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Review of 'For All Mankind' 4.3-4.5

The Soviet Union in the 21st Century, on Earth and Mars, and Al Gore

By Paul LevinsonPublished 4 months ago 4 min read

So, at this point in the story, episodes 4.3-4.4 of For All Mankind, Gorbachev didn't make it too far into the 21st century. He's been forcibly replaced in the Soviet Union by Korzhenko, a hardliner. So my hope that Putin would not come to power was fulfilled only by one fascist leader replaced by another, or a Putin coming to power with just a different name.

And Korzhenko has much more power than Putin, since the Soviet Union was much more powerful than Russia is today and has been in the 21st century. So powerful, and so essential to humans in space -- after all, they did beat the U.S. to the Moon in 1969 -- that they pressure the U.S. into agreeing to return Svetlana to Earth, after she badly hurts Vasily in an argument they have about the Soviet Union that turns physical (Svetlana supports Gorbachev, and Vasily supports Korzhenko). Ed ends up losing a budding and strong romantic interest, whose only protection against the KGB on Earth is that she's going to India, where'll she'll stand trial. That's not too far at all from the Soviet Union. Ed knows that, and exchanges some angry words with Danielle about this, and President Al Gore doesn't look too good in this either, agreeing to send Svetlana to India, literally in the backyard of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Margo gets a taste of how brutal the Soviet Union under Korzhenko has become. The guy in charge of the team that built the device which failed and caused the fatal accident in the asteroid mission back in the first episode of this season admits his error to Irina Morozova, after Margo explains to Irina exactly what happened. And Irina (of course) turns him over to the KGB. She saved Margo from likely death in episode 4.3, and tells Margo in 4.4 how she (Margo) will be part of the Soviet Union's plans to go out into the cosmos far beyond Mars, but Irina has a heart of ice and a morality that harkens back to Stalin.

All in all the fourth season of For All Mankind is firing on all cylinders at this point, in its alternate history and action and intrigue on Mars. I was hoping when Miles fell into that crevice on Mars that he'd discover some Martian civilization, or at least the ruins of one. But I guess that's too much to hope for, even in an alternate history.


My favorite part of For All Mankind 4.5 was Al Gore as President, 2001-2005. First of all, that's an especially satisfying piece of alternate history, since in our reality Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, and the Republican dominated US Supreme Court stopped the recounts in Florida which could have given Gore a victory in the essential Electoral College as well. (Also, in my time travel story, Ian's Ions and Eons, a time-traveler from the future goes back to 2000 to prevent the Supreme Court from taking that election victory away from Gore, so it's fun to see Gore in the White House in For All Mankind, in a completely different story.)

Gore as President could have given the US and the world a real jump on the climate crisis, which of course he was sounding clarion calls about in the first decade of the 21st century in our reality. I'd like to see something showing Gore as President leading the world in responding to global warming in For All Mankind. So far, the only notable alternate history flourish in Gore's alternate history Presidency is his taking credit for discovering a very valuable asteroid approaching Mars, mirroring what he said about inventing the Internet in our reality. Both cases were accidentally misleading statements by Gore, but the media in both realities had a field day with them.

There hasn't been much about AI in For All Mankind as yet, but it's no doubt being used to make the fictional Gore speak so clearly about things the real Gore certainly wasn't exactly taking about in our real history. It struck me that maybe the reason the series ditched Gorbachev is there wasn't enough raw material from our history for AI to put whatever words the narrative may have needed for a Gorbachev who stayed in power in our reality at least through the early 21st century.

[And now some spoilers ahead ... ]

As what's going on now in For All Mankind on Mars, it was painful to see Poole and Baldwin at such odds, but that was probably inevitable. The two have gone from saying hello Bob to each other to Poole stripping Baldwin from his rank and position. I agreed with Baldwin that Poole was wrong to send the Russian back to Earth in the previous episode, but she's not wrong to be concerned about the tremor in Baldwin's hand.

On the bright side, it was good to see Dev going up to Mars permanently, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things develop with all of our characters back in the US and USSR.

Chuck Todd and Paul Levinson talk Alternate History, including For All Mankind

tv review

About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Best-known short story: The Chronology Protection Case; Prof, Fordham Univ.

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  • Test4 months ago

    Excellent review!

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