“Ground control, is that a negative on fatal space accidents this week? Roger that. Initiate teardrops protocol.” For All Mankind‘s “Goldilocks” episode, number 5 in season 4, pushes plot lines forward Friday under the power of emotional cataclysms more than space-based action.
But it’s a meaty episode nonetheless. The whole season will turn on the importance of a certain newly discovered space rock named Goldilocks.
For All Mankind season 4, episode 5: ‘Goldilocks’ and its vast, conflict-inducing mineral wealth appear amid emotional upheaval
In Friday’s episode of alt-history space drama For All Mankind, it’s 2003 and the Paine Space Telescope has just spied an unexpected asteroid flying within reach after a previous disaster just outside of Mars orbit let one go.
Turns out this thing is more than a kilometer in diameter and packed with 70,000 metric tons of iridium worth an estimated $20 trillion. We learn this through a series of separate urgent meetings of interested parties via split screen — NASA, Russia, Helios — and a flurry of faux news reports. Humanity has 6 months to grab the big before it’s out of range. And that much of the chemical element iridium will change the world.
Russia, Earth’s only known source of iridium, isn’t thrilled.
The race gets off to an emotional start
So the stage is set — 5 episodes in? — for a season-defining race among powerful parties to get that wealth. But the episode spends much of its time landing on touchy nerves. That leads, by the end, to an emotional explosion.
But first, we have the build-up of pressure through cuts between storylines. Some of it seems contrived, an indication that the show doesn’t always ring true as well as it did in its first couple of seasons.
The episode features several flashbacks to tough times on Mars, back before NASA’s Danielle Poole (Khrys Marshall) was the boss of Helios’ Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman).
The return of Danny Stevens
In the first flashback, she metes out meager rations as the team goes the business of staying alive on a compromised Mars colony. Troubled Danny Stevens (Casey W. Johnson), who caused the mess, is in exile in a crashed North Korean module a short drive via rover from the rest of the team. She brings him rations and he begs to come back to base. But she says he can’t.
Dani is woken from the dream by Helios staffer Palmer James (Myk Watford) with news of the new asteroid discovery. That leads to a flurry of developmental scenes.
President Gore fires up NASA on a conference call to capture that asteroid for the United States. Tensions run high under the stress of it, but it rings a bit false. Gore’s rep sniping at the NASA director the second after Gore finishes his pep talk seems forced.
Also a bit forced is the exchange on Mars between Dani and Ed after she issues marching orders. He grouses at her about making everyone run around waving their hands unnecessarily, though it doesn’t seem to line up with what she said.
But it serves to lead into an argument that shows the audience the two of them are still sore after Dani expelled Cosmonaut Svetlana, who was just about to become Ed’s special friend, in episode 4. She got called back to a Soviet Union in political turmoil after almost killing another Russian, and everyone feared for her safety at the hands of hardliners.
Hints and warnings at happy hour
Cut to the Happy Valley cantina of Helios worker and black-market trader Ilya Brezhnev (Demiter D. Marinov). His colleague Miles Dale (Tobey Kebbell) watches as a young Russian carries on with Samantha Massey (Tyner Rushing). Ilya grouses about how the kid isn’t good enough for Samantha.
And we can see some angst on Miles’ face over the flirtations, too. After all, he and Sam shared a pregnant moment after she rescued him after his fall on Mars in the last episode. Surely they were about to kiss after she showed so many (angry) emotion over his recklessness.
Ilya and Miles go over new orders. Ilya says they can’t bring the North Korean Lee’s wife up yet, per his recent blackmail-fueled request/demand of Miles, under threat of exposure. Miles worries about angering the North Koreans. Look for some bad blood next episode.
Dev is going to Mars, dammit
Helios scientist Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) is making sandwiches and rallying her kid Alex for school when she hears on the radio her Helios boss Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi) plans to go to Mars himself. Long story short, she grabs colleague and former NASA flight director Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) to confront him about it.
Turns out he wants Aleida to be his proxy on Earth while Kelly goes with him to Mars if she can excellerate her timeline and prep on route for detecting microbes with robots. Nobody’s happy, but Aleida and Kelly end up back at the former Baldwin bar, drinking and encouraging each other to succeed.
But as we later learn, it’s tough on Kelly to leave her son behind — especially with that Russian nanny from past episodes. Turns out it’s not so easy for Dev, either.
