“The Grey,” For All Mankind’s second season finale, is about heroism, in all the variety it comes in. The show’s fictionalized version of Sally Ride pulls a gun on Ed, in order to prevent him from firing on the Soviet’s shuttle Buran; Dani refuses to give up on the Apollo-Soyuz (Soyuz-Apollo) docking, disobeying direct orders in order to make a symbolic move for peace; and Tracy and Gordo sacrifice themselves to save Jamestown and the future of Shackleton Crater. Tracy and Gordo’s deaths are arguably the event of the episode, with everyone believing that since they made it back to the airlock after their trek on the surface of the goddamn moon. Why anyone, including themselves, believed they would survive that, I really have no idea. It’s a brutal moment, as their duct tape suits slowly melt onto their skin, causing blood to burst forth.
There’s also an effort made towards peace with the Soviet Union, after an entire episode and a half of tension, including spending most of the finale at DEFCON 2. Karen and Kelly have a heart-to-heart, which just seems to hit home how useless Karen is at this point: Tracy and Gordo are giving their lives in a brutal way, together, while Karen is considering splitting from Ed for good, for reasons still not entirely clear. Speaking of Ed, after Sally pulls the gun on him and Piscotty pleads with them both not to have a shoot-off in a pressurized Pathfinder, he makes the decision to live in “The Grey,” for once, and shoots down Sea Dragon, the supply vessel which may or may not have had weapons or components for the DoD nuclear reactor at Jamestown.
Oh yes, that’s right, the DoD, under General Bradford, set up a second nuclear reactor at Jamestown, designed to produce plutonium for possible nuclear weapons…on the moon. It feels like an idiotic, pointless decision, and Margo agrees. Considering we lose the great Tracy and Gordo to saving it from meltdown, and peace is declared not too long after, it’s a great device to spur what might be Margo’s next move: becoming a spy for the Soviet Union…or Russia, if the Soviet Union does indeed dissolve in this show’s timeline. The Soviets are certainly going to try to recruit her, especially after she gave up the O-ring problem for Buran. That’s the closing point of the episode–despite all the good Margo’s done, she’s still vulnerable, like everyone else.
The end of “The Grey” also skips ahead ten years to 1994 and jumps to Mars, where it would appear Ellen’s goal of getting there has been achieved, with an astronaut of unknown nationality stepping foot on its surface. It’s a big leap, considering we haven’t gotten anywhere near that feat in real life. It also begs the question of whether or not this is a character we’ve seen before: could it be Kelly or Danny, following in their fathers’ footsteps? Ellen, making a return to space? Dani? An unknown cosmonaut? Sally Ride? Ed, defying time and old age? Hey, John Glenn went back into space at the age of 77. The show gives no clues away but seeing as the montage of Tracy and Gordo’s funerals is overlayed with Kelly’s essay to get into Annapolis, I’m guessing it’s her, which is damn exciting.
Dani and her Soyuz counterparts finally get to do their handshake in space, after Dani pushes for it to happen. The handshake literally changes the world, and Dani will hopefully be greeted when she splashes down as the hero she always was. I only wish Gordo had lived to see it. Tracy, too.
There are some dangling plotlines in “The Grey”: whether or not Karen and Ed are truly split or just separated is up in the air, and who knows if Kelly really did get into Annapolis. Molly’s going blind as far as we know, and whether or not the second nuclear reactor on Jamestown is dismantled is anyone’s guess. Ellen’s future is also up in the air–when we see season three in hopefully a year, will she have moved up in the halls of government?
But these are exciting questions, and this season has been even better than season one. Season three is in the works, thank goodness, so it’s only a matter of time before we find out just who landed on Mars, and what 1994 looks like for our favorite characters. The adventure’s only beginning, it would seem.
Watch all of For All Mankind Season 2 on Apple TV+.