It’s Landing Day, Space Buddies! When Matt Logan started talking about how stressed and scared he was about the Atlas successfully landing on Mars because there are 42 steps in the landing sequence “and every single one has to go right,” my first thought was, here we go again. But that was immediately followed by the thought that the Atlas deserves a win and maybe after everything they’ve endured, this would be the one thing that goes smoothly. Don’t laugh! This show is about hope and optimism in the face of uncertainty and maybe it rubbed off a little. Is that such a bad thing?
Anyway, I’m happy to report that the latter is what happens. Let’s get real for a second: As much as Away wanted to stretch out the tension, there really was no way a series like this would get its astronauts that close to Mars and not have them actually land by the end of the season. The alternative would be so bleak! Away, for all its melodrama and sad people in zero gravity, is not bleak. That’s not to say there isn’t some drama leading up to the landing and some real tension — I didn’t realize how badly I needed to see those five touch down on the Red Planet, but there’s some real catharsis by the end of Away’s season one finale.
It’s easy to be a little harsh on Commander Emma Green, what with all the crying and second guessing and the crying again (and this comes from me, a crier!). It’s hard to watch the rest of her crew be so sure in their choice to be on Atlas and Emma, their leader, to, well, not be sure at all. But “Home” puts all the Emma haters on blast a little bit.
Emma’s clearly scared about the launch. We see her terrible nightmares about the Atlas going up in flames upon entry into Mars’s atmosphere, but her crewmates merely sense it. And after the last episode, any and all tension on the Atlas is even more heightened when Emma’s alone with Ram.
As the two pilots are prepping the ship, you can feel it between them. When Ram cracks a joke about there being a problem with the solar panels, Emma bites his head off even though it was objectively funny and I will not hear arguments otherwise. Finally, Ram has to bring up what he said. He’s sorry if he crossed a line by confessing his feelings for her (he definitely did!), but he thought he was going to die (he really did think that!). Emma lets him have it: Of course he crossed a line. She’s his commander and him having feelings compromises her ability to lead. She ends her little speech with, “whatever you feel for me, I do not feel,” which is extremely harsh. Ram’s hurt and embarrassed and has nothing more to say to Emma.
Emma floats off to deliver some more bad news, this time to Lu. CNSA has sent instructions for Lu’s big photo op. You’ll recall that there was an international agreement that Lu would be the first astronaut to actually step on Mars and she’ll be sending a picture of her on the Red Planet alone, with the Chinese flag. “Someone’s going to become more famous than Neil Armstrong,” Misha tells her. Well, maybe not if the CNSA has anything to do with it.
Lu’s instructions are to take the photo with her reflective visor down, so you can’t see her face. Both Lu and Misha get it immediately, it’s a motherland thing. “I do not exist,” Lu says. And then Emma reminds her that with this photo op, Lu has some “leverage.” She could force CNSA’s hand. What does she want? She wants Mei reinstated at Mission Control. Later, she gets a “we’ll see” response from CNSA, which she knows means it isn’t happening. She’s with Misha at the time, and he, who really has revealed himself to be such a softy, tells Lu that she doesn’t owe “the motherland” anything else than what she’s already given. “If they aren’t proud of who you really are, they’re just stupid fools.” Lu is in tears over the kindness her friend — yes, friend — has paid her. Remember when people actually thought they could keep work and personal separate on this mission?
Speaking of best buddies, Kwesi goes to see Ram, still alone in the command module. He wants to make sure his two pilots are speaking to each other since in a few hours his life will be in their hands. Ram spills: Emma told him that she feels nothing for him and that his feelings compromise her work. Kwesi’s like, uh, dude, both those things can’t be true. If Emma felt nothing, Ram’s feelings wouldn’t be compromising anything. Kwesi doesn’t know in what capacity, but he knows Emma loves Ram. He also reminds his buddy to cut Emma some slack today — she clearly loves all of her crewmates and feels responsible for their lives. “Just imagine what a burden that is for her today,” Kwesi says. Kwesi is not wrong! About any of it!
Things feel very in order for this landing, which probably gives you pause on this show, but guys, things really are going well. As they all suit up, Ram and Emma make peace. She wants to apologize, but he won’t let her. He also won’t let her take on the burden of their deaths. They all got each other here and they all would die for this mission. It’s not on her. Also, he reminds her to enjoy this moment, which is some advice they could all probably use. Yeah, yeah, probable death…but also, Mars!
After a prayer from Kwesi (requested by Lu, if you can believe it), the Atlas team is ready. On Earth, everyone waiting to hear that sweet, sweet touchdown confirmation assembles at NASA HQ in Houston — how cute to see Misha’s daughter and Kwesi’s mom chatting — and prepares to watch the live feed of the landing. It could go very badly! They even have NASA shrink Putney around, and I’m sorry but that is not reassuring!
The astronauts send messages to their families before initiating the landing sequence: Emma tells Matt and Lex that she’s proud of them, Kwesi thanks his mother for “teaching [him] to believe in possible things” (yeah, obviously I’m already tearing up), Misha tells his grandkids that their mom is the real hero (gah!), Lu tells her son to do what makes him happy, and Ram tells his brother they made it. Who knows what Emma is thinking, but knowing how hard this is for Ram, she reaches over and lovingly — lovingly! — grabs his hand. On camera! The show is sure to zoom in on Matt’s face at this moment, so you know if there’s a season two questions will be asked.
And then they’re off. The Atlas lands on Mars. If you’re not feeling something upon seeing the joy and relief these five feel as they’ve achieved not just their mission but their dreams, I cannot help you. Ram screams out, Misha and Kwesi are in tears, and Emma, and this is not a typo, makes a joke. And hey guys, when the five of them get down onto the surface of Mars, they discover Pegasus is there ready and waiting for them. How’s that for a little hope?
They string things out a little bit more on Earth — for one second I thought we’d know Atlas landed but Houston would lose contact and that would be the big cliffhanger, but again, that’s not what this show is about — and there are a few seconds where everyone thinks things have gone south before Emma’s voice comes on and says it: “touchdown confirmed.” The room erupts in celebration.
And then the first image from Atlas arrives from the surface of Mars. It is not, in fact, just Lu standing there covering her face. It’s all five of the astronauts standing together, visors up so you can see all their faces. A team. Whether or not Away is renewed for a second season, it is a fitting image to go out on.
• Travis and Veronica are engaged! I hope they get married on horseback. I know it’s a very minor subplot, but I’m invested.
• Lex doesn’t have CCM and she and Isaac love each other. Sorry but the teen stuff just doesn’t measure up to the space stuff in this episode. Landing day, you guys!
• Matt decides that to get his and Lex’s minds off the landing (and their faces away from all the reporters outside their house), they’ll get Melissa and Cassie and take Travis up on his offer to ride horses. Matt can tell something’s up with Melissa and it isn’t just that she’s keeping Lex’s secret about spending the night with Isaac. She’s short with Matt who keeps calling them a team, and after stopping herself from saying “I’m not your wife!” takes a breath and says “You really can’t see it?” No offense to Mel but, I really don’t think he could. He’s very cool about it after — “how you feel is how you feel” — and doesn’t want her to apologize. Basically, the opposite way Emma handles Ram’s feelings.
• “You might be the first real Martian.” I just cannot get enough of Misha and Lu’s friendship. Never enough!
• If there is a season two, there better be 100 percent more of Josh Charles staring longingly up at the stars because that is what a good astronaut spouse does. I have seen all the movies and I have held my tongue long enough on this issue!!