For All Mankind S02E03

For All Mankind S02E03 is the third instalment of the 2nd season of a historical fantasy TV drama series streaming on Apple TV+. Created by Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Outlander), For All Mankind reimagines the space race of the 60s/70s as an alternate reality where the Soviet Union put a man on the moon before the USA resulting in continued focus on space well into the 1980s.

Entitled “Rules of Engagement”, For All Mankind S02E03 superimposes the potential escalation of Cold War hostilities into the lunar arena onto the domestic conflicts encountered by numerous key characters over the course of this fairly emotionally heavy episode. This development is a logical extension of the conflict between the USA and USSR in the 1980s – which historically witnessed the height of said tension.

Read our analysis of For All Mankind Season 1

Of course, in this alternate reality, it makes sense that this friction between the two global superpowers would spill over into the space race as well. There is a surreal moment early in the episode where the various heads of NASA contemplate the scenario of sending Marines to the moon as the American lithium mining operations is commandeered by Russian Cosmonauts.

As mentioned above, the episode also explores domestic conflicts between various key characters. Thus, we have developments of the strained relationships between Aleida Rosales (now all grown up) and Margo Madison, the divorced ‘space couple’ Tracy and Gordo Stevens and most significantly, amongst the Baldwins i.e. Ed, Karen and adopted daughter Kelly.

Read our review of For All Mankind S02E01

Read our review of For All Mankind S02E02

The sequence with the Baldwins is a rather prolonged one and surprisingly emotional as Ed comes to grips with his feelings regarding the death of his son Shane, in season 1. This breakdown is triggered by two events – the discovery that the Russians had placed a listening device at Jamestown during Ed’s watch and Kelly expressed a desire to sign up at the Naval Academy and follow in Ed’s footsteps.

This climax to For All Mankind S02E03 provides the Baldwins with a powerful healing resolution to the traumas caused by the untimely death of Shane and for the viewer a wholly satisfying conclusion. A strong episode overall.

Now streaming on AppleTV+.

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