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For All Mankind season 3 explained — and what’s next for Season 4

The For All Mankind cast and showrunners explain that epic Season 3 finale, and tease what to expect in Season 4.

Krys Marshall as Danielle Poole in 'For All Mankind.'

The alternate 1990s ended with a bang. In the For All Mankind Season 3 finale, “Stranger In A Strange Land,” we witness a birth in space, a death at NASA, and an uncertain future for all the surviving characters. To sort out the explosive finale, Inverse caught up with cast members Coral Peña (Aleida) and Jodi Balfour (Ellen), as well as showrunners Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, to get the intel on why this season ended the way it did, the latest series time jump, and what it all means for Season 4. Spoilers ahead.

What does “Stranger In A Strange Land” mean?

Although the phrase “stranger in a strange land” is common enough, the use of it in the For All Mankind Season 3 finale likely refers to two things: First, North Korean astronaut C.S. Lee (Lee Jung-Gil) is literally a stranger in a strange land. None of the other astronauts knew he was there, and Mars is unfamiliar to him.

Second, the title is likely in a reference to the famous Robert A. Heinlein sci-fi novel Stranger In A Strange Land, which is all about Valentine Michael Smith, the first human being born on Mars. In For All Mankind, Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) carries her baby who was conceived on Mars, and then, gives birth in Mars orbit.

Kelly (Cynthy Wu) and her dad, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) in the finale of For All Mankind Season 3.

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For All Mankind Season 3 ending explained

It’s tough to pick the biggest twist of the Season 3 finale, but perhaps the most unexpected reveal is that a North Korean astronaut, C.S Lee, has been hidden on Mars for the entire season. This means his arrival predated both the NASA and Helios astronauts’ landings. At the end of Season 2, we saw a single boot on Mars, a shot that was not duplicated until the very end of Season 3. In other words, what seemed to be a continuity error was, in fact, a misdirection created by the flash-forward from the previous season.

“Revealing the last shot in the following season and kind of pulling out and seeing more of that shot is something that has happened naturally,” showrunner Ben Nedivi explains. “I feel like, now, it’s become an expectation that we can play with and subvert.”

At the same time, Nedivi notes that, if fans were watching closely, seeds about what North Korea’s space program might be doing have been planted subtly throughout Season 3. “There's a mention of it in the opening montage of Episode 1,” says Nedivi. “That the North Koreans are investing in space. There's a mention in episode four, about an unmanned mission. It’s all in there. Nobody can call bullshit on us.”

Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison in For All Mankind Season 3.

Apple TV+

Margo’s 2003 Season 4 Flash-Forward

Just like the two previous seasons, For All Mankind jumps us ahead nearly a decade for the season finale. In the final moments of “Stranger In A Strange Land,” as we hear Radiohead’s 2000 track “Everything in its Right Place,” the camera pans up to reveal Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt), seemingly in the USSR, visibly older, and in the year 2003.

This is a major last-minute twist because, previous to this flash-forward, we were led to believe that Margo died in the bombing of NASA. When Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) walks into Margo’s decimated office, it certainly seems like Margo is dead. But she’s not! Will Margo return as a former American citizen, now working covertly for the Soviet Union?

“Some of that will continue a bit, potentially,” showrunner Matt Wolpert tells Inverse. “Just as we’re seeing in our world now, you think the Cold War is over, and it’s like, ‘Wait, are we back in the Cold War again?’ We’ve always said that this show is, in the long arc, really a tension between progress and then a push back against that progress. You do see these antagonistic forces come together to survive in Season 3, on Mars, but other people in the world may have ulterior motives. We’ll see more of that in Season 4.”

Coral Peña as Aleida Rosales in For All Mankind Season 3.

Apple TV+

Aleida’s future in Season 4 — and beyond

Throughout Season 4, Aleida grappled with the knowledge that mentor Margo was a Russian spy, and actress Coral Peña says that Aleida’s journey — relative to Margo, and otherwise — is only getting started.

“I want to say that Season 2 and Season 3 will feel like prequels,” Peña tells Inverse. “These are the building blocks for Aleida’s journey. Right now, there’s no resolution for all these traumatic events in Aleida’s life, and everything with Margo is part of that. But Aleida has a long journey ahead.”

If hints at a “long journey” seem vague, Peña makes it clear that she must be. Back when she was first cast as Aleida for Season 2, Peña reveals there was briefly an alternate-ending considered for Season 1.

“Before they knew they were picked up for Season 2, they had filmed an alternate ending [for Season 1] that would have shown Aleida in a distant future,” Peña says. “I can’t say what that story was, or if it will remain that way. Things change. But, thinking about how she could get to that point, was amazing to me.”

Shantel VanSanten as Karen Baldwin in For All Mankind Season 3.

Apple TV+.

Karen and Molly’s deaths in Season 3

Other than the action on Mars, the other big development in Season 3 is the bombing of NASA by an extremist group, which includes the wayward Jimmy Stevens, son of late astronauts Gordo and Tracy Stevens. Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten) and Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger) die in the explosion. Both characters have been huge fan favorites, and it speaks to the power of For All Mankind that the show would dare to kill them off. But, while Molly dies a true hero, Karen’s death is certainly more tragic.

“It was a tough decision to make,” Nedivi says. “We love Shantel [VanSanten], so that was hard. But not only did we want that bombing to have an emotional impact, but also, more importantly, [we wanted] to feel like her character had this tremendous arc. Just think about where she started in Season 1, to where she ends up. It’s huge.”

Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin in For All Mankind Season 3.

Apple TV+

Who is in the cast of For All Mankind Season 4?

Right now, technically, no single cast member has been confirmed for Season 4, but several cast members have strongly indicated to Inverse or elsewhere that they are returning, including:

  • Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin (who may have a 5-season arc total)
  • Jodi Balfour as Ellen Wilson (rumored)
  • Edi Gathegi as Dev Ayesa
  • Coral Peña as Aleida Rosales
  • Casey W. Johnson as Danny Stevens (rumored)
  • Krys Marshall as Danielle Poole
  • Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison (glimpsed in flash-forward.)
  • Cynthy Wu as Kelly Baldwin (likely, not confirmed.)

Jimmy Stevens (David Chandler) is presumably put into prison at the end of Season 3 due to his involvement in the NASA bombing. Wolpert and Nedivi joked with Inverse that, in Season 4, he could suddenly emerge from incarceration and be played by Michael Dorman, who played Gordo Stevens, Jimmy and Danny’s dad, in Seasons 1 and 2. So, if fans were hoping for more of Michael Dorman, don’t give up?

For All Mankind Season 4 release date

As of now, there is not a set release date for Season 4 of For All Mankind. But filming is expected to start this year, which makes a 2023 release date likely.

You can watch For All Mankind on Apple TV+ right here.

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