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For All Mankind (Season 3 Finale), Episode 10: Review, Recap & Ending Explained

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For All Mankind Season 3 Finale, Episode 10 Review, Recap & Ending Explained: For All Mankind comes to a close, with a figurative and a resoundingly literal bang, as explosions rock both the final scene as well as the narrative and upends it on its head, with a cliffhanger that is the definition of eyebrow-raising. And true to form, the main cast member gets the exit, but it’s not anyone we would have expected, and also true to form the Stevens’ children are the unwitting antagonists of the third season, with Jimmy’s subplot rearing its ugly head.




FOR ALL MANKIND (SEASON 3 FINALE), EPISODE 10 “Stranger in a Strange Land” RECAP:

With an 83-minute runtime, the showrunners opted to go out with a bang, perhaps to match the intensity of the second season finale, as well as completely try to tie up loose ends and bid adieu to the Mars saga, at least for the audience, even as many characters do not manage to bid adieu but opt to stay back. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The episode begins with a cold open, an effort to explain how the North Korean scientist managed to reach Mars in the first place. As the intertitle suggests, he is, by all accounts, the first man on Mars. It was supposed to be a stealthy Mars landing which becomes an unwitting crash landing, causing one of the astronauts to die, and the other to remain marooned on the Red Planet, as radio communication between the shuttle and Pyongyang was completely cut off, forcing Pyongyang to assume death by crash landing. The result is Lieutenant Lee-Jung Cil (C.S. Lee), being marooned, dutifully contacting his home base back on Earth, burying his fallen colleague in the sands of the Red Planet, and finishing canned foods for sustenance.




We are informed of the passage of time by his bearded appearance as he grows more and more despondent and looks at the photograph of his wife. But he still is going to do his job. And thus while he is collecting soil samples, he manages to scrawl a smiley on the sand by using his two boot prints. It gives off “Castaway” vibes, on Mars. But the day comes when Jung-Cil inevitably feels like he had enough, and prepares to commit suicide, but then he sees Danielle and Kuznetsov arrive on their rover. And his immediate reaction is to wave his gun at their face and order them to stay away from his ship, signifying they are trespassing. It reminds you of the Cold War mentality again.

Back at blue planet, at the White House, recently come-out-of-the-closet President Ellen Wilson scans the newspapers’ incendiary headlines. The visit from her conservative Vice President Jim Bragg manages to build up a conversation filled with tension to become a scalding one. It reveals that talks of impeachment of Ellen are gaining traction and according to the VP, she can spare herself and her party the humiliation by resigning. But Ellen correctly surmises that Bragg is very much interested in replacing her and supporting the bill to defund the NASA Mars Mission, as it is “an abject disaster”. And President Wilson manages to shut Bragg’s objection s down with the simple but very impactful statement – “We don’t do this because it is easy. We do it because it is hard”. President Ellen Wilson is not going down without a fight.




We see Karen coming to Wayne and Molly Cobb’s place, and we are reminded of the friendship that both Karen and Wayne share, which was a big part of the last two seasons and was still touched upon in the third season. But we learn that Wayne isn’t there, and Karen finally has to be stuck in a room with Molly Cobb, who has currently taken up painting as a way to pass the time. Being blind hasn’t taken away her candor, as we had seen at the beginning of the third season. As Karen uncomfortably waits for Wayne to come back, Molly breaks the ice by stating that she could feel Karen’s anxiety emanating from the sofa where she is sitting.

Karen finally reveals her reticence in taking over the post of CEO of Helios from Dev Ayesa, because she feels like she owes Dev for bringing her in, and appointing her as COO. But Molly bashes those thoughts down, stating that it is irrelevant whether she owes him or not, because she wants the job, like Molly wanted the lead post in the Apollo 15 mission, because like Ed Baldwin, and Dev Ayesa, Molly Cobb is also a selfish prick, and deep down Karen Baldwin is one as well, which is okay. After all, Molly believes that “selfish pricks change the world”.




