Grade 18/20 (B+)
So I am a sucker for space and astronaut movies. I have watched Apollo 13, Hidden Figures, For All Mankind, The Astronauts Wives Club, and on and on. I love the idea of space and space travel of the here and now as well as the future. So when I saw that the premise of Away was about the first manned missing to Mars, I was excited. So excited, I started watching day one and I was not disappointed. While not a family series this show is definitely worth watching.
NOTE I WILL DO MY BEST TO AVOID SPOILERS BUT THERE MIGHT BE SOME IN HERE.
Fresh on the heels of the successful launch and return of SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, Netflix Away provides a serialized drama about mankind’s first manned mission to Mars (and yes, I know filming happened long before the Dragon flight). This story is told in two parts.
The first part is the crew on board Atlas I, lead by Commander Emma Green, as they hurl through space on their way to Mars facing a ton of challenges. Do they make it? Do they turn back? Do they all make it out alive? Well, that I will leave for you to find out. However, I really enjoyed watching the crew deal with everything from distance to Earth, separation from family, water and fire issues, and a bunch more. It constantly kept me wanted to get back to what was happening on the spacecraft.
The second part is what I will call the ground crew. We are primarily following the Green family which is Commander Emma Green’s husband and fifteen year old daughter as they deal with what it is like to be a family on the ground. It is helped by the fact that Matt Logan, Emma’s husband, is a super amazing lead engineer which allows us a greater glimpse into what is actually happening in NASA’s mission control. To complicate the ground story, Alexis, Emma and Matt’s daughter, begins to discover boys and rebellion as she is upset at her mom for essentially leaving her.
And there are a host of supporting characters on both the spacecraft and in and around mission control that were all seemingly excellent characters. I say that because they all acted the way I would expect to them act but I am no NASA expert. From an observer and entertainment point of view, they were all awesome.
Commander Emma Green (played by Hilary Swank) leads the crew in space and is a complex mixed character. When she is focused, nothing can stop her. However, issues on the ground (which I want to spoil but will not) really try her family side of the equation and cause her to break at certain points that any person would. So I found her a very interesting character and enjoyable to watch. In addition to her, Misha (played by Mark Ivanir) I most related too as the mission’s engineer who happens to be struggling with space issues on his body. However, I found him having some of the best lines. Rounding out the spacecraft crew, we have Mission Specialist Lu (played by Vivian Wu) who is basically the ship scientist or Spock like character, Ram (played by Ray Panthaki) is the mission’s doctor and second in command and in love with Emma, and Kwesi (played by Ato Essandoh) the ships botanist. Yes the mission’s botanist because once they are on Mars they are going to want/need to find a way to grow food and who would know that better. What makes Kwesi extremely interesting is that this is his first mission in space so that means when they have to explain things to him they are also informing the audience. And he is a man of faith and often offers up prayers. Ram’s love for Emma did give me concern that the storytellers would take this into an infidelity area but was thankful that they kept that at bay at least for now.
On the ground, we center the majority of the story around Matt Logan (played by Josh Charles) who in the first episode while Emma is hours away from launching for Mars from the moon suffers a heart attack. Alexis (played by Talitha Eliana Bateman) steps up to try and be like mom would be for Matt which causes some tension for about half of the season and then moves to at home where he is dealing with his fallout, Alexis finding boys and the issues with the spacecraft since he is one of the best engineers anywhere.
I was a bit confused by Melanie (played by Monique Gabriela Curnen) who is the family’s support/aid/surrogate person to help Matt and Alexis while Emma is in space. I think this is an interesting idea but it seemed a bit odd. From what I have seen from other shows, all the astronaut families usually provide this kind of support. Nothing against the character, just seemed a little out of place and added to my concerns over Matt eventually hooking up with Melanie while Emma is in space.
The ground is well earth and looks as good as any movie or television. NASA was pretty cool even though I have been to the Johnson Space Center and seen the real mission control. But I can suspend disbelief. The real place this series shines is in the scenes on the spacecraft. They had a good mix of weightlessness as well as artificial gravity that the scenes felt real. I felt like I was floating in space with them. Maybe me love the show even more.
Family Friendliness 3/5
This is the bittersweet section. On the one hand, there is no real nudity (one side shot of a woman but you don’t see anything) and only mild swearing. One really cute place where swearing is used is when Emma says I love you to Matt and has a swear word in the phrase. At first you are scratching your head, and then when you find out why it is really cute. The down side comes from Alexis sneaking out to see a boy, doing things behind her dad’s back, spending the night with a boy and stuff like that as well as dancing around homosexuality with one of the spacecraft crew. But the real things that pushes this to be at least 14 or older is the tension that is felt with each and every situation they face (not to mention all the fighting about the situation). I felt drawn in and would be concerned that younger audiences would not be able to separate entertainment from reality as well. Netflix has rated this as TV-14 and I would agree with their rating.
Nuts and Bolts
Netflix’s Away is currently available for streaming and stars Hilary Swank, Josh Charles, and Talitha Eliana Bateman and is rated as TV-14 mostly for intense scenes and sexuality and I think this rating is spot on. I recommend this movie for anyone who is 14 years and older.