Wow, wow, wow, how sad is space, you guys? I guess that’s sort of a given, what with it being infinite and desolate and full of ways to die. Still, with the one-two-three punch of space, PLUS the astronauts on the Atlas preparing to make their final video calls to family as communications get hairy, PLUS it being the holidays, we’re all really going to need a pick-me-up after “Space Dogs.” Something better than Misha’s homemade vodka, please.
Atlas I is halfway through its journey to the Red Planet, and visual communications will be lost. They can still text and email, but it could take up to an hour for those texts to go through (which, honestly, is still a miracle). Their visual communications won’t come back until they’re on their way home — if they make it home; yeah, yeah, I’m saying it — which means that it will be about two years before the astronauts will see their family. Not to mention that with everything that could go wrong between now and then, they all know it could be the last time they ever see their loved ones. So think of the most emotional phone call you’ve ever had and multiply the intensity and heaviness by, like, 1,000. And it’s all happening around Christmas. The holidays are rough, huh?
Emma is particularly on edge. She’s still icing out Ram after his post-mono heart-to-heart. He’s trying to figure out what he did wrong, since, for him, it felt nice to finally talk about his brother with someone. If he made Emma uncomfortable in any way, he asks that she remember he was coming off some major fever dreams and some blood loss. She very simply yet very coolly says that she keeps her work life and personal life separate. She doesn’t need any additional “complications” in her life. First of all, doesn’t it seem insane to try and keep your work and personal life separate when your “work” is living in space for three years with only four other people? Things are going to get personal. Second, I am very much Team Emma and Matt, but poor Ram! It’s not like he made a pass at Emma. He seems like a nice dude with perfect hair, and I feel for him. Perhaps Emma is trying to forcefully stomp out any flicker of that flame because she is feeling conflicted? Time will tell!
Anyway, all of those “complications” need to take a back seat because not only is she saying good-bye to her husband who is Going Through It, but she has to say good-bye to her teen daughter who is a freshman now and will be a senior the next time she sees her. Those are some formative years to miss out on. Just in case the emotions weren’t ramped up enough for you.
Emma splits up her final calls so that she can have some one-on-one time with Matt. Even her bold lip and mascara cannot mask how sad these two are on the call. Matt, too, has some extra heaviness weighing on him: He’s still adjusting to his new normal, which now includes ramps all over his house and a hospital bed in his living room. Emma has every intention of surviving this mission, but she still wants to tell Matt that he changed her. That he “made [her] believe that [she] was good.” That Lex is so lucky to have him as her dad. That she’s proud to be his wife. Then he plays her a song he wrote on the piano, and, honestly, thank goodness there’s gravity in the crew quarters, otherwise Emma’s pod would just be full of floating teardrops.
Following that phone call, Matt heads out into the garage in the middle of the night to get more Christmas decorations, falls out of his chair, and proceeds to slam things against shelves, throw things, and snap his grabber claw in half. FINALLY. He’s been way too cool and calm through all of this — you knew he was trying to bury all of that emotion. Ugh, what a time.
Speaking of emotion, Emma’s final call with Lex is also pretty gutting. She’s trying to fit in as much parenting as she can: Don’t do anything you don’t want to do with boys; listen to your dad; you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. You know, typical “Mom’s gotta go to Mars” stuff. It is nice to see Lex admit how mad she is at her mom for leaving her like this. Lex seems pretty mature for a freshman in high school. For now.
Remember when I said that Lu and Emma probably wouldn’t be friends? Well, after the calls with her family, Emma can’t help but ask Lu for advice on how she copes with being away from her son and cut off from Mei. Lu always seems so together about the whole thing. Lu reminds Emma that just because she seems together doesn’t mean it’s the truth. And when she’s trying to fight that heartbreak, she reminds herself what they’re making this sacrifice for: They’re going to be the first motherfucking humans on Mars. Okay, Lu doesn’t use the expletive because Lu would never, but she’s right — they all need to be looking forward. People aren’t excited enough about going to Mars is what I’m saying. Mars, guys! Sure, there are 3,000 ways you could die before you get there and on your way home, but if not: Ooooh boy.
Emma doesn’t corner the market on emotional final phone calls with family, by the way. Misha’s puppet show for his grandkids, about a dog who has to leave his puppy son on Earth and never returns because he’s meant to be a space dog, is (a) very detailed! and (b) surprisingly moving for, again, a puppet show about a space dog. Of course, the emotion of it all stems from the fact that we can infer — and Misha explicitly tells his daughter — that Misha is the space dog who couldn’t return because he wasn’t meant to be on Earth. He has an honest conversation with his daughter and admits that the reason he abandoned her for space was because without his wife, it wasn’t the same world he knew. It drove him to drink and to suicidal thoughts and he realized that his daughter was better off without him, and he was better off in space. His daughter appreciates him admitting that but still cannot forgive him. And that’s his final call with his daughter. Oh, you guys thought this was a show about trying to get to Mars? That’s cute.
What makes Misha’s final call even more painful to watch is the fact that we know, thanks to an examination from Ram, he’s losing his eyesight rapidly because of his time in space. If all the people who, after each episode of Away, ask “What else could go wrong?” could just stop, that would be great. Because now we’ve got space blindness. SPACE BLINDNESS.
• Lu and Kwesi’s final calls to family don’t get much time (Ram, who you’ll recall isn’t close with his family, doesn’t have one), but they are nice, nonetheless: Lu gets to see some of her son’s drawings and encourages him to do what makes him happy, regardless of what his dad says. Kwesi prays and lights the menorah with his mother and then thanks her for everything she’s done for him. Can we get Kwesi’s background story already? I am ready!
• Plant Watch: Kwesi’s Hanukkah gift to his crewmates is the first batch of greens grown on the Atlas. Everyone is so delighted that it prompts Misha, jealous his homemade vodka hasn’t elicited the same response, to say: “This man brings arugula, you all have an orgasm.” Get that on a T-shirt or something.
• So, not to alarm anyone, but a huge chunk of skin on Kwesi’s heel falls off. Just falls off! Apparently, this kind of atrophy is normal for space, and since they’re going to be in space longer than anyone ever has, things like that could keep happening. Kwesi is only mildly placated when Ram assures him his penis won’t be next. The things you have to worry about in space!
• One time on a dirt bike with a boy and now Lex is sneaking out of the house. Okay, so she’s sneaking out to go to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with Isaac and his family, but still.
• Matt waiting in the garage and having the garage door open just as Lex is trying to sneak back into the house is really the perfect dad move.
• Lu and Kwesi dancing together!!!
• When a show uses Joni Mitchell’s “River” for a holiday episode, you know it is begging you to Feel Some Things.