At Happy Valley Base, the follow-up to last week’s fainting spell by Kelli Baldwin finally pays off here, as we see Mayakovsky and Ed converse in a separate room out of Kelly’s earshot. Mayakovsky explains that eclampsia is hindering the flow of blood to the uterus, and Kelly’s blood pressure is too high. They would need to deliver the baby in 24 hours, otherwise, both Kelly and the kid are in danger, leaving Ed at a loss, as they don’t have enough fuel to launch the MSAM yet. Back at the Jung-Cil subplot, Danielle’s methods of communicating with the North Korean soldier by drawing in the sand manage to sufficiently distract him, long enough for Kuznetsov to creep up behind him and knock him senseless by disconnecting the valve of his oxygen task connected to his helmet.

Danielle barely manages to crawl to him and reconnect it, and then she looks at Kuznetsov in disbelief. Kuznetsov then affirms her statement, reminding her they didn’t need words and giving a wry smile. We see the Russian has slowly imbibed some of the American humor from his colleagues and it shows. They bury the gun in the sand with a lug wrench marker (bad idea), and then bundle up the North Korean to their rover and drive back to Happy Valley, resuming contact with the base and informing them that they had acquired the Kurs system but they also have a surprise gift.




The conversation between Ellen and Mikhail (presumably Gorbachev) is also a revealing one, if not the most important. It however manages to show Gorbachev’s friendship with the President, as shown by him asking subtly about her “political troubles”.

For All Mankind Season 3 Finale Episode 10 Review Recap Ending Explained (3)

At the Johnson Space Centre, Margo Madison is currently under enormous pressure. Her meeting with Lenora Catiche, the head of Roscosmos, informs Margo that due to information received by a Russian asset inside the Justice Department, they have come to know that Margo is being investigated by the FBI as someone is talking to them. On asking about that person’s identity, Catiche reveals that the FBI is talking with Aleida Rosales, which feels like incomplete information if the events of the last episode were any indication. But apparently, the damage was enough, because the FBI is making preparations to organize an arrest very soon. Catiche offers to help Margo, reminding her that she would get arrested if she did not take any action. The rest of the conversation isn’t shown, but knowing what happens in the final moments, we do have an inkling of what they planned.




Helios Airspace is busy extracting methane from the CO2 in the Mars atmosphere to speed up the fuelling of MSAM. Dev pulls away Karen for a chat where he reveals that the board is planning to make a move against removing Dev from the post of CEO, and as he starts to reveal his plans in bringing in some international partners, Karen reveals that she had been approached by the board for accepting the post of CEO, and she has considered it. This leads to a bitter and angry exchange where Dev feels betrayed and stupid about not believing in his core principles and bringing her in, while Karen reminds him that this entire situation has been due to his erratic decision-making and his inability to adjust over the last few months.

Dev finally parts ways with her by stating that he is not going to join hands with Karen and watch her “pillage his company”. Later, we see Dev trying to bring some of his colleagues with him and organizing a form of a coup, utilizing his passionate oratorial skills, but Karen (noticeably standing on the upper floor, having the higher ground on Dev symbolically), reminds them that it would be easy to leave the company, but they wouldn’t be able to earn the same amount of money the current management is paying them, which completely deflates Dev’s “mutiny” from even launching.




Back at Happy Valley, the crew are in a pickle. To launch the MSAM with the current fuel, they would have to lose 1000 pounds of weight, and as Danny reveals to Ed, they have managed to remove all the non-essential parts of the MSAM, ultimately Danny (in a video call from the Rover) offers a solution – remove all the other astronauts and the crew from the equation. They would send Kelly back to Phoenix, while the rest of the astronauts have to stay back at Mars until they would be rescued by Soujourner 2 in one and a half years.

As Kelly tries to dissuade them, stating they don’t have enough food to last that long, Will Tyler remarks that they would have to ration the current food supplies they have, while Kelly’s plants would be able to supplant their nourishment if they continued growing at the same rate. It would be hard, but they would make it work. Thus the crew at Happy Valley sends the video message to JSC stating that they are not giving up on Mars yet, and they would have to figure out a way to bring them back to Earth in due time.




