The first time I gave For All Mankind a try was not long after I’d seen Altered Carbon, and another ten episodes of Joel Kinnaman’s pent-up anger was more than I could bear.
I still find it off-putting, and his character in For All Mankind shows almost no growth over two seasons. But the rest of the series makes up for it.
It starts with the Soviet Union beating the Americans to the Moon and shows the Space Race continuing into the 1980s. Along the way, the Soviets land the first woman on the Moon, convincing the United States to train its own female astronauts; both superpowers built lunar colonies; and East-West tensions come to a head in a Panama Canal Crisis, which in this timeline is aggravated by Ronald Reagan winning the presidency four years earlier and refusing to relinquish American control of the canal to Panama’s pro-Soviet government.
The female characters are the show’s most interesting, in particular Wrenn Schmidt as Johnson Space Center director Margo Madison; Sonya Walger as Molly Cobb, the first American woman in space, who is based on the real-life aviator Geraldyn Cobb; and Krys Marshall as Danielle Poole, the first African American woman in space.
The series expertly weaves together real-world and fictional history, with segments of the Nixon tapes, Ted Kennedy’s 1980 Democratic National Convention speech repurposed as his presidential concession, the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, and Reagan meeting Yuri Andropov, who appears to have become Soviet leader a year earlier.
The second season is more focused than the first and reveals such advanced technologies as the sea-launched Sea Dragon rocket, designed in 1962 but never built, and the nuclear-powered, second-generation Pathfinder Space Shuttle, an original concept.
A third season, expected to feature a manned mission to Mars, is in the making.
I’m not sure I can recommend getting an Apple TV+ subscription just for this. At least here in Europe there’s not much else on it. I took the free trial (which gives you seven days) to watch Season 1 and then paid the $5 for a month.