You can’t ask for much more than For All Mankind‘s season 4 finale “Perestroika” gives. It wraps up the season in heart-pounding and heartstring-tugging fashion Friday, bringing climax and resolution to the audience along with hope for the future of the space program — and maybe a season 5 of the show.
It’s a satisfying end to the conflict over Mars-based asteroid mining at the heart of the season. But the future development teased as the episode wraps up, which appears to beg a fifth season, could simply make a fitting end to the series (as we wait to see if Apple TV+ will renew it).
Recap: For All Mankind season 4, episode 10 finale, ‘Perestroika’
For All Mankind, season 4, episode 10, entitled “Perestroika” after the political and economic reform program championed by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, races to an action-packed finish with a hopeful resolution, just as a season finale should.
The restructuring of “perestroika” seems to fit the show’s transition from alt-history to full-blown sci-fi. Here’s what happened in the episode.
At the opening segment, subtitled “Two months ago,” Helios workers in a Mars rover come across something strange. One gets out, pulls a crude tool used as a marker out of the soil, and finds a handgun buried underneath. A Korean-language engraving on it says, “Protect the leader at all costs.”
The worker hides it in a locker back at Happy Valley. But later, a security worker finds it during a lockdown search. And it plays a huge role before the end of the episode.
NASA and the asteroid thieves are ‘Out of Time’
After the intro credits roll and as “Out of Time” by the Rolling Stones plays on the soundtrack, we see NASA’s mission to bring the Goldilocks asteroid to Earth orbit for mining is going smoothly. The final burn to move the asteroid is only about 2 hours away. That sets a timer on a tightly plotted episode.
Helios CEO Dev Ayeshi (Edi Gathegi) and his crew of asteroid thieves look on, as they still have control through the discriminator device Samantha Massey (Tyner Rushing) previously replaced on the Ranger spacecraft.
In their secret Op Comms lair on Happy Valley level 4, we see North Korean Commander Cho, badly injured when he found the conspirators and then fought with conspirator Lee Jung-Gill (C.S. Lee) in episode 9, isn’t dead. Lee wants to take him to the doctor and assume all the risk. A crew member strongly disagrees but Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) overrules him.
Sometimes (psychological) torture works
The sleeper CIA and KBG operatives activated at Happy Valley — Mike Bishop (Billy Lush) and Timur Arilov (Nikita Bogolyubov) — threaten captured Helios worker Miles Dale (Toby Kebbel) with carbon dioxide poisoning unless he starts talking about his co-conspirators. The operatives put on masks and begin to flood the room. Miles begins reeling and vomits, but he won’t crack. Yet.
It’s only later, when Bishop takes a new tact and shows Miles how his wife will be named an accomplice because she helped in his black market operations — and his kids will be taken away — that Miles starts to cough up real information. Weeping, he eventually gives up his heist comrades on sublevel 4.
Margo, reunited with her worst nightmare
Hard-working Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) is asleep on an office couch when she’s rousted and brought to NASA Director Eli Hobson’s (Daniel Stern) office, where her KGB-connected Soviet space boss, Irina Morozova (Svetlana Efremova), awaits. Surprise!
With plans going smoothly to put Goldilocks on a path to Earth, Irina says she and Margo will return to Star City in Russia. “Wonderful,” Margo lies. Her lover, former Soviet engineer Sergei (Piotr Adamczyk), warned her in a recent episode — before his shocking assassination — that going back could mean death for her.
Not knowing that Sergei is already dead, Margo sends Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) to warn him to leave Houston. But of course that leads a heartbreaking scene where Aleida learns from a hotel manager that Sergei “shot himself.” In an affecting scene, she gets back in her car. The audience perspective remains outside. But it’s easy to see she is screaming “fuck!” over and over again in raging despair.
Later, back at NASA, we experience a similar effect when Aleida informs Margo, but the audience perspective remains outside the office’s glass wall. We see Margo begin to break down but then steel herself. She rushes out and confronts Irina in a hallway, causing a scene but achieving nothing good.
The jig is up for the heisters
Because Miles cracked under interrogation, the end appears nigh for the asteroid-heist crew. Dev overhears the CIA operative reporting to Dani. Dev gets a “MAYDAY” message to his crew in their secret Ops Comm, so Ed knows security is coming.
Meanwhile, Eli and Irina impress on NASA CIA liason Will Tyler (Robert Bailey Jr.) that the asteroid must come home to Earth, no matter what.
Back on Mars, Dani stops Bishop from beating one of Dev’s crew members. Lee makes clear to alarmed North Korean colleagues that he’s in charge while Cho is “ill.”
Meanwhile, the Arilov brings a captured Helios crew member to where Miles is kept. The guy assumes Miles is just another captive — not the reason their op was blown — and simply tells him, “Everybody just ran. It’s over. Everything we did, it was all for nothing.”
Back at Rover, roped to the massive space rock, plans continue for the final slingshot burn to move the asteroid. The engines fire up. A longer shot shows Mars behind them. “We are burnin’ for Earth, people,” Dani says, and everyone cheers.
Or is it?
With Lee’s help, Dev and his crew retreat to a control room in the foridden North Korean module. Ed and Dev realize they still have a chance.
In a nutshell:
- M7 charter requires North Koreans be able to communicate privately at all times, so they can establish comms with Sam on Ranger on a private channel via the Korean officer on board using a high-gain S-band transmitter they happen to have in the room.
- Then, if Massey can cut off the flight deck from the engines, NASA can’t stop Ranger’s burn on schedule, so it can’t turn Goldilocks for for transit to Earth orbit.
- To do it, she must engage the local command override switch on Ranger and plug in a transceiver tuned to Dev’s frequency on the transmitter so Dev can control the burn.