It’s still weird that Jimmy Stevens and the merry band of troublemakers still believe the actions they are planning are to extract some form of justice for Jimmy’s parents. While I understand that it could just be a story fed to Jimmy to manipulate him, it still highlights the frustration about the lack of details regarding the conspiracy. But as things are heating up at NASA, we see Jimmy and his group mingling amongst the media, planning to hijack NASA’s video feed and jam it. We are slowly seeing Jimmy starting to wake up from the stupor, not looking convinced in the slightest at ex-Marine Charles’ explanation of the corruption of NASA, but he still goes along with it.

Back in JSC, the combined team of NASA, Helios, and Roscosmos are left scratching their heads. Because even with removing the astronauts out of the equation, they can only achieve 95% orbital velocity to Phoenix. They need to make up for the last 5 percent. Margo, seeing Aleida distracted (understandably) pulls her aside and asks her to focus. As Aleida prepares to talk with Margo, Margo reveals that she knows about the investigation, and apologizes for ever involving her in it.




Hurt and sad Aleida asks why she did it, to which Margo states that she would talk about it once these problems are in the rearview mirror (poetic misdirect considering what happens). As they return to the meeting room, Aleida has the crazy idea – to strap Kelly Baldwin to the top of the MSAM with a PMU (Propulsive Mobility Unit), which would help her to maneuver herself into the Phoenix, albeit only relying visually on instead of utilizing any navigational skills.

Like one of the people paraphrases “We are going to light up Kelly Baldwin like a rocket?”, it is a crazy idea just plausible enough to work. Or as Kelly paraphrases the crazy plan while conversing with her father back at Happy Valley, it would be like being shot out of a cannon? As Kelly wonders who would be piloting the MSAM, Ed reveals that he would, and he is talking with Houston to figure a way out to land back on Mars, and he is going to take the help of the “best pilot he knows”. And as revealed in the next scene, where all the engineers at the Mars Control applaud and welcome back Molly Cobb, we know who Ed Baldwin has brought in. Margo’s reunion with Molly, laced with sarcasm, also calls back to Baldwin’s request of asking someone “who had their ass on the line” Going straight to business Molly asks about the propellant margins Ed would be working with, to which Margo answers with a staggeringly low 2 – 3%. Molly confirms our sentiments – “that’s not much to work with”.




A prime comedic moment is the next scene where the crew of Happy Valley finally meets with the North Korean Astronaut that Danielle and Kuznetsov bring in. They were resigned at their inability to interact with the man until Ed Baldwin reveals one of his hidden talents – to converse in Korean. He reveals that Lee Jung-Cil wants to go back to “his post” as his mission is above everything else, but Danielle reasons that they couldn’t leave him there. Realizing that it is a lost cause, Ed tries to reassure “the little dumpling” that this is his new home, before instructing Louisa to install the Kurs system and get the launch ready.

Jimmy has been waiting near the support room to install the video jammer when he chances upon Karen, who had come to check on the rescue mission. Barely managing to sidestep her, he goes out near the parking lot to see Charles zipping up an army duffel full of rifles. Excusing himself to go to the restroom, Jimmy calls amber and leaves her a message, relaying to her that something is going down at JSC. We see Jimmy finally realizing and waking up from his stupor, but he is soon met up with Sunny and as he tries to escape Charles knocks him out.




Things are however looking up for Sergei, who calls Margo from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to reveal that they are out from Moscow, and contrary to what he thought, his parents were excited at all the cloak and dagger aspects, especially the helicopter ride. HE reveals to Margo that he would be in the United States by the end of the week and can’t wait to see her. We see Margo’s face as she still answers in the affirmative with a determined look, even though the truth doesn’t reach her eyes.

Molly interacts with Ed via video messaging, where she instructs him that the landing of the MSAM during those crucial moments depends entirely on the timing and on Ed’s experience in judging the exact time to turn on the propellant before he either burns up the last remaining fuel too soon or he starts it up too late. Either way, it is a tricky business, as Molly reveals to Karen after finishing the video message to Ed.




