Away is getting into a distressing pattern of flashbacks that become less and less relevant, while each episode’s plot seems to be an exercise in filler.
This recap of Netflix’s Away season 1, episode 8, “Vital Signs”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
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Away episode 8, “Vital Signs”, kicks off with a flashback of a woman giving birth in a hospital in China. The doctor comes out to give the father the good news— he has a brand-new baby girl. The father looks annoyed because he told his wife that they would “jinx it” if they picked a boy’s name before their child was born. The doctor gives him a disapproving look and then asks him what the child’s name will be. He takes a breath, looking as serious as he did the moment before and tells the good doctor with little joy, “My child’s name is Lu.”
The crew is tired, hungry, and irritable on the big tin can traveling over 32,000 kilometers an hour across the great void known as space. They have been still rationing their water, and everyone is getting testy. Ram dreams of coffee, while Kwesi wants to re-water his plants, and Misha dreams of taking a long, hot shower. Even Lu drops the tough act and talks about her first cup of tea, but they have to land on Mars first. Why? A freighter ship named Pegasus is going to land on Mars in an hour with food, supplies, and they will have access to a new back up the water system. Though, when Emma (Hilary Swank) brings it up, she berates her in front of the crew to not jinx it. She doesn’t stop there and continues her assault by telling Emma she didn’t want to be here and mocks her for wanting to go home last week when she was dehydrated and over-worried, “You only wish you were home.”
The crew, mission control, and Emma’s family all watch the worldwide broadcast of Pegasus’s anticipated landing on Mars and everyone is understandably nervous— including Alexis, who is very fragile after all she has been going through. The crew is waiting in anticipated relief that their mission will be completed and there is most likely a 99% survival if their rations touch down on that big red planet. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the signal was lost, and they fear the ships skip right off Mars’ atmosphere and back into space, taking any chance of survival with them. Alexis is upset, Matt attempts to calm her down, the powers that be begin to talk to memorial services, and while Emma attempts to put a positive spin on things, Ram tells her, “When a plane goes off the radar, that pilot isn’t coming home.”
Meanwhile in Away episode 8, “Vital Signs”, Matt comes up with a plan that he apparently lifted from Ron Howard in Apollo 13. Matt wants the crew to take Atlas and slingshot across Mars, using a gravitational assist, to head straight at Pegasus Two, so they can dock on the ship, and grab their supplies; this means, however, they will have to give up on the mission to land on Mars and return home. This plan is met with hesitation from all parties, but China is dead set against it because they want their astronaut to be the first person to walk on the Red Planet. Do they ask if they really want that same person to be the first to dig their own graves there as well? The Chinese official at Nasa turns to tell them, “I’d rather she die a hero on Mars, then return home a coward.” When Emma gives the team the news, Lu is even less thrilled and accuses Matt of coming up with the plan to undermine the mission to get Emma home. Emma has finally had enough; she tells Lu that she is pathetic to make this personal and Matt isn’t even allowed on the mission control floor (we can choose to ignore the fact Lu was correct).
Then Away episode 8 pivots to the show’s usual playbook — it has fallen into a distressing pattern of flashbacks that become less and less relevant, while each episode’s plot seems to be an exercise in filler. So, we know what is coming next that will easily rectify their situation. Lu comes up with a plan after working with Misha on the water system and tells her she can tell if it is working by feeling the pulse on pipes. She has a theory if Pegasus landed on Mars it would create a sonic boom in the atmosphere they will pick up on a recording, and if they heard nothing, that means it skipped off Mars like a stone on a pond. To find out they will need command codes that Ram has access to. Ram, even though he is feeling guilty, hands them over and Emma walks in on them. Emma feels betrayed by Ram but wants to land on Mars as much as they do. They proceed with the plan and celebrate when they see the sonic boom change the frequency, and Misha lets them know there would have been more artifact noise if the freight ship broke upon impact — they make a change of plans and decide to complete their mission after all.
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