In its 2019 debut, Apple TV+’s For All Mankind offered an enticing revisionist history: What if a setback in the space race was the engine for innovation and social change? What if reaching the outer limits of space sparked the imagination and a greater sense of community? It sounded like a lovely pipe dream, but this meticulously-detailed sci-fi drama, which was co-created by Ronald D. Moore, Ben Nedivi, and Matt Wolpert, remained grounded in humanistic storytelling and moving performances. In this retelling of history, the NASA space program may have been open to all humankind, but that didn’t wave away inequities or imperialist foreign policies.
That optimistic-yet-realistic approach remains the order of the day in season two of For All Mankind, which premieres February 19 on Apple TV Plus. Set in 1983, 10 years after the season-one finale “A City Upon A Hill,” the new season sees huge gains for individuals like Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt), who’s risen through the ranks at NASA, and Tracy Stevens (Sarah Jones), now a star who’s journeyed to the stars. Broader progress is slower going—this is, after all, a world in which Ronald Reagan gets elected four years earlier than in our reality, giving him that much more time to stockpile weapons and push for greater defensive measures. In this altered take on his administration, Reagan sets his sights on the moon as more than just a beacon for scientific research.
As season two of For All Mankind prepares to launch, The A.V. Club is premiering this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the makings of Moore and co.’s latest lunar adventure. Cast members Joel Kinnaman and Shantel VanSanten, who play Edward and Karen Baldwin, tease the new season’s escalating tensions. Krys Marshall, who plays human computer turned astronaut Danielle Poole, appears in and out of character to set up the new episodes. And of course, there’s some synth to remind us all of the 1980s setting.
The opening voiceover—“Sacrifice is a part of any journey”—provided by Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) is a stark reminder that, as bright-eyed as For All Mankind’s vision may be, there are still dark days ahead.