The Best Sci-Fi Series of the Year Just Delivered Two Massive Mid-Season Twists

For All Mankind Season 4 has always been about asteroids, but “Goldilocks,” changes everything.

Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin in a flashback in 'For All Mankind' Season 4.
For All Mankind

As For All Mankind hits the halfway point in Season 4, the stakes for the entire season, and the potential future of human spaceflight have shifted in a big way. Up until this point, For All Mankind has delivered its usual excellent blend of alternate history, and compelling speculative space science, all wrapped in one of the best character dramas on TV. However, Episode 5, “Goldilocks,” redirects the actual plot of Season 4 in a way that feels natural, but is actually a pretty huge twist.

Along the way, For All Mankind also jumps back in time to the previous season, and finally answers a question we’ve had since Season 4 began. Here’s why both of these twists deepen the storytelling of the show, and how they fit into the larger epic sweep of the story. Spoilers ahead.

The Goldilocks asteroid

An asteroid in 'For All Mankind.'


Right at the start of the episode, we see a long-range space telescope pick up images from an unidentified object in the vicinity of Jupiter. Soon, the world learns this is a medium-sized asteroid, that contains 70,000 metric tons of iridium. In real life, iridium is only found in the Earth’s crust, and on asteroids. In fact, the massive amount of iridium in one specific part of the fossil record — known as the KT boundary — is generally considered to be the smoking gun that helps prove the theory that the dinosaurs were mostly wiped out by an asteroid impact.

For All Mankind doesn’t mention the dinosaurs, but it does double down on the very real fact that on Earth, iridium is quite rare. On our planet, iridium is used in all kinds of devices, from sparkplugs to computers, to lasers. In the turbo-charged timeline of For All Mankind, one can imagine iridium is even more valuable. This asteroid, called 2003LC also has some basis in a real asteroid called 2003-LC-5, which is classified as a “Near Earth Asteroid.” As far as we know, in our universe, 2003 LC-5 is not rich with iridium like 2003LC is in For All Mankind.

In “Goldilocks,” everybody learns that there are 70,000 metric tons of iridium on the asteroid, which means that it’s worth 20 trillion dollars. This is a poignant plot point because it crystallizes all the motivations of all the various characters in the series. Now the asteroid capture program is a much bigger deal. Now the conflicts on Happy Valley base on Mars have real consequences. And above all, For All Mankind is making some brilliant commentary on the nature of space travel in our timeline. So often, people have complained that space exploration is a waste of money, but what For All Mankind just asserted is: what if space travel could save the global economy?

Obviously, the message of the show isn’t that reductive. There’s a lot of layers. But, the idea that the “Goldilocks” asteroid is a real possibility in our actual solar system makes this twist not only game-changing but also, realistic.

What happened to Danny in Season 3?

Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) in a flashback in 'For All Mankind' Season 4.


In addition to the big narrative shift in “Goldilocks,” this episode also looks back with several unique flashbacks that reveal the fate of one tragic character from Season 2 and Season 3. After betraying Ed and other astronauts in Season 3, Danny Stevens — son of Tracy and Gordo — was exiled to the downed Korean space pod. Since the build-out of Happy Valley in the eight years between the end of Season 3 and the start of Season 4, we haven’t known exactly what happened to Danny. In fact, we didn’t quite know how Danielle, Will, Kuz, Ed, and the other first settlers on Mars faired after rescuing Kelly and her baby at the end of that season.

But in a few key flashbacks in this episode, we see Danielle visiting Danny, and bringing him food during his exile. During the last visit, Ed goes with her only to find that Danny has perished, sitting out in his spacesuit on the Martian surface. While this flashback answers a question longtime fans have likely had since the new season began, it also provides a smart counterpoint to Danielle and Ed’s present-tense conflict. In the flashbacks, we see Ed and Danielle as we like to remember them — colleagues and old friends, striving to get through yet another difficult space exile. But the painful truth of Season 4, is that Danielle and Ed are now at odds with each other, fighting over the extradition of Svetlana in the previous episode. And now, the reality is that Ed is no longer physically competent enough to fly the Ranger spacecraft.

Dani pulling Ed from flight status at the end of this episode is a gut punch, but it’s also something we’ve seen coming. Danielle doesn’t want to ruin her old friend’s life. But, as the flashbacks make clear, she also doesn’t want Ed to end up an emotional wreck like Danny Stevens. Because at this point, with that all-important asteroid looming, there’s just way too much at stake.

For All Mankind streams on Apple TV+.

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