Away has started to find its rhythm with flashbacks that bring comparison to the classic adventure series Lost. Instead of this device setting up constant surprising reveals for shock value, Away is more interested in showing us the sacrifices each team member has made in their lives at great personal cost to make human history.
This recap of Netflix’s Away season 1, episode 3, “Half the Sky”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“Once again, your instincts are incorrect. I’m just as pleased as everyone that Jack Willmore is going to rejoin our team,” are the words that Lu says to Emma (Hilary Swank). She says this with tears in her eyes, always making sure to speak with regained composure, on another side of a sealed NASA engineered space door. See, even in such a tender and sweet moment that brims with such honest reflection and somber emotion from the crew’s most ice-cold character, Lu can’t help but continue to bust her Commander’s chops. Oh, that Lu. We finally get to an episode centric flashback sequence for Dr. Lu Wang (Vivian Wu).
She learns that Mei (Nadia Hatta), who we met in the last episode titled “Negative Returns”, was replaced by Jack Willmore. His mission was supposed to end when he came back from the moon but volunteered to stay on to see the team through to their mission. Emma is not happy about it, considering she knows Jack felt he should be commanding this mission, and feels slightly undermined by his presence. Jack continues his weekly poker game with the guys that have been a tradition since training from Mission Control. He then lets its slip, and proving the only other group that gossips more than a bunch of old biddies are a group of military astronauts stuck in a floating tin-can in space, is the rumor why Mei was transferred — she was having an affair for two years with Lu.
We learn in Away season 1, episode 3 that Lu’s boss found a note from Lu in Mei’s possession. The team doesn’t know what to make of it since Lu is married with a son at home. Though, as Jack points out, Lu is going to be the first person to walk on Mars, and China has a public image to protect. Lu asks Misha to set up a private call for her with Mei, but he tells her that he won’t participate in her cheating on her family. Embarrassed by the news that Misha (Mark Ivanir) and the team know her secret, Lu confronts Emma and then blames her for telling everyone. Later, they patch things up with Lu apologizing to the team for losing her composure, and Jack sets up a secret call for her with Mei — we come to find out it was a forbidden love that has hit an emotional peak. Mei taught Lu English with the help of Billy Ray Cyrus’s Achy Breaky Heart and in return Lu Chinese calligraphy. Mei, the night before she leaves on her mission, gives Lu a ring with writing that says, “Women hold up half the sky” (Personally, I think a line from Cyrus’s country classic would have been more fitting). Meanwhile, Lu can’t fight off Mei’s advances anymore, and they spend the night together. Lu leaves that same note that was found in Mei’s possession, on the bed as Mei slept, and left to go on her mission. The call between Mei and Lu offers closure and she reassures Lu she is safe, and if anything happened to her, it would bring questions, which China wants to avoid.
Matt (Josh Charles) is going to have a longer road ahead than previously thought. While the doctor told him he would be in the hospital another two months, the rehabilitation after will take years. He also may never regain complete mobility function and the use of his legs — ever. Matt tries to put on a brave face for Emma when he calls her from what must be the greatest cell phone plan in human history (they really missed a Verizon product placement opportunity here) and tells her, full of faux bravado to make her laugh, he set numerous upper-body records. Shortly after, he breaks down and tells her that he was told by his medical team he may never walk again.
Meanwhile in Away episode 3, Alexis is going through a tough time at home and school. She hasn’t been back to her high school in three weeks. She spends all her time at the hospital with her father, Matt. She is there for is physical therapy, for his checkups, meals, and even makes sure his sheets have been changed every other day. When Alexis (Talitha Bateman) finally goes back to school, a cute guy gives her a look, in the distance, but something still doesn’t feel right to her. She goes back to see her father in the hospital, and all Matt wants to hear is how her first day back went. Suddenly, Alexis begins to cry and feelings of anxiety and fear come pouring out — she wants to be at the hospital with her father, so she can make sure nothing happens to him. The pressure of losing her mother to space is one thing, being left truly alone on earth with no one is terrifying for her.
“Half the Sky” sees the show start to find its rhythm with flashbacks that bring comparison to the classic adventure series Lost. Instead of this device setting up constant surprising reveals for shock value, Away is more interested in showing us the sacrifices each team member has made to in their lives at great personal cost to make human history. This also leaves us with more answers than actual questions, which is a refreshing change of pace. Though, I am seeing some foreshadowing here of a potential Emma and Ram (Ray Panthaki) flirtation that may need to be addressed. Will this relationship progress? Considering what happens when people are confined in small rooms for long periods of time, only two things can happen (look up what Don DeLillo said on the matter). Will Alexis be able to overcome the stress her parents have put on her own personal mental health? Will Matt ever be able to walk again? Finally, will Jack, good intentions or not, continue to undermine Emma’s command?
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.