Season 3, Episode 4, “Happy Valley”
Space travel is so cool. The divine sights, the way everything syncs so well with the pop music, the knowledge that history is being made. Yeah, it’s great – until you’re incinerated in an automated engine explosion, or crushed by a ship rolling over your body, or your visor shattered by a cable whipping madly through the void. Then it’s a bit silly. For all mankind show both sides.
“Happy Valley” ends on a terrifying note reminiscent of the season opener, as well as the Apollo 24/25 disasters of “Bent Bird” (first seasonepisode nine), another rescue mission that goes to hell. It crowned an outstanding outing which kept the focus on Mars with humor and suspense, while bringing us back to Earth only when strictly necessary, since Ellen’s presidency and conspiracy theories around NASA aren’t as exciting as a drag race in the space.
Ego, duty and abnegation were the key words this week, with Ed (Joel Kinnaman), Danielle (Krys Marshall), and the (mostly) faceless Soviet cosmonauts vying for first on the Red Planet. Any fears that the older, more bitter Ed would forget his values in his thirst to win were allayed when he nobly agreed to save the Russian ship, which burned out its engines in a desperate attempt to get ahead of the pack. The majority of the episode, written by Joe Menosky and directed (again) by Wendey Stanzler, was taken up with a series of chess moves to determine who would advance and who would resign. And it’s not over, not by far.
The jam-packed eight-minute cold open – tense, carefree, triumphant – reminded us why we love For all mankind: his way of juggling humor, brilliant F/X, and heroism without reverting to melodrama or cheap plot twists. (Well, it’s interplanetary space travel; anything can go south in no time.) In the bravura opener, composers Jeff Russo and Paul Doucette’s urgent strings signal the pulse of the race from the first executives. Phoenix is in the lead. Stay Ais zooming in second. The Soviets (less imaginative name) March-94 ranks third. At Helios Mission Control, Dev, tasting victory, says he will distribute the Interstellar award to all employees. Bill Strausser (Noah Harpster) is impressed but skeptical. Ed and Danny always look cocky on the command deck of Phoenix. During a call to Dani in Stay, Ed is respectful but jubilant. Dani has her diplomatic smile.
Then, Dani and her flippant crew, including Kelly (Cynthy Wu), launch Operation Jolly Roger. Kelly hits her iPod and a sea pirate chant appears, with Aleida (Coral Peña) and Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) back on Earth at mission control monitoring the process. Large rebar units extend on either side of Stay‘s shell and before it cany, “Captain Jack Sparrow“, massive golden sails unfurl around the tiny shuttle like gargantuan butterfly wings. Stay one harnesses solar energy to give it an extra boost that will put it in Mars orbit eight days before Phoenix. (I wWe don’t know if production designer Dan Bishop was inspired by the golden hexagonal sunshade of the James Webb Space Telescope.)
Dev is more inscrutable than ever, but he’s furious at being beaten by NASA. “It’s what matters first, it’s the only thing that matters, it’s first what changes things”, he fumes in the face of an increasingly Karen (Shantel VanSanten). worry. before smashing a computer on the floor and walking out with chilling calm. Of course, this Steve Jobs-esque control freak will have the final say when the Soviet craft needs saving, and Ed volunteers to abort the mission to bring in the extra crew (Phoenix, being a former hotel, has the necessary area and resources). Dev locks Ed out of commands and forces Phoenix to continue to Mars. Dev assigns the responsibility of saving the Soviets to NASA, and Dani sadly goes from almost winning the race to losing it for humanitarian reasons. There is a glimmer of hope that Stay can siphon fuel from the Soviet craft to allow the mission to continue, but with the two ships colliding at the end of the episode, we’ll have to wait and see who’s still alive.
Either way, Dani and Ed got away with it, with the Soviets showing up as…crummy soviet cheats, as usual. The presence of Rolan Baranov (Alexander Sokovikov) in Dani’s crew tempers anti-Slavic sentiment. Baranov was the Soviet cosmonaut who was (by mistake) shot on the moon in season two, then defected to America while recovering in Jamestown. Ten years later, Baranov has an American wife and son who seem to do nothing but complain. Enjoy the American dream, comrade.
