Space soap opera For All Mankind hits stride in ‘House Divided’ episode [Apple TV+ recap]


For All Mankind, season 4, episode 4, Ed Baldwin sees Svetlana off.★★★
Ed got what might be a first and only kiss from Svetlana, headed for trial in India.
Photo: Apple TV+

Not much happens Friday on alt-history space soap opera For All Mankind season 4’s fourth episode, “House Divided.” Let’s see. Two Russians have a shoving match on Mars, almost killing one and nearly causing the return of the Cold War. The former head of NASA goes to work for the Soviets and immediately impresses her frighteningly KGB-connected boss. And longtime space heroes Danielle Poole and Ed Baldwin suffer a major falling out that could threaten peace in Happy Valley, Mars.

And by the way, geriatric Ed — the show wants us to believe Joel Kinnaman’s characters is now in his 70s — finally does get the tender smooch from a young cosmonaut threatened in episode 3. Alas, poor Miles Dale, despite sparks flying on Mars, doesn’t quite get to make out with his burgeoning love interest.

‘For All Mankind’ season 4, episode 4: War and peace on Earth and Mars

But hey, For All Mankind isn’t just a soap opera, so this isn’t just a running list of characters who either get killed or laid. The show gets a little hard to believe at times, but that’s part of the fun.

After last week’s big investment in Moscow-based intrigue — exiled former NASA head Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) gets a job offer she can’t refuse at Star City, the Soviet space agency — Russians figure heavily into this week’s action on Earth and Mars.

At the start of the episode, Happy Valley Cosmonaut Svetlana Efremova (Irina Morozova) and her Soviet comrade Vasily Galkin (Eduard Osipov) argue about Russian politics as they go about their work, leading to a shoving match on the surface of Mars. He falls, ripping his suit on machinery. As he struggles to breathe, she warns him that if he does not exhale, his lungs will explode. Shame on him for being a big supporter of hardliner Korzhenko’s efforts to depose Mikhail Gorbachev!

But seriously, Korzhenko still has a lot of support in the KGB — including their woman in charge of Soviet space agency Star City, Irina Dubova (Olga Poletova) — and they’re not going to stand by while some Gorbachev-loving hippy almost accidentally offs a Soviet patriot on Mars.

Punching the clock in Star City

Meanwhile, in Russia, Margo stands before the Soviet space agency in the driving snow. She reports to work. In the hall, she overhears top brass talking about repercussions over the incident that has left Galkin in a hyperbaric chamber, fighting for his life.

Margo begins to attend meetings run by her new boss, Dubova. You can tell by the way all the high-ranking brass in the room jumps to its feet when she enters that she is justifiably scary. And she has recalled Svetlana from Mars to Russia to stand trial for assault and “crimes against a patriot of the Soviet Union.”

We actually hear the charges from Svetlana as she relays the news to a dumbstruck Ed and his longtime colleague and boss Danielle (Krys Marshall), Happy Valley base commander. Danielle had already started a fight with Ed by saying she’ll take Svetlana off flight status. And now she’s going to make it a much tougher fight by not protecting Svetlana enough for Ed’s taste.

But the other business in Dubova’s meeting is crucial to the plot, too. It’s a draft report on the Russian investigation into the death of Cosmonaut Grigory Kuznetzov (Lev Gore). Dubova makes a special point of making sure Margo goes over it.

India, land of free and fair trials

For All Mankind, Samantha Massey
Samantha isn’t going to let Miles asphyxiate on Mars. She just might be in love with the big lug.
Photo: Apple TV+

After hearing from Houston about the situation unfolding on Earth, Danielle agrees with NASA director Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern) that India could be the answer to a sticky question — how can they keep the M7 together while giving the Soviets what they want?

Turns out they can hand Svetlana over to India for a fair trial. It’s the only neutral country in the M7.

This came about in a scene that suggests the series is still trying pretty hard to be a serious drama and not a silly soap opera. Hobson shows his work-related stress by screaming at his annoying exercise bike at home. He had been chewed out by President Gore over failing to talk Dubova out of recalling Svetlana (she actually threatened to end Russian involvement in the asteroid program).