Karen then gets a call from Amber who reveals that she received the message from Jimmy and she is worried, which prompts Karen to search around for more information. Karen goes outside, and tries to call Jimmy’s cell, which she sees is picked up by Charles, the ex-marine and a man Karen is unfamiliar with. Seeing him cut the phone, Karen becomes suspicious and searches inside the van, until she finds Jimmy tied up at the back of a van. As she frees Jimmy, she realizes that bombs are wired at the back of the van, triggered to go at the call of a mobile phone.

As Ed comes down from the top of the MSAM, after fixing the harness to attach Kelli, we are given another confrontation between Ed and Danny, where Danny tries to be the hero and take the responsibility of piloting Kelly to the Phoenix. When Ed decisively squashes that idea, Danny reveals that it was he who had been responsible for not reliving the housing pressure and causing the marsquake. Ed finally pulls Danny up by the beck, smashes him against the wall, and angrily proclaims that he is not going to let this mission be Danny’s shortcut to absolving his guilt. No, Danny must work tirelessly to ensure that the mission goes according to plan, and after everything is over, he must be around to face the consequences, a “reckoning” so to speak. This again reinforces Joel Kinnaman’s fantastic work as Ed Baldwin this season.




Back at JSC, Margo Madison delivers her “final” speech in front of the Mars Mission Control Room, where she repeats Gene Kranz’s quote from Season 1 – “The future is ours to fight for and to win”, and states that she believes that the quote is true even today, and it had been her honor and privilege to serve with them all. And as if prophetically passing the torch from her to Aleida, she calls out to her and tells her, “the room is yours”.

We see Margo going to her office, tidying up her desk, and then sitting by the piano and starting to play a tune. The scene cuts back to Happy Valley where we see Kelly suiting up with Alexei Polotov’s suit, due to the material providing more space for her pregnant belly. Operation Baby Launch begins, with Kelly strapped to the top of the MSAM, with PMU attached with propellants. The MSAM launches reach the appropriate point of separation with 7 % fuel remaining, and at that moment, Kelly separates from the MSAM and manages to be extracted into Phoenix. As that phase of the operation successfully closes, the MSAM soon undergoes a free fall towards the surface of Mars.




FOR ALL MANKIND (SEASON 3 FINALE), EPISODE 10 “Stranger in a Strange Land” ENDING EXPLAINED:

The unimaginable happens at NASA. As the terrorists realize that Jimmy has escaped and runs after him, Charles sees Karen Baldwin running to inform security about the bombs strapped at the back of the van. With no way out, Charles takes out a mobile phone and presses the trigger, causing an explosion to rock throughout the Johnson Space Centre.

Back at the MSAM, which is falling at a dangerous speed, Ed waits as the altimeter counts down the descent rate. As it reaches 500 meters, Ed looks at the terrain, makes the decision, and fires his engines to slow down and crash lands.




Back on earth, JSC has turned into a devastating sight, with almost an entire section of the building, including Margo’s office, where she had been playing the piano completely sheared off. Jimmy finds Karen under rubble, gasping her last breath, looking up at the blue sky peeking through the smoke, perhaps wondering whether her daughter and her husband managed to survive, before passing away.

At the almost destroyed Mars Mission Control Room, Molly Cobb comes to, recovering from the shock of the explosion. Managing to right herself far swifter, perhaps because the darkness is something she is used to, she manages to coral all the survivors together and starts guiding them out of the wreckage, before going back in. Aleida goes to Margo’s now destroyed office, with a gaping hole left where the wall and her piano used to be, but she can’t find Margo anywhere.




Back at Mars, Kuznetsov drives the rover towards the crashed MSAM, and he as well as the audience sees Ed Baldwin walking towards the rover, having successfully managed to land. However, the happiness is short-lived, as news of the attack at NASA reaches the Happy Valley crew. All of a sudden, the one-and-a-half-year plan of survival at Mars increases exponentially, as the rescue mission looks nigh impossible until NASA manages to get back on its feet.

So now it becomes a story of survival. But at the very least, Ed and Dani manage to punish Danny Stevens by exiling him to the North Korean probe with rations and supplies, with a promise that someone would come with supplies every few months, effectively putting Danny Stevens in solitary. Is it enough? Or is it too little of a punishment? We see Aleida with her family standing at a vigil in front of the wrecked JSC, and Kelly Baldwin with her newborn looking at the Red Planet through her quarters at Phoenix.




