Away finally delivers on its exciting premise in the series’ best episode of the season.
This recap of Netflix’s Away season 1, episode 9, “Spektr”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“That’s why you joined NASA, isn’t it? To solve impossible problems?” That is the question Matt (Josh Charles) asks his team in “Spektr”, which is skeptical about how the crew can extract water from their ship. Atlas is lined with a bladder system that keeps radiation away from the team, but if they screw into the ship from the inside, a mistake could have them drilling straight into space; if they drill from the outside, they come across the problem of getting water out of the hull in 2.7-kelvin temperature. It’s a horrible idea to drill into the walls, Misha (the always colorful Mark Ivanir) tells them. In 1997, he tells them an absolutely true ghost story, as he calls it, of a space station, Mir, that was hit by an approaching freighter and the module that was punctured was called Spektr. The crew heard a loud hiss of the air escape out of the room like a vacuum, and into space. The crew knows they won’t be able to go back into their quarters if it happens so they grab what they can and any sentimental items (pictures, mementos, books) to take with them.
Just before the crew is about to drill a hole inside the hull from inside Atlas, Darlene (Gabrielle Rose) asks Matt if they had come up with anything. Matt needs 30 minutes, but she insists they need to know now. Matt and his team came up with a machine that will help them drill through the wall of Atlas, but outside of the ship that will help break up the ice and extract it when it is frozen to practically an absolute zero temperature. Unfortunately, two minutes into the test (and right after Darlene praises him for making it work) the valve catches on fire. So, the team proceeds to drill the hole from inside the shuttle, only to hear that awful, horrible hissing sound — they missed the bladder and drill into space. Emma (Hilary Swank) rushes her team out and lock themselves out of the quarters.
Meanwhile in Away episode 9, Matt hasn’t given up as he confronts Darlene and the powers that be to not do what they are going to do and write up speeches calling the astronauts heroes while letting them die. As the brass lets him sit there, stewing and seething, something clicks for him and comes up with one final hail Mary pass after experiencing a shock of static electricity to his hand; they will send out a pair of astronauts wearing a static electricity generator by charging their spacesuits with static electricity when they perform a spacewalk. When they drill the water out of the hull and into space, it will be nice, and the negative ions will be attracted to the static charges on the suit; essentially, the ice will be attracted to the crew and travel straight to them, so they can gather enough frozen H2O goodness to melt into water, and survive long enough to land on Mars. That’s right, Matt is suggesting to NASA to save the mission, the team, and his wife by using an elementary school science experiment.
They have no other choice, but to go out and perform this last-ditch effort. Emma and Ram will go out together. Before they leave, Matt sends her a message that “he wants to see her again. Don’t get me wrong, you are with me all the time, but I want the real thing” (In a smart choice in the last two episodes, they choose to stop the voiceover of messages being read and had Emma imagine Matt in the room with her, which gives the scenes an added weight and depth that hadn’t been there before). The scene plays out with Emma speaking to him, sharing an intimate moment, and how terrified she really is, and just like that he is gone.
As the team assembles outside the airlock in “Spektr”, they read over the note Lu (Vivian Wang) wrote for the team’s final words and she tells her it’s perfect. The last words? “It was worth it.” After that, they help Emma and Ram (Ray Panthaki) suit up and ask Kwesi (Ato Essandoh) to say a prayer. Even Misha shares a moment with Emma, finally gaining his respect, and she tells him it was an honor performing his last spacewalk with him. “Put your trust in this one,” he tells Ram as he points at Emma. As long as the good times are rolling, Ram gets in on the action. In the airlock, he finally unburdens himself of his feelings for her. He doesn’t want to die, not anymore anyway, the slow way he was by living life at an arm’s length away from anyone. He thought he would die a noble death of great sacrifice, and it would be all worth it, but that is not the case anymore. “What changed?” Emma then asks him. “You,” he says. He then delivers the knockout punch with a soulful and tender delivery that ends with a brooding look, “I am going to be fighting out there to remain in the world with you.”
Then, in easily the series’ best scene, they float out together and drill out pieces of chunky white flake of thirst-quenching goodness that float around them like a cold, beautiful, blustery Buffalo night sky. Emma floats back to Ram, and they begin to collect bag after bag of frozen water, and, at the same time, they can’t help but steal glances at each other. When they get back inside and wait for the room to decompress, the hold each other’s glances, with large droplets of water floating around them. When they take off their helmets, Emma tells him, with a smile as big as the void around them, “We are going to live.”
What did you think of Away episode 9, “Spektr”? Going into the season finale, will Emma fight off her emerging feelings for Ram? Will Ram keep pursuing her? What else will go wrong as they get ready for their final descent in the red planet’s atmosphere? Let us know in the comments below!
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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.