Baranov was one of many surprise callbacks from previous seasons. As the series slowly departs from alternate history into the realm of pure science fiction, it closes the lines between its own legends and a pop culture myth familiar to audiences. Dani tells Stay crew member Sylvie Kaplan (Heidi Sulzman) that the view from the cockpit looks like “an ant farm”, which she explains as “a little joke” (the ants that escaped over Jamestown in the first season). Relaxing in the dining room, the Phoenix the crew cite their favorite lines from the Extraterrestrial franchise. Overdoing the class clown routine, Nick Corrado (Daniel David Stewart) starts acting a little corny from love in the skythe film made about the love story and death of Gordo and Tracy Stevens on the moon. That’s when, of course, Danny comes in. Danny asks Nick out to talk, and he proceeds to bully Nick, forcing him to quote a few squeaky lines. Ed introduces himself and warns Danny that he has to lead by example. A very complicated father-son relationship develops between them, one that could rise above the inevitable “I had sex with your wife” revelation on the Martian surface.
An entire episode bouncing between the three spaceships would have been fine by me, but we have to check in on a stinky, boring Earth. Let’s see 😛The political stalemate frustrates President Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) in Washington, DC, and Tracy and Gordo’s other son, Jimmy (David Chandler), perhaps more deranged, is exposed to conspiracy theories. On Larry’s advice, Ellen makes a surprise visit to the Johnson Space Center to cheer on her old pals as they prepare to win the race to Mars. The presidential motorcade is booed and protested by groups of roadside placards, among which is an apathetic Jimmy. He is invited to post-protest beers by a hippie girl Sunny Hall (Taylor Dearden) and Jimmy leave. During an outdoor outing, Jimmy meets Charles (Zac Titus), who was a Moon Marine. Charles tells Jimmy that he was trained by Tracy on the LSAM and was over the moon during the brief and bloody Soviet invasion of Jamestown, although he was on the outside guarding the mine site. Charles believes the Jamestown incident, with the Russian attack and near-nuclear meltdown, was a cover-up for something bigger, something to do with the discovery of Helium-3. Jimmy seems willing to listen. If Jimmy dabbles in conspiracy theories and, say, infiltrates NASA for the purpose of sabotage, it will be a bitter irony that Tracy and Gordo’s son has turned their heroism into terrorism.
Back in space. Kelly gets a sneaky warning call from March-94, a Soviet cosmonaut informing him that his crew was plotting a dirty trick to win the race. What? He has to sign before he can say. You didn’t think the Russians would play fair, did you? The Soviet ship performs a controlled burn to put her ahead of the pack, but only ends up destroying her engines and requiring rescue. After a moment of reflection, Ed decides that Phoenix has the room and the resources to take on the crew of five. Co-pilot Danny seems ready to mutiny but follows orders. The Phoenix the crew falls in line, and Dani and Ed’s friendship feels patched up by Ed’s selfish and self-pitying behavior a few episodes back.
Dev loves sharing big decisions with his employees. So when a show of hands indicates the majority is in favor of letting NASA clean up the Soviet mess, they toss the ball to Margo Madison. Ed apologizes to Dani who wins the prize: “No need to apologize, Ed. I work for the United States of America. You work for an asshole.
Dani deviates from the bust March-94 accommodate cosmonauts. Back at Mission Control, Aleida has a sudden realization from live data: TThe Soviet engines overheat, and if the heat reaches the liquid hydrogen tanks, the explosion will blow up both ships. There’s a 5.5 minute delay in the transmission, so by the time they warn Dani, it might be too late. It’s too late. As the last cosmonaut travels along the coast towards Stay, a leak gushes from the side of the Soviet engine. It propels the machine forward and causes March-94 start rolling Stay, crushing the last cosmonaut against the hull of his ship and crushing the horrified Sylvie like a steamroller. The lThe last thing we see is the clipped tether whipping and punching Halladay in the visor as the screen goes by black. Next week we will learn if Dani and his crew survived, and if the Soviet evacuees will cooperate, if they should abandon Mars or jurv-chart a course forward. If Dev gets his wish to be first, he can be on the red planet with red hands.
- The song of the sea played during Operation Jolly Roger is “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” by composer George Bruns and lyricist Xavier Atencio, Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (1966), the soundtrack album for the original Disneyland attraction.
- Stay Crew member Clarke Halladay is played by red-haired Scotsman Tony Curran, who was Vincent Van Gogh in the 2010s”Vincent and the doctor“, the Doctor Who episode which I’m not crying you’re crying.
- In our timeline, the iPod was released on October 23, 2001. Discontinued in May of this year.
- Didn’t see Margo’s Soviet counterpart, Sergei (Piotr Adamczyk), the guy she was not sleep with, but definitely pass on tech secrets to. But the dude’s job could have gone to Lenara Catiche (Vera Cherny), seen in the opening montage of the news.
- The 90s playlist included the sweet “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest.
- Larry Wilson Hairline Patrol Report: First Gentleman Has Implants.