By the end of For All Mankind Season 3 Episode 2, the future of NASA’s space race is clear.
Danielle will helm the first manned mission to Mars, and in the wake of that development, another entity has joined the race, giving former NASA pilot Ed Baldwin an opportunity to fly his own mission to the red planet.
We asked Krys Marshall, who plays Danielle, to walk us through those exciting developments.
What do you think Danielle was thinking as everything unfolded from the first announcement that Ed was going up, to Margo’s termination of Molly for going there and Danielle subsequently tapped as the lead?
And why do you, Krys, think that Danielle was the best person for the Mars mission?
Not just because I play Danielle, but because the facts are that Danielle is far more qualified than anybody else in the program to lead the mission to Mars.
She’s got advanced degrees in robotics and aeronautics. She is fluent in Russian. She is a geologist and astronaut, obviously, a mission commander on more missions than anybody else in the program, an engineer.
When we first meet her in Season 1, we discover that she’s already actually a NASA employee because she’s one of the computers who runs the numbers to get us the trajectories in the first place.
So there could not be a more appropriate candidate for this commander position than Danielle.
And at the same time, Molly is from the old guard. She was the oldest in the ASCAN program many, many moons ago.
So her belief is that sticky flying and high risk is what it takes to go to Mars, not thinking that sticky flying is not about it. What it’s about is a nine, ten-month long mission that is really about slow and steady wins the race.
I also think that there is some bias there with Molly, even though she may be an old friend of Danielle’s, and they go way back. She still has inherent biases that have been galvanized over the years because she is a white woman in this world and still can’t help but see Ed is the best man for the job.
And then we’ve got Margo whose hands also aren’t totally clean. Yes, Danielle is the best woman for the job, and also from a PR standpoint, she’s the best look for the job. And Molly’s not wrong in saying that if the playing field were even that it may not be Danielle.
And Ed replies the same sort of thing when he sits down with Danielle in the Outpost and says that if this we’re a level playing field, you and I both know I’d get the job. So, obviously, Ed is wrong, but what he’s pointing to is a sense that Danielle’s a diversity hire, which is incredibly painful for her.
What I love about their relationship and what I love about the writing of our show is that the producers and writers could have shied away from telling that part of Ed’s story because he’s the hero. He’s the good guy. We want the audience to like him. But that’s not real life.
In real life, people who love you, people who know you well, will also disappoint you. They’re also living their life through their lived experience. They can’t help but see the world through their veil. They’re not you. They’re them.
And what I do love about our alternate timeline that I wish our real life was better at is that although what Danielle experiences with Ed in that Outpost conversation is extraordinarily painful, they still find a way to move through it, to love each other, to support each other and to remain friends.
And I just wish that more often people who saw things differently could still find a way to come together and respect each other and move forward with love and adoration.
And speaking of both Ed and Danielle, now he’s going to work for the competition.
How’s that going to affect their friendship and the race itself?
The competition between Ed and Dani has always been there, and I think that competition makes each of them better. The competition makes them work harder, work longer.
Danielle even says to Ed in the astronaut office, you better watch your back because if you slip for just one second, me and my backup crew are going to swoop in there, and we’re going to take your spot. So I think she’s, of course, shocked and disappointed that Ed has gone on to the competition.
It’s also a bit laughable because when Danielle believes that she won’t have the opportunity to command Mars, her response is I’ll be his backup crew. Whatever Ed needs, whatever the program needs, I’m right here. But then when Ed doesn’t get the opportunity, he packs up his ball and bat and goes home early.
So not an admirable choice, of course, but I think Danielle’s able to move past it and say to her herself, ‘well, great. Now I got to start my engines, because I’ve got to beat this guy. He’s moved up the date, and now instead of everyone going in ’96, they’re going in ’94. So okay. We may not be ready, but we’ll get ready.’
And how does Danielle’s new family play into her new attitude? It seems like she’s super courageous this season for all the reasons that you’ve noted — she’s been through so much and has really gotten to a great place. But she’s also got this family who supports her entirely. How is that helping her?
Yeah. The writers are pretty cruel. Every time we see sweet Danielle have a little love in her life, they go and take it away. We see her in episode five of season one just run into Clayton’s arms. She’s just so enamored and so missing him. He’s been away and barely survived his time in Vietnam.
And then, of course, they snatch her away and send her up on Jamestown and send her there forever. And throughout season two, we see that she doesn’t have love and that it’s not a priority. She really wants to find herself.
So it made me happy, of course, to see that she’s got this healthy, loving, stable relationship. She’s remarried after having been a widow. She’s a mom to a stepson after having never had children of her own.
So Danielle has every reason to stay, except she can’t. She’s just hooked on space. And so it is one of the things I love, but also one of the things it’s hard to wrap my mind around.
It makes me wonder, okay, is Danielle selfish? Her husband doesn’t want her to go, and her kid needs her. But I think that’s what we love about these characters in the For All Mankind universe is that they’re lovely and also so flawed. So flawed.
Yeah. And in every universe you need to have that person who’s going to do everything for the greater good. And she’s one of those people.
Yeah, she is.
New episodes of For All Mankind premiere on Fridays only on Apple TV+.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.