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Hillary Swank is a Mom Who Gives New Meaning to Working Outside the Home on 'Away'
September 4, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

Regular real-life Moms are used to taking heat when they miss dinner because they had to work late at the job.

Emma Green (Hilary Swank, top) has them beat. In Away, a 10-part drama that premieres Friday on Netflix, she's going to miss dinner for three years while she commands an international space mission to Mars.

On the home front, her husband, Matt (Josh Charles), is unbothered. In fact, he's her biggest fan because, for one thing, she has his job. If it weren't for a medical condition, he might be commanding the flight himself. So in a real sense, her flight is his flight, and we soon see the exceptional length to which he will go in support.

Emma's teenage daughter, Alexis (Talitha Bateman), has somewhat mixed feelings, rooted partly in the widely publicized warning that the astronauts on this mission have only a 50 percent chance of surviving it.

When it's your Mom, 50 is a big number.

In a cheerier moment, Alexis reports to her Dad that once it became widely known that Emma is her Mom, her Instagram blew up.

"I've got, like, a million followers," she reports.

Forget Mars. That's major.

Alas, other news is less rosy. While the astronaut team is taking a rest stop on the moon before the Mars leg of the trip, a crisis arises inside the ship.

It is resolved without lasting damage, except to Emma's confidence. She's not sure she handled it well, and she's not the only one.

More important for dramatic purposes, the incident rips the cover off the façade of unified team spirit these astronauts have been selling the world.

The whole mission, which was crafted through extensive international diplomacy with fragile threads of cooperation and compromise, launches with a sharp division.

Kwesi (Ato Essandoh), a botanist from Britain, and Ram (Ray Panthaki), a doctor from India, like and respect Emma. They think she's well suited for command.

Not so Misha (Mark Ivanir), a Russian cosmonaut who not so quietly feels his extensive experience should have vaulted him into command of this ship. While he doesn't seem to personally dislike Emma, he doesn't hide his conviction that she's been Peter-principled.

In this he has support from Yu (Vivian Wu), a rather cool Chinese chemist who, at first, doesn't seem to like anyone very much.

Spoiler alert: Emma keeps the gig, after also weathering a troubling last-minute family crisis back on Earth.

It takes the whole first episode to get our team blasted off toward Mars, meaning we have nine episodes of figuring out the several challenges here.

Can the mission beat 50-50 odds and make it safely to Mars? Can five people locked up together for three years coexist and ultimately emerge with any shred of civility?

Can Dad make dinner for three years?

Away understands that to make a space odyssey drama entertaining, it can't just offer claustrophobic angst. There's humor and heart here, not to mention melodrama and Instagram.

With Swank holding it all together from the center, viewers don't have to be space geeks to appreciate what could happen if Mom took an extreme job.

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Please tell me I'm wrong
Got through the first 90 minutes of this series and had to stop. I was really looking forward to it, but I could not suspend disbelief. The crew simply did not act like astronauts. They seemed like strangers who had not trained together for an extended period of time. They seemed ill prepared. They did not follow the chain of command at all. Please tell me I was wrong or it gets better.
Sep 14, 2020   |  Reply
Atlas Bugged
This is a well-made story of the first voyage to Mars, and very scientifically literate, I must add. I enjoyed it, but it suffers from the by-now notorious "Netflix Bloat" where the ten hours of the story really would have been better told in perhaps half as many hours.
Sep 7, 2020   |  Reply
When I first heard the premise, I admit I had the quite old fashioned response -- that I wouldn't want a Mom gone for 3 years in any childs life.
While I talked myself out of it, I admit it still bothers.
Sep 4, 2020   |  Reply
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