When his wife respond to the tantrum, they have a pretty long discussion about his health and how he didn’t have to take the job and how someday they’ll travel far and wide to places like … India. Which gives Hobson the idea.

They wrote a page of dialogue to get there. A smart show wouldn’t make that effort unless it had further plans for the characters in the scene. At the very least, Hobson blowing a gasket on his bike made me wonder if a tragic heart attack is coming. (Then what? Margo’s triumphant return from Moscow to run NASA again? On this show, it could happen.)

Making a buck on Mars

Back on Mars, Miles and Ilya Beshnov (Dimter Marinov)  discuss new orders of goods in their black-market operation. Miles shows Ilya a video of his wife talking about how the Mars rock he sent to his daughter could bring $5,000 from a jeweler. But Ilya doesn’t want to expand.

So guess what, Miles decides to go it alone. After trying and failing to get Sam’s help in finding more Mars rocks, he books a bulky old space suit — the good ones are all taken — and trudges out with a trash picker to get rocks.

But this is Miles, to whom bad things generally happen. Some of the choicest rocks are just out of reach, and when he pushes it, he falls down a mountain and into a ravine. Only later do his friends realize he’s been gone too long. Sam rushes out in a rover to rescue him, winching him out of the ravine. But she’s so mad at him for nearly dying that it becomes clear, and we see it in his eyes as she later stitches up a wound in his arm, intentionally hurting him a little — say it together now — they’re in love. A blind Mars microbe could’ve seen that coming.

But then the radio interrupts just when they’re about to mash lips. And he’s still married, by the way.

Margo, master of Russian space reports

For All Mankind, season 4, episode 4, Margo Madison
If Margo Madison looks a little concerned, it’s because she may’ve just sent a man to a gulag.
Photo: Apple TV+

Margo later has the Russian investigation report at her desk. She begins examining it to a jazz soundtrack. She toils for hours over it, only taking a break for a bit of plot development in the commissary. When she lacks to proper change for a vending machine, a woman shows her how to strip a washer off the bottom of a chair and use it as a coin. So Margo helps out the woman, too. With a mere glance at the technical documents the woman is struggling with, Margo gives her a solution.

And during the chit chat, the woman also reveals that everyone knows who Margo is and have been told to keep their distance.

Later, Margo seeks out her intimidating boss and goes over her findings with the investigation report. Rather than blaming American command — Baldwin, basically — Margo did enough research to figure out the report left out a mechanical failure in Russian equipment that would have happened no matter what human error did or did not occur.

Dubova keeps Margo in the room when she lets in the report’s author, Kirill Semenov (Gediminas Adomaitis), seen earlier in her meetings. Dubova grills him over the report’s shortcomings and gets him to admit it was his own department’s fault. She ushers him out.

Later, Margo learns from her friend in the commissary that Semenov, her mentor, was taken away by KGB agents. Margo is distraught over her involvement. But, hey, she’s really going places in the Soviet space program.

As a show of gratitude, the director gives Margo a photo of Soviet ground control engineers from 1969, including Margo’s former special friend who was killed by a Soviet agent last season. The director then tells Margo he was her close friend. And she adds the Americans took Margo for granted and promises their work together “will take us far into the cosmos.” But given the situation, that’s not exactly reassuring for Margo.

So long, Svetlana

Back on Mars, it’s time for Svetlana to go. Ed tries to convince her to hide out in an unused section of the base, but she won’t have it. She says he must not give up his career to protect hers. Then she gives him a tender kiss on the lips.

Emotional music plays as he leads her down a hallway and through clusters of glaring crew members. Ed drops a tear after she says her last goodbye. Danielle catches a glimpse of his face as he walks by without a word, looking less sure of herself than we’ve seen since her arrival at Happy Valley.

Watch For All Mankind on Apple TV+

You can catch up with the first three seasons of the alternative-history series, plus the new season, on Apple TV+. It’s available by subscription for $6.99 with a seven-day free trial. You can also get it via any tier of the Apple One subscription bundle. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy three months of Apple TV+ for free.

Watch on Apple TV



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