On Earth, we see President Wilson, with her secret service detail in the driveway, walking up to her ex-girlfriend Pam’s place. We see the attraction and sparks still present, so this could evolve into something more. A newspaper delivered to a suburban home of a man, revealed to be Sergei, bears a headline reading “NASA Space Center renamed for Fallen Hero Molly Cobb” and a picture showing the JSC renamed as Molly Cobb Space Centre. The Newspaper is dated 1995.

Finally, we get at a time jump to 2003 and see a woman waking up in a dark room, removing the blinds from her windows to reveal herself as Margo, alive, with grey hairs, and the outside revealing itself as Moscow. The explosion acted as a perfect smokescreen for Catiche and her accomplices to whisk Margo away to Moscow, but was the terrorist attack a coincidence? And now Margo presumably is working with the soviets, as the fourth season will jump straight to the 2000s, with even more changes on the horizon.




FOR ALL MANKIND SEASON 3 REVIEW: 

For All Mankind as a show has always been supremely confident regarding its build-up and its pace. Unlike the last two seasons, the first episode of the third season begins with a bang. It manages to introduce Polaris, lampoon a disaster movie and build Danny Stevens up to be a hero, such that his fall from grace would impact harder.

The first half of the season also manages to highlight the effect of privatization of space, and the launch of the space race and also shows a world where the space race would be responsible for driving the economy and the politics of the world for better or worse. It also manages to remove Ellen Wilson from the mechanics of the space race and while that does hurt the character, the show and its writers’ choice to focus on the politics and the compromise of her morals regarding her sexuality was explored with surprising nuance.




However, For All Mankind’s proclivity to engage in melodrama and as a result associate, with most of its main characters as central causes of big tectonic shifts in the overall world sometimes hampers the verisimilitude of the narrative. The arcs of both the Stevens brothers are especially egregious in that regard. Danny Stevens being part of an important program like the Mars Mission could serve as a commentary on the effects of nepotism or favoritism, irrespective of mental stability and talent, but him being the principal reason for the Mars quake feels like an avoidable conflict and it doesn’t help that his subplot about that ill-advised fling with Karen was very much a focus this season.

It managed to make his character downright unlikeable. Jimmy Stevens on the other hand was manipulated as a result of his loneliness and insecurity to take part in a fringe movement. The criticism in this subplot is the lack of definition of the conspiracy theory this fringe movement believes in. However, the overall involvement of the subplot inside the main storyline does manage to kick the final episode into high gear.




The show is always at its strongest when it is exploring the science aspect of the science fiction genre, pushing the boundaries of sci-fi with as much realism as it could muster. There is also a surprising sense of optimism in this whole universe, a pervading sense of trust towards institutions like NASA, then towards the private sectors, but also showing privatization as a consequence of a man’s determination to rise above his fate.

The acting throughout is solid. Joel Kinnaman, Krys Marshall, Wrenn Schmidt, Jodi Balfour, and especially Shantel Vansanten knock it out of the park, even as the script gives them strange pivot points for their characters. Their acting ensures those moments stay believable. Even Coral Pena as Aleida Morales and Cynthy Wu as Kelly Baldwin has far more to do this season, truly focusing on the generational aspect of the story; Edi Gathegi as Dev Ayesa, meanwhile, brings different energy as the arrogant and yet genius billionaire.




For All Mankind has been consistently the best sci-fi show that “no one was watching”. At this point, with the show spanning over three decades in its narrative and crafting a compelling tale with interesting characters with more or less believable evolution, it is hard-pressed to find a better show in Apple TV +’s arsenal. The best part is the second season cliffhanger hinted at Mars being the next target. But the end of this season truly leaves everything open-ended. This is one of those rare moments where it is hard to figure out where the narrative is going, and fun to speculate as a result of it. See you all in Season 4.

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Trailer

FOR ALL MANKIND (SEASON 3 Finale) EPISODE 10 LINKS – IMDB
CAST – JOEL KINNAMAN, SHANTEL VAN SANTEN, JODI BALFOUR, SONA WALGER, KRYS MARSHALL

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