Hang onto your spacesuit: I thought this was a really good episode. Easily the best of the series so far, and for a lot of reasons. First, it focused on one story: the NASA investigation of Gus’s death, whether or not the next launch is going to be postponed in its wake, and how everyone is dealing with the tragedy. Not ping-ponging from plot to plot and year to year worked so much better, and the pacing finally felt right. They used an interesting conceit, wherein Gus appears to Betty and tells her Useful Things About Her Grieving Process, which actually worked very well (and was just mildly corny; I don’t mind some mild corn) and also was good to transition from moment to moment, something this show has struggled with. Finally, the main players in this episode were JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Zoe Boyle, Dominique McElligot (who is Louise), and the dude who plays Deke, Kenneth Mitchell, all of whom (I would argue) are among the stronger actors in this ensemble. (PS: Deke is, in real life, married to Susan May Pratt, who is — I don’t know if you’ve heard — the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy.) It was also probably the best written script so far (by Liz Tigelaar). It’s always bittersweet when a show you know is cancelled, and which has been so often retooled, and which is this far into its only season and won’t pick up any more viewers, finally FINALLY pulls it together. ANYWAY. Let’s check in with the great outfits and good sets.
Here’s what’s up with the wives:
Betty and Gus: well, one of them is dead and the other is dealing with a lot, including the fact that there’s rumors that he died because NASA didn’t want to stop down to fix something that a lot of people knew might go very, very wrong. In the final analysis, after Betty does a lot of agitating and Deke and Alan give a very moving tribute/call for reason at a party celebrating Alan’s orbit (which garners a rather satisfying Slow Clap from everyone), NASA DOES decide, “hey, maybe we should figure out what went wrong here and not be so married to our Get To the Moon Before The Russians Schedule.” (Noteworthily, from what I understand, Real Betty suspects that NASA might have MURDERED Gus, which is dramatic.) Betty ends the episode by taking off to Paris with Other Widow Marilyn See, to try to make new memories, after having given Deke a pin commemorating the Mercury Astronauts that she thought Gus had bought for her, but which she realized was actually intended for Deke all along. Deke claims he didn’t earn it, but he did, and Betty tells him so. (Deke is awesome in this episode; very supportive and kind.)
Marge and Deke: See above. Deke was great in this episode. Marge may have worn a fur turban; we shall investigate.
Louise and Alan: Alan awesomely stands with Deke to press NASA to further investigate the accident; Louise has this whole thing with her niece, who she’s raising as her daughter, and WHOSE NAME SHE CHANGED WHEN THE KID WAS FIVE. That was a subplot that I really thought was going to be boring, but it turned out to be actually good: Louise and Judy/Alice begin to have a real relationship, and it’s actually an interesting look into Louise’s life. Louise is also, apparently, the only wife who notices that Ed’s wife Pat, who is ALSO bereaved, is seriously REALLY depressed. (She eventually actually attempts suicide, and Louise gets one of the other Marilyns to come save her, basically. I have NO IDEA if this is based in fact, but it IS dramatic, and that very fact helped this episode feel like Things Were Happening.)
Rene and Scott: Scott returns from the enchantment under the sea assignment for Gus’s funeral and various Mercury events, where he sits in Rene’s AMAZING living room, reads her columns, is nice to her about her writing, and then they make out.
Jo and Wally: Actually get some decently meaty scenes, where he is parroting NASA party lines and she is pointing out that HE IS THE NEXT PERSON IN THE CAPSULE THAT JUST BASICALLY EXPLODED.
Everyone Else: John Glenn is still handsome, Trudy gets to fly Louise somewhere; Marilyn See is really nice to Grieving Betty and has good eye makeup, Marilyn Lovell (who we grew to like last week) has apparently disappeared and no one has realized it.