Stanley Kubrick’s obituary also appears in the opening credits sequence of For All Mankind 4, which, as in previous seasons, serves to provide viewers with a historical summary of all the major events that have shaped the fictional world in the years since the end of the third season. A very sweet quote-tribute that links the passing of the great film auteur not only to the other events that have marked Human History but also to the alternate narrative invented by the Apple TV+ ‘ TV Show (if you missed them, here are what are the best Apple TV+ TV Show).
This is how it (re)starts the uchronic space race created by Golden Globe nominee and Emmy winner Ronald D. Moore and Emmy nominees Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert, for a fourth season of For All Mankind (of a total of six, at least according to the showrunners’ plans) consisting of 10 more episodes, coming weekly November 10 to January 12, 2024. We were lucky enough to preview it, so here’s what you need to know.
For All Mankind 4: the sky’s the limit
For All Mankind 4 – the title of the Apple TV+ Show is inspired by the memorial plaque left on the moon by the Apollo 11 crew, which bears the inscription “We came in peace for all mankind” and coincides with that of the legendary documentary Al Reinert’s 1989 For all mankind – continues his reinterpretation of all the pre- and post-landing audiovisual created in Hollywood, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to First Man, from The Right Stuff to The Martian.
After a third year in which the U.S. and the Soviet Union had had to share the race to Mars with two other parties, the privatized Helios agency (a SpaceX like, complete with eccentric billionaire along the lines of Elon Musk) and North Korea, the season 4 of For All Mankind follows the elliptical narrative pattern set by previous story arcs and advances the story by nearly a decade. In the eight years since last season’s episode, in fact, Happy Valley has entered the new millennium and humanity has rapidly expanded its presence on Mars, with a veritable joint colony inhabiting the surface of the Red Planet in a Helios facility housing astronauts from the Nasa, the Soviet Union and North Korea..
The already precarious balance of these factions reached a critical point in 2003 when, while on Earth, the world balance threatened to change with Al Gore winning election against George W. Bush Jr and Gorbachov ousted by a military coup d’état, space agencies spot giant asteroid rich in rare minerals: getting hold of it would mean changing forever the technological potential of the human race and take yet another step toward the future. However, the costs for the operation are exorbitant, the risks even higher, and above all, the rivalry between the factions appears insurmountable.
A present future
Besides the astonishing level achieved by the production, now a real trademark for the world of Apple TV+ (the directors of the series include. Andrew Stanton, legendary author of Wall-E by Pixar), what is truly amazing is the ability that the team consisting of Ronald D. Moore, Ben Nedivi, and Matt Wolpert has to use the future to tell our present. As it continues to move closer and closer to our today (the story started in the 1960s and in this fourth season we are already in the 21st century) For All Mankind amazingly manages to look more and more like our world.
Although the enormous technological differences between us and this fictional reality continue to increase (to take the most obvious example, in the world of the series, the human race has already been living on Mars since the 1990s), the society told is still the one we see on the news – either by a twist of fate, or as evidence of the showrunners’ ability to reread our world, one of the main subplots concerns a major strike called by Helios workers, which make us think of the Hollywood strikes that have paralyzed the film and television industry for months – and the immersion in the story becomes, from episode to episode, more and more totalizing.
And beyond the exemplary characterization of the characters, the out-of-scale sequences in both the typical on-orbit operations of the genre and the reconstruction of the surface of Mars, the main trump card among the many at For All Mankind’s disposal is its ability to tell the story of how the expansion of humanity through the Solar System corresponds not only to an increase in knowledge of the universe (and thus to the improvement of our existence) but also necessarily to the inexorable spread of all the flaws of our being terribly human. Those marvelous satellites and planets, which had until then remained virgins from all meanness, from every meanest need, from every imperfection, come into contact with every aspect of humanity and are changed by it, witness what only humanity is capable of.