Currently on Netflix from director Andrew Hinderaker comes a series that does more than deal with a journey through space but the lives of those who are going AWAY.
Commander Emma Green (Hilary Swank) is leading the crew of second-in-command Ram (Ray Panthaki), Lu (Vivian Wu), Misha (Mark Ivanir) and Kwesi (Ato Essandoh) on their international mission to Mars. Each of them has a story about how they got to be on a ship floating towards the red planet.
Emma leaves behind husband Matt (Josh Charles) who also works for NASA and 15-year-old daughter Alexis (Talitha Bateman). Matt is thrilled that his wife is going to Mars, even if there is a twinge that it is not him. Alexis does not know how to deal with the feelings of anger about the years that will separate them.
Once on the moon, the preparations are made for the larger part of the mission. That all comes into question when Matt suffers a stroke that requires surgery. Emma has to decide whether to continue with the mission and she’s already dealing with the mistrust of Mischa and Wu. Trusting in the help of a NASA specialist, Melissa Ramirez (Monique Curnen) has her own daughter Cassie (Felicia Patti) but helps with Alexis while Emma is away.
While making the decision to go, the story of each of the astronauts unfolds in the midst of things going wrong. Lu is dealing with the emotions of leaving her friend behind and it conflicts with the honor of her husband and son. Ram comes down with a sickness that could infect the whole crew and tells Emma the story of his brother Rohit.
Matt is dealing with physical therapy and deciding how far he can go. When the doctor tells him what it to happen next, he must decide to either stay in the hospital or go home. Alexis, who has been at his side, goes back to school but feels out of place. When she does not do as well as her parents would like, it becomes a struggle especially when Emma is getting farther and farther away from instant communication.
Mischa is a royal pain to the entire crew and is the biggest mouth against Emma, but when the time comes for decisions to be made and the mission to continue, he realizes he might have been wrong. Having spent more time in space and anyone else on the crew, the price was high, and he is still paying.
As problems on the ship continue to happen, the crew discovers that perhaps its best to come together rather than falling apart. Relying on one another becomes the biggest key to the success of the mission and, at this point, they are not afraid to call each other out.
Kwesi is the gentlest of spirits aboard the ship. As the crew’s botanist, he takes care of their most precious cargo, the live plants that will be a part of the new garden of Mars. Not an astronaut, he reacts with slight fright on most things but also the most amazing sense of humor and loving spirit toward his family.
As each of the problems both emotionally and ship wise, the crew discovers they all have hurts and relationship issues but, at the heart of it all, they are not as different as they thought. Instead, what they thought were differences turn into a family that need one another not just for survival but to stand together on the surface of Mars.
They need to get the job done and go home!
Swank as Emma is a woman conflicted with being a wife, mother and a commander. Feeling as if she is being strangled by the choices she has made; it starts to show in the faces of the crew that need to trust her. Swank gives us the strength of a commander but also the truth of how she is expected to give up this mission because that is what a woman would do, yet her male counterparts would not think to do it. It is harped on a bit too much for my liking but don’t let that minute detail distract you from the larger story.
I will admit here I think they gave her character too much with the family issues. It became a bit of a nuisance because if the show is reaching for believability, then having a commander melt down every episode is not very realistic. Yes, I realize this is a show but come one, let’s keep the “I shouldn’t be here’s down to a minimum of a split second every other episode.
Charles as Matt is a NASA engineer who was at first excited about Emma and the mission to Mars. Although a twinge of regret that he cannot go, that twinge turns into feeling useless once his condition puts him in the hospital. He finally sees the importance of Emma’s work and does everything to make it a safe mission.
Bateman as Alexis is a fifteen-year-old girl who resents Emma for going, resents her father for staying behind and does pretty much everything a teen would to lie, sneak out and make excuses for her behavior. Irigoyen as Isaac Rodriguez becomes the distraction for Alexis and has a sad story of his own to tell but he is so supportive of the girl he cares about.
I totally enjoyed the stories of each of the astronauts beginning with Panthaki as Ram. His story is poignant, and his emotions run deeper than Emma has an idea about. He trusts his commander and takes care of the mental and physical health of the crew. Wu as Lu is a woman with a complex story that is hindered and made fearful by her own government. Giving the impression that she is made of steel, it is perhaps better to say she is made of strong ice that has the potential to melt.
Ivanir as Misha is the vodka swilling, opinionated, arrogant pot stirrer and will drive ever viewer crazy but, in that, is something more. His story gives the answers for who Misha really is and why he is in space. Now, Essandoh as Kwesi is the heart of the crew, and the biggest heart at that. He is a bit freaked out about being in space but when he is not thinking about that – he reminds the crew when they are acting like juveniles to remember who they are and why they are together. I adore Kwesi and Essandoh is the reason for that, kudos!
Other cast include Michael Thornton as Dr. Putney, Martin Cummins as Jack Willmore, Gabrielle Rose as Darlene Cole, Brian Markinson as George Lane, Alessandro Juliani as Dr. Madigan
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The episodes include Go (Andrew Hineraker), Negative Return (Jessica Goldberg), Half the Sky (Andrew Hinderaker), Excellent Chariots (Bronwen Hughes), Space Dogs (Bronwen Hughes), A Little Faith (David Boyd), Goodnight Mars (David Boyd), Vital Signs (Chris Jones), Spektr (Jessica Goldberg), and Home (Andrew Hinderaker).
Netflix has struck out limit gold with AWAY. It is not just a story about a mission to Mars because, let’s face it, we have all seen films about that, but AWAY gives us the astronauts stories, the hardships and what they must endure to do what most think is the impossible. If anything can go wrong both on Earth and in space, it almost always happens to this crew.
The space shots are incredible but then again, I knew they would be, and they play second and even third to the drama and that is actually okay. I suspect that Season Two will be intense as well since now the surface of Mars is another added character. They are out of their suits (indoors anyway) and still do not know if Pegasus has anything that works inside of it (yep, you will know when you watch).
There is so much more going on in this series than I am speaking of here and that is because I’m not into spoiling what is an excellent binge session. It is ten episodes in the season, and each brings us closer and closer to landing and more understanding of those who make it happen and those setting foot on the red planet.
I’m a big MISSION TO MARS and THE MARTIAN fan so I did have a few things to say in the way of side comments like “Mark Watney…space pirate!” or “Mars next potato farm” (and if you haven’t seen THE MARTIAN I have to ask myself why is that?). AWAY is a series about a crew and how that crew, coming from different countries and different beliefs become a family filled with flaws, mistrust, stories, and misconceptions.
So, AWAY is a series that must be watched and then sadly the waiting begins for the next season. That is the price we pay for binging, but it is a price well paid. Put on your space suits and get your freeze-dried ice cream ready for a long journey to Mars.
In the end – home can never leave you!