Outside review: Netflix and Hilary Swank take on The Martian

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In Netflix’s New Sci-Fi Drama A way, each conflict is personal, just like each solution. For example: When an equipment malfunction results in a water shortage during the first manned mission to Mars, the crew of the Atlas spacecraft are forced to abandon the ship’s garden. But one plant stays green while the others wither, leading two of the astronauts to wonder if this is a real miracle or the result of an unknown biological adaptation.

They are both wrong. Mission Commander Emma Green (Hilary Swank) dedicated some of her own water rations to keep the plant alive as a symbol of hope and a means to their goal of planting life on Mars. This revelation goes to the heart of what makes A way stand out from other science fiction shows. The most important thing for both the mission and the success of the show is not the technology or the action. This is how crew members relate to each other and the people they have left behind on Earth.

The show’s 10 episodes, which were all released on September 4, mainly follow Emma as she embarks on a three-year multinational mission to land on Mars and then return home. Her husband Matt (Josh Charles of The good woman), who wanted to be on a mission himself, but was removed from the conflict due to a degenerative neurological disease. He left to work in Mission Control and take care of their teenage daughter Alexis (Talitha Eliana Bateman).

Photo: Diyah Pera / Netflix

While most science fiction focuses on global conflicts, A way creator and writer Andrew Hinderaker keeps the stakes remarkably low. Only the Atlas crew of five are still at risk, and if their mission fails, the cost would primarily be that future exploration missions would become less likely. There is no existential threat except the vague idea that colonizing Mars would be a big step forward for humanity and could teach us a science that would be useful for surviving climate change.

The smallest litter is A way feel like a serial version of Gravity or The Martian, looking in particular at the latter’s rosy vision of NASA as a collection of brilliant minds ready to solve the most complex problems to ensure the safety of astronauts. Without a cosmic threat or true villains, the series lacks dramatic momentum, but strong characters still propel it forward.

Emma often clashes with veteran cosmonaut Misha (Mark Ivanir), who believes having spent more time in space than anyone else makes him more apt to command. Chinese astronaut Lu Wang (Vivian Wu) also provides Emma with a leaf with her ability to completely detach herself from the husband and child she left behind, even as Emma worries about how each decision that she takes is likely to have an impact on her family. They are joined by Kwesi (Ato Essandoh from Modified carbon), a first-time botanist and astronaut whose awkwardness and rookie status brings much-needed comedic relief, and Ram (Ray Panthaki), Emma’s loyal second-in-command and the obligatory romantic temptation.

Photo: Diyah Pera / Netflix

As each episode alternates between Emma’s family at home, mission control, and whatever crisis has erupted on the Atlas, each character also gets their moment in the spotlight in flashbacks showing the way that led them into space and the people they left behind. . The framing device popularized by Lost works well here to bring depth to characters that might have become stereotypes. The framing also specifically addresses issues such as sexism, patriotism, and the consequences of the pursuit of greatness on all other aspects of a person’s life.

In one episode, Kwesi takes off his boot and a giant piece of skin from his foot peels off. When he brings it to Ram, the ship’s medic explains that some things are atrophying in space. The scene is played for a laugh, with Kwesi immediately asking what that might mean for his penis, but what withers most are the relationships with the people the team has left behind. Misha effectively abandoned her daughter to serve her country and her ego. Although he begs her to forgive before each spacewalk, he doesn’t quite know how to fix things. Lu became an astronaut to prove herself to a father who wanted a son, but being the first person to set foot on Mars means giving true love and happiness a chance behind her. Emma is constantly plagued with guilt and fear of all that she misses.

Flashbacks work better than other gadgets Hinderaker uses to keep the story going. While there are plenty of video calls between the crew and characters on Earth in the early episodes, the series ends up bending to the limits of science as Atlas draws closer to Mars, relegating communication to th -mails and audio recordings. Yet Matt still appears on the ship in Emma’s imagination, so viewers can see the actor as he reads his tender messages aloud or lets his wife talk about herself at through conflict.

Away highlights the unique burden placed on women who want to have it all, via Melissa Ramirez (Monique Gabriela Curnen), who gave up on becoming an astronaut after her husband gave up on her when their daughter was born with Down syndrome. When Emma got pregnant, she saw Melissa as an uplifting tale and was afraid of losing her chance to reach for the stars. While Matt likely helped Emma avoid making similar sacrifices, Season 1 doesn’t spend enough time explaining how she managed to balance motherhood and her extremely demanding career.

Hilary Swank hangs onto a weightless ladder in Netflix Away

Photo: Diyah Pera / Netflix

A way also provides a particularly nuanced examination of disability through Hinderaker’s scripts and casting choices. Melissa’s daughter Cassie (Felicia Patti) is a fantastic addition to the somewhat soapy family intrigue on Earth, cutting off all attempts at emotional obfuscation with her heartfelt, heartfelt questions. She is also a stand-in for the audience, repeatedly asking for explanations of the science involved. There are several characters in a wheelchair, including one played by a partially paralyzed actor, allowing contrast between the characters struggling to find their way back. their mobility and the people who have accepted their physical situations and redirected their frustrations to how the rest of the world fails to do so. welcome them. A running theme of the series is that broken things aren’t unnecessary, and no matter how damaged a given character is, they find ways to deliver value not in spite of their disabilities, but in part through the way. whose new physical demands have pushed them to adapt.

While much of the series involves characters sitting and talking, Hinderaker still makes excellent use of the setting to provide stunning graphics. The dialogue stops to allow moments of calm wonder, as solar panels unfurl like fins, or Emma and Ram soak up a frozen stream of ice crystals on a spacewalk. These are beautiful and inspiring moments, which take characters and audience out of the most relatable personal conflicts and simply let them revel in the incredible possibilities of human space travel.

Genre shows sometimes suffer from the mixed burden of delivering a lot of action while also humanizing their characters, which makes all the relationship intrigue seem like it’s nailed down. A way focuses almost entirely on interpersonal drama rather than the ever-growing threats of this first season, laying the groundwork for the story’s potential future. Season 1 has none of the jarring contrasts of great thrills associated with intimate scenes. But it also never achieves the exciting energy viewers might expect from science fiction. What he delivers is a calming, low-key story about the power of people to come together and achieve amazing things, a feat that could actually be just as difficult as fighting aliens or deflecting asteroids.

The 10 episodes of A way are available to stream now on Netflix.

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