WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for For All Mankind, season 4, episode 1, “Glasnost.”
From asteroid mining to the whereabouts of Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt), For All Mankind season 4, episode 1, “Glasnost” has multiple updates to its alternate timeline as it enters the 21st century. Set eight years after the tragic events of the season 3 finale, humanity’s next frontier is the mining of asteroids for precious minerals. As ever, this is a complicated process that requires a good deal of international cooperation and political maneuvering, especially when the first attempt goes tragically wrong. On Mars, the expansive international community based in Happy Valley reels from the tragedy, which necessitates a change of personnel and the return of a NASA legend.
When For All Mankind left Mars in season 3, the inhabitants were stranded with dwindling supplies and frayed tensions. Danny Stevens (Casey W. Johnson) was incarcerated in the North Korean spacecraft for his role in causing the fatal drilling disaster. Besides some ominous references to Danny, and to what everyone went through on Mars between seasons, it’s expected that the full extent of the Martian ordeal will be revealed in later episodes. For now, however, For All Mankind season 4 is focused on setting up its future, and reveals some fascinating information about its alternate 2003.
As For All Mankind season 4 begins, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) is leading the first joint mission to mine the Kronos asteroid, a historic moment that could be hugely beneficial to Earth. Although For All Mankind season 3 teased Jupiter as the next stage of humanity’s expansion into the stars, the space program is focusing its efforts elsewhere. The M-7 (or Mars Seven) nations are instead focused on mining asteroids for precious minerals. Teased in the promotion as a “new gold rush“, the minerals contained in asteroids like Kronos could help to fund future space programs as well as reduce humanity’s reliance on resources found on Earth. However, there’s also the sense that the pursuit of profit also plays a big role in this new space race.
The Kronos mission requires astronauts to set foot on an asteroid and attach it to the Ranger One spacecraft for towing back to Mars. Once safely captured and brought to the Red Planet, Kronos will then be mined for its incredibly valuable mineral content. Grigory Kuznetsov (Lev Gorn) is chosen as the first man to land on an asteroid, something which a mellower and older Ed Baldwin doesn’t appear to have an issue with. Everyone back at the Molly Cobb Space Center watches in delight as Grigory and the team successfully complete the first stage of their mission, but tragedy is just around the corner.
Tragedy strikes when the wires holding Kronos in place begin to slacken, forcing Grigory and Parker to go outside and restabilize it. While Grigory is a trained Cosmonaut, Parker is just a blue-collar guy who needs the asteroid to guarantee his bonus payments from Helios. Tragically, Parker is brutally killed when the drill breaks apart and spears him through his suit, a stark reminder of the true cost of incentivizing work as dangerous as this. Grigory himself is unable to stabilize the Kronos asteroid, and sacrifices himself to save the rest of Ranger One’s crew, imploring Ed to cut him loose in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in For All Mankind‘s season 4 premiere.
With a handful of original For All Mankind characters left in play, season 4 feels like the end for characters like Ed Baldwin. He’s visibly older and appears to be struggling with health concerns as “Glasnost” opens, suggesting that his glittering career as an astronaut could soon be at an end. It’s likely for this reason that Ed hasn’t returned to Earth to check in on his daughter Kelly (Cynthy Wu) and his grandson Alex since 1997. Ed likely knows that he’ll never be medically cleared to return to Mars if he leaves the Red Planet. As Alex’s Soviet grandmother Olga so bluntly puts it: “He’s not coming back.“
For All Mankind also reveals that Ed’s grandson, who was born in orbit around the Red Planet, is referred to as the “Mars Baby.”
Anyone who knows about “our” 20th century Russian history will know that Gorbachev’s Perestroika was met with considerable opposition from the economic bureaucracy. While that hasn’t happened in For All Mankind‘s season 4 timeline, there is discontent in the air, and Margo Madison finds herself at the very heart of the shifting atmosphere. Having defected at the end of season 3, Margo is now living in the Soviet Union under the name of Margaret Reynolds. It’s revealed later in the episode that Margo is no longer held in favor by Roscosmos director Lenara Catiche (Vera Cherny).
After being told never to return to the Soviet space agency, Margo is accosted by a mysterious Russian woman in a park, who passes her a phone number and ominously instructs her to wait things out. All of which suggests that the current Soviet government is about to be ousted, potentially putting the alliance between Gore and Gorbachev at risk in future episodes. It’s possible, therefore, that Margo is being groomed to play a key role at Roscosmos under the new regime.
As hinted by the pre-titles montage, space is now a huge industry in 2003. There’s even a reality show called Moon Miners which sells the dream of a career on the lunar surface to many struggling workers back on Earth. One of these struggling workers is Miles Dale (Toby Kebbell), a father of two who’s separated from his wife. Pursuing a career as a Moon Miner, Miles is instead offered the chance to join other Helios workers on Mars, where his prior experience on an oil platform will be invaluable for the new asteroid drilling project. However, it remains to be seen if this will be a sacrifice worth making for Miles and his family.
Grigory and Parker’s horrific accident while attempting to correct the asteroid triggers a trauma response from Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña). Having survived the horrific Johnson Space Center bombing in the For All Mankind season 3 finale, Aleida is still experiencing PTSD eight years later. It’s hardly surprising given how many people died, not to mention her belief that her mentor Margo Madison was also killed in the blast. As NASA scrambled to figure out what went wrong with the Kronos mining mission, Aleida was plagued by flashbacks to the bombing and walked out of mission control. At this stage it’s uncertain if she’ll return to Molly Cobb Space Center in her current role.
It’s revealed that Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) retired from NASA at some point between returning to Earth in 1997 and the start of For All Mankind‘s 2003 timeline. She’s first seen at a birthday party for the daughter of Danny Stevens, and there’s an underlying sense of guilt when she lays eyes on a picture of the troubled astronaut. It’s unclear exactly what happened to Danny in the eight years between For All Mankind season 3 and 4, but it can’t be anything good. What happened to Danny still clearly weighs on Danielle’s mind, and it’s clear that this is the main reason she turned her back on NASA.
However, as new NASA director Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern) conducts damage control in the wake of Grigory and Parker’s deaths, Dani finds herself back in the fold. Agreeing to replace Colonel George Peters (Jay Paulson) at Happy Valley, Dani is seen heading back to Mars in the closing moments of For All Mankind season 4, episode 1. As she sets foot back on the Red Planet, viewers can expect a heartfelt reunion with Ed Baldwin, and perhaps more information about how they all survived their Martian ordeal.
For All Mankind season 4 streams Fridays on AppleTV+.
Imagine a world where the global space race never ended – For All Mankind is a thrilling “what if” take on history that explores what would have happened in the race to the moon between the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the space programs and the race’s effects on the astronauts and their families in the aftermath. The Apple TV+ series hails from Ronald D. Moore and stars Joel Kinnaman as a NASA astronaut. For All Mankind also features historical astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.