed’s wife Karen (Shantel VanSanten) now owns the Outpost bar and seems the most put together of the old gang.
All this behavior is relatable to viewers of a certain age. By showing them embracing or fleeing their own mortality, we see them as more human. The first season was fun because it showed the danger and drama of colonizing the moon with the Soviets just one crater over. This season leans a lot more into character development while not being as action packed (yet).
My worry is that this is also a mid-life crisis for the show. It’s introduced and developed only a couple of new characters. While focusing on the old timers’ struggles in space they need to inject more young blood. The second half of the season will tell us how committed they are to keeping the show fresh. The alt-history aspect was a fun dynamic for the audience last year, now it serves more as background than servicing the story line.
I still enjoy the show. I force myself to finish my work every Friday before I watch new episodes. But I enjoy it differently than the first season. My hope is they continue to shoot for the moon instead of crashing back to Earth harder than Ed’s jet.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
I’m having a Michelob. Despite its rancid taste, it’s the beer of choice this year at the Outpost and I want to be like Gordo, but with a slightly smaller beer belly.