He goes to see his estranged mother at a community center, showing up his X-winged super-car. He says he’s going to Mars and not coming back. They fight. He angrily blames her for leaving the family when he was young. She says his father had already infected him with his “disease of ambition.” She exhorts him to stay and serve his community. He tells her to call a number if she needs anything. She says she never wanted his money.
So when Kelly goes to see Dev later to say she will join him on Mars, but she wants to bring her son, Dev’s reaction is a surprise. While Kelly launches into an explanation of how she’s already spoken with doctors about how conditions on Mars could actually help her son’s cardio-pulmonary ailment, Dev faces the window and says nothing. But we see him struggling to control his emotions in the wake of his family rift. He can barely grunt that of course he understands and that her son is welcome.
Gore didn’t just ‘invent the internet’
The episode winks at Gore’s undeserved real-world reputation for having claimed to invent the internet. Here, in a nice bit of fakery, he’s shown on TV calling out the value of Goldilocks to humanity — and everyone accuses him of taking personal credit for discovering it, shown through a flurry of media references.
NASA director Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern) rages at Gore’s rep that this will wreck the delicate balance over asteroid-capture preparations among M7 nations. And he tries in vain to placate Russian space agency head Irina over it, too. But she uses it as a reason to hold a whole new M7 summit in the Soviet Union.
Which brings us to Aleida facing her worst fears. She’s an engineer and a flight director. Politics isn’t her game. But with Dev headed to Mars, she’s going to have to do his work schmoozing with senators and world leaders, including at this new summit, somehow suddenly planned to happen in just days.
Heartstrings flutter in the void
Meanwhile, intercuts show more emotional content. As Kelly struggled with the idea of going to Mars, she watches an old video of her mom, the late Karen Baldwin, losing it from afar over Kelly’s then-impending motherhood, and bursts into tears.
Miles watches a vid-mail in which his wife is bouyant over the new house she’s looking at with the girls — all thanks to the money Miles is bringing in by helping Ilya. But just as it looks like she’ll truly have Miles back — they had been separated — the show reminds us of his possible thing with Samantha.
Just after Miles closes the video, Sam enters the room. She’s all stressed out. On the one hand, she got assigned to rover mission for Goldilocks, her dream job. On the other hand, she feels like they’re all just powerless underlings, hearkening back to the show’s have and have-not dichotomy. Miles again asks her to bring meaning to life though Mars-rock profit. But meanwhile, Ilya finds out by chance that the Mars rock venture is going on despite his trying to shut down Miles over the inherent risks of it.
Dani also gets in on the vid-mail heartstring pulling. He husband on earth reminds her that their child is getting married and exhorts her to leave a wonderful, supportive message. She tries, but ends up aborting after she can’t find positive words to describe marriage.
F-bombs detonate at Happy Valley
Amid the show’s intercuts, Ed and Danielle fight over Ed’s selection of crew for the Goldilocks mission, which he did not OK with her. She relents. But in a sequence, one of Ed’s crew members, Palmer, sees his hand tremor.
When Dani talks with senior crew about needing more tech solutions for asteroid capture, Palmer lingers at the door before leaving. She drags out him what’s on his mind: Ed Baldwin, a lifelong hero of his, is hiding a medical condition in the form of a right-hand tremor. Dani calls it a “very serious accusation.”
Later, Dani watches Ed walking through the space station, trying to see his tremor.
In one of her flashbacks to old struggles on Mars, the crew is starving. Dani must tell Danny rations are almost gone. Ed goes with her. But they find Danny dead on the surface outside of his quarters. He sits in his suit, staring into oblivion.
Dani confronts Ed about stepping back from flight duty and letting someone else command the Goldilocks ranger. He objects and his ripping into her leads to the episode’s one big surprise — a superheated exchange with Dani screaming “F-you” at Ed. Twice.
It came after he speculated she might exile him to a remote module and hand him a Bible, just like with Danny Stevens. Dani then relieves Ed of flight duty, pledging that, of her many regrets in life, “this won’t be one of them.”
Watch For All Mankind on Apple TV+
You can catch up with the first three seasons of the alternative-history series, plus the new season, on Apple TV+. It’s available by subscription for $6.99 with a seven-day free trial. You can also get it via any tier of the Apple One subscription bundle. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy three months of Apple TV+ for free.