Away was a disaster waiting to happen. Not because of the production or the talent, but because of the writer and producer Andrew Hinderaker. He wrote on the wall, and in the back of his mind: pile on as many misfortunes as possible. Developed this Netflix series into serious melodrama.
Let me start with disaster, perhaps Hinderaker was going for the 10 plagues of Netflix’s Away – spoilers without context include:
- Familiar separation
- Near mutiny
- Cerebral cavernous malformation activation
- Estranged family squared, perhaps cubed
- Death of all living vegetation
- Loss of signal and confusion
- Virus-induced space psychosis with potential super spreader event
- Solar panel glitch
- Spacewalk crisis
- Teen rebellion
- Communist party lesbian shaming and blackmail
- F***ked water system and the accompanying dehydration
Yeah, that is fourteen, and I may have even missed some. Hinderaker created more plagues than G-d needed in Egypt to free the Jewish people.
The Real Story
Throughout NASA’s entire tenure the program has not suffered so many aliments, let alone any string crammed into a single mission. Yes, they have had sunken capsules, fires in an Apollo test lost the crews, and two catastrophic space shuttle missions, and a few air leaks, oh, and that Apollo 13 thing. Save the accidents that resulted in deaths, no NASA moment ever caused this much damage.
Although I watched the entire series, because, bad science fiction is better than no science fiction, I really stopped caring about the characters quickly. I then just sat back and enjoyed the space stuff. However, in one scene, they fail to close the hatch lock completely, so, well, even the space stuff had issues.
The goal of Hinderaker and showrunner Jessica Goldberg is to explore the impact of people separated by long distances. I don’t think the show intended to offer a metaphor for the current pandemic and lockdown but neatly fits into the zeitgeist.
The ten episodes purportedly cover three years of the voyage, and for the most part, the camera drops in only when something bad happens, or something a little good. There is an ultimate payoff, but it is short-lived, a brief promise ahead of the next season.
It proves hard to go into acting, cinematography, music, and other elements of production with so much wrong about the through-line.
Hilary Swank’s Commander Emma Green tries, perhaps too hard, to lead her intrepid crew out of the muck of melodrama, but she ends up wallowing like an asteroid caught in a gravity well. I’m hoping Netflix uses this season as a test flight and brings in the engineers to correct all of the very visible flaws in this rickety craft.
I often wonder if anyone other than the creators, often too close to the subject for creative objectivity, let anyone read a script before it proves too late to stop the countdown.
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