- But the override switch is outside the ship. Sam must do a space walk during the burn. It’s dangerous but not impossible, Ed insists.
Got all that? OK, let’s go. No time for questions!
In the next scene, the Korean officer on Ranger hands Sam a headset and she’s talking to Dev. Soon enough she’s in a Korean space suit and outside, headed for the override switch. But Happy Valley XO Palmer James (Myk Watford) sees her. Dev keeps guiding her. They have 17 minutes to engage the override before NASA shuts down the engines so that Goldilocks can turn for Earth.
Outside, Sam lets go of a hatch door and it floats just a few feet before it’s incinerated and swept away by the engine burn. Well, that could happen to a person, too, you know, and Palmer’s coming for her. Hand-to-hand combat in space ensues.
Restate season conflict premise here
Dani receives a report from Bishop that Dev’s remaining crew is probably holed up in the Korean module. So she just calls, blows past Lee’s objections and starts arguing with Ed. It leads to a concise exchange over the season’s main conflict premise.
Dani argues Goldilocks and its vast wealth should go to Earth for the betterment of all, while Ed argues moving the rock away from Mars kills the space program. Ed insists Mars is home now, ending the call.
“Word have no wings but they can fly a thousand miles,” Lee says to Ed in Korean afterwards.
“This is my home now,” Ed replies in the same language.
“Mine, too,” Lee agrees.
‘Progress is never free’
Down in Mission Control on Earth, Eli and Irina talk to Aleida and a Coke-bottle-glasses-super-NASA-nerd guy — Seth Razack (Ely Henry) — who appeared earlier in the episode spouting technical jargon. He comes up with a workaround they can execute that Ranger can’t, which essentially amounts to cutting off fuel to shut off Ranger’s engines to interrupt the burn.
Later Aleida approaches Margo in the observation gallery above Mission Control, where many scenes have unfolded over four seasons. Margo wistfully recalls how she used to sit up there with Wernher von Braun, long-ago NASA director (as well as Nazi defector and Saturn V rocket designer in real life). She said she asked him how much he knew about the camps and killing on the German side in the war. She tells Aleida, “I’ll never forget what he said: ‘Progress is never free. There is always a cost.'” Chilling.
“You’re not him,” Aleida reassures her.
“No. But maybe a part of me is,” Margo replies. “Wernher made it seem like he had no choice. But there is always a choice.”
Then she reiterates the idea that bringing the asteroid to Earth means the death of Happy Valley. Keeping it up there means guaranteed investment in the space program. Progress is never free. Aleida comes around to the idea and even insists she uplink Margo’s code to sabotage’s NASA’s workaround at the last second.
Brutal battles everywhere
Sam and Palmer keep fighing outside of Ranger, each gaining and losing the advantage. She ends up barely hanging onto a railing to avoid being consumed by the burn. He struggles to cut through straps to free the switch so he can close it. But she creeps around the side of the craft and heaves mightily on Palmer’s tether, which stops just short of letting him fry as he drifts away.
He hangs in space as a majestic shot circles the asteroid and shows Mars behind it.
In Mission Control, Irina accuses Aleida of destroying the mission by inserting the superseding restart command. Margo takes responsibility. “There will be consequences,” Irina says, ominously. News reports tell the world the rock stays in Mars orbit and the M7 is meeting over the crisis.
But the battles are just heating up at Happy Valley. Dani can’t stop a CIA-led force from attacking the North Korean module under Department of Defense orders.
Tight intercuts show the escalating violence:
- Down in the room where Miles is still being tortured by the KGB operative, Ilya and a group bust in and rescue him.
- The raid commences at the North Korean module. They’re going to blow the door. But Miles leads Helios workers in an effort to “show them who really runs this place.” Helios workers attack the raiders with crude implements, beating them down viciously.
- Dani and Ed watch in shock on different screens. They both wade into the fray, desperately trying to reign it in.
- Meanwhile, the crew member who confiscated the North Korean handgun draws it. Someone grapples with him over it. It goes off. In a classic dazed-aftermath shot, we know someone is shot, probably Ed or Dani, both standing there staring at each other. It’s Dani.
The whole crew is shocked into submission. Dani goes under the knife in sick bay. The crew lines the halls outside, looking on in horror. Miles looks down at the blood on his hands.
Margo narrates the resolution
Back at NASA, FBI agents take Margo away in handcuffs. Eli mentions the Russians withdrew her diplomatic immunity. Aleida rushes to hug her. A shot shows her name defaced on a bombing memorial outside as she is ushered past it.
Margo’s voiceover comes in as we see Irina arriving at her office in Space City in Russia to find it being searched by the KGB. Margo muses over the concept of justice and explains that it’s some of humans’ worst flaws that make them so resilient (obviously with mixed results).
As she speaks, music on the sountrack does it heartstring-tugging work. We see Lee and his wife reunited at Happy Valley, at last. We see Dani arriving back on Earth, her arm in a sling. She meets her granddaughter on the tarmac.
Then Dev is on Mars’ surface, looking up at the stars. The camera pulls out to show him on the rim of the crater where Kelly found evidence of life, but soon he is far too tiny to see at all.
It’s 2012, now, the screen announces (no longer 2003), and we see extensive mining operations on multiple asteroids. Kuznetsov Station is shown on one, in honor of Cosmonaut Grigory Kuznetsov (Lev Gorn), who played a large role in season 3 and died in the season 4 opener.
Is this just a glimpse of developments around Mars as a fitting ending, or is this a look ahead to season 5 and possibly beyond? We’ll see. I’d like to see some terraforming of planets throughout the solar system, myself.
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 $9.99 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.