“Excellent Chariots” is starting to show Away has some depth and layers that get deeper with every revealing episode.
This recap of Netflix’s Away season 1, episode 4, “Excellent Chariots”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I can’t think of a worse place to start to have a sleep disorder than space. You can do some weird things like sleepwalking, for instance. My older cousin used to walk around in a dream-like state opening dresser drawers and urinating in them (you know how grandparents’ lover their armoires). So, when Jack watches Ram try to open up the airlock door with bloodshot eyes, muttering to himself, he knew the mission was in trouble. No worries though, the team is alerted, Misha grabs Ram just in time, and he concludes that he is the first to crack in space. No worries, Misha says, everyone does it. However, Emma touches his forehead, and their worst fears are realized — Ram is burning up from the fever and they all have to quarantine themselves, so they don’t catch the infection.
Ram has the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis or Mono, an infection known as the kissing disease (*cough, foreshadowing, cough*). They take him back to his sick pay to cut him off from the group and put on all their personal protective equipment. The team in Houston is notified of the situation and then everyone is aware of the potential danger at stake here. “We are stuck in close quarters, and the infection is sealed in the traveling tin can, so yes, we will be alright,” Misha quips sarcastically. Darlene (Gabrielle Rose) tells Emma and the rest of the team they won’t notify Ram’s family because he has a note in his file to only notify his family upon his death.
Ram’s fever has spiked and is looking back at his days as a child sick in bed. He is also cut off from his family in these hallucinations. We see his memory from his point of view, and we do see his older brother who is refusing to leave his side during his sickness. As this is happening, Ram climbs out of his NASA engineered bed, falls over, and crashes to the floor, cutting a gash into his back. There is now infected blood everywhere, spreading over all over the floor. No one should go in now, with the chance of the infection increased. However, Emma won’t leave any member of her crew to die. She goes in, and eventually all follow, as they hold Ram down to try and stop the bleeding, Misha busts through the doorway like the Kool-Aid man with a hand stapler to close the wound. Ram is still not out of the woods; his fever is still 103.5 and showing no signs of going down.
Then we have the issues at home in Away season 1, episode 4. Alexis is doing poorly in school since the incident. Her test scores are down and seem disinterested as of late. She visits NASA’s therapist, Dr. Putney (Madam Secretary‘s Michael Patrick Thornton), who we saw work with Emma in the pilot episode. We didn’t know this at the time, but the good doctor is also in a wheelchair. Naturally, she asks him about it, wondering how her father deals with the issue. They also touch base with her issues at school, her mother staying away, the absence of her father at home, and the fact her father’s disease, cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM), is hereditary and is worried if she may have it. Alexis reached the point in her life where can look at a problem logically, from all angles and come up with solutions with complex situations. Except, she is now alone, her father in the hospital, her mother quite literally out of orbit, and the possibility of having a deadly disease — which is too much for any teenager to handle.
Meanwhile in “Excellent Chariots”, Matt is working so hard to go home he hasn’t considered if he leaves too early, he may never regain his full health. As a fellow patient tells him, he would have access to all the physical therapy he wants, 24 hours a day if he stays. If he leaves the hospital, he will only be able to rehab an hour a day with outpatient therapy. His daughter, Alexis, needs him at home, for at the very least a sense of normalcy. If Matt stays, he may be able to regain all functions. If Matt chooses to stay longer and tomorrow; he plans to fail his strength test so the hospital can’t send him home.
There are more sacrifices to be made though. One from the past we learn about, the other, in the present. The reason Ram keeps telling Emma to leave his bedside and put him in the airlock if the fever doesn’t subside is that his brother contracted his fever when he was a child. He passed away and has never completely gotten over the grief. His fever dream subsides, but not before he tells Emma his tale and the audience and Emma are able to understand the sacrifice made for him, and the one he was prepared to make for his team. Also, it seems to have started a connection between them that has grown stronger.
Matt, back on earth, after learning his daughter left a makeup test to go hang out with a boy she likes, realizes his daughter is at a crossroads. So, he makes a sacrifice and passes his strength test possibly now having to endure a long, hard to complete recovery or never being able to walk again.
Away may not be the fastest hour of television — an issue that Netflix shows have because they don’t rush like network shows do to make sure you stay during the commercial breaks. It, though, is starting to show it has some depth and layers that get deeper with every revealing episode. By the end of “Excellent Chariots,” we will be asking ourselves if Matt’s sacrifice puts Alexis back on the right path? Will Misha and Lu patch things up since the big reveal? Finally, will Emma and Ram’s friendship blossom into something more?
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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.