‘Away’: Hilary Swank series should be much better than it is – Newsday


WHERE Streaming now on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT An international space crew led by Hillary Swank's Emma Green departs on the first mission to Marsin "Away," a new Netflix series from creator Andrew Hinderaker that's based on a Chris Jones article for Esquire.

The others on this pioneering journey aboard the spaceship AtlasareLu (Vivian Wu) from China; Russia's Misha (Mark Ivanir); Kwesi (Atoh Essandoh), a British-Ghanaian; and Ram (Ray Panthaki), of India. Over the course of 10 episodes, the series chronicles their yearslong trip to the Red Planet, paying especially close attention to the emotions in leaving loved ones behind to make such an unprecedented journey.

Back on Earth, Emma's husband Matt (Josh Charles) and teenage daughter Alexis (Talitha Bateman) must adjust to three years without mom in person and an unexpected health challenge that adds to the difficulty.

MY SAYThis is a perfect premise for a TV show: you don't have to be a sci-fi aficionado or obsessed with space travel to be fascinated by the particulars involved in conquering the next extraterrestrial frontier.

In the coming years, NASA has plans to begin the process of launching just such a mission to Mars and "Away" derives a lot of its appeal from the fact that nothing on-screenseems especially far-fetched. This isn't "Total Recall" or even "The Martian" it's a glimpse at a future that's much closer than one might think.

We want to learn about the science, the stresses and the otherspecifics of how this major moment in exploration might unfold to understand what astronauts can expect on the arduous trip through the cosmosand upon arriving on another world, and precisely why this is such a priority for not only the space agency, but humankind.

With the exception of a handful of moments, "Away" offers preciously little of that through its first five episodes.

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It is instead painstakingly focused on the back stories of the astronauts, rife with flashbacks to traumaand difficult moments with the family members back home who seem to recede further into the distance with each passing day.

We're talking tear-streaked conversations between Swank's Emma and Bateman's Alexis that come complete with dialogue that would be a better fit for a bad family drama.

"And boys," mom says to daughter, "I know they're beautiful, I get that, I do, but honey they're bucks is what they are, wild bucks."

There's a Christmas episode, another onebuilt around the married Lu's love for a female co-worker and a whole lot of time spent on Alexis and Matt adjusting to their new reality. None of this is inherently objectionable, were it balanced with a focus on the mission at hand, but other than some drama involving a spacewalk, the characters might as well have been self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, or just about anywhere else.

Their spaceship is a metaphor, you see, their journey through the stars representing the walls that are built even among those closest to us.

Hinderaker and the various directors, including the Oscar winner Edward Zwick ("Glory") on the pilot, achieve some moments of transcendent beauty, including a gift for montage linking the experiences of Emma with her family. If you're going to take the "Away" plunge, do it on the biggest possible screen.

It's just sad that the primary emotion that resonates above all else is boredom.

BOTTOM LINE: "Away" should be much better than it is, squandering a fascinating subject on pedestrian family drama.

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'Away': Hilary Swank series should be much better than it is - Newsday

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