The stakes could not be any higher than they are on AWAY Season 1 Episode 8.
When Pegasus, the Atlas supply ship, loses contact with NASA, Emma, as the Atlas commander, must make a gut-wrenching choice. Should they land on Mars and die of dehydration, or should they slingshot around Pegasus II and return to Earth without ever landing?
This may be the most challenging decision anyone on the show has faced yet, and it does not make it any easier when Emma has pressure coming from all sides.
Emma is the sole person who decides the Atlas's fate on "Vital Signs," and her ever-changing mind shows how her values are all over the place.
Lu's values, however, are crystal clear. The episode even reveals more of her past and how she developed those values. Before this episode, We did not know that Lu is a firm believer in jinxing because of her father.
Jinxing adds a spin to Lu's character, considering she laughed at Kwesi on AWAY Season 1 Episode 7 when he suggested that the surviving plant be a miracle.
Lu's big heart shines once again. She trusts science the most, but she follows her father's belief in jinxing despite her instincts, demonstrating how much she values him.
However, Lu may blame Emma for jinxing Pegasus for reasons beyond her own parents.
It is easy for Lu to point fingers at Emma when Emma recently recovered from a downward spiral and dehydration. Emma is not entirely trustworthy because of her behavior, and she finally pays the price when Lu claims Emma does not care about landing on Mars.
It seems no one is more dedicated to landing on Mars than Lu herself as she considerably pressures Emma to trudge on, even if it means death. Lu may value her family, but she values this mission more.
Misha: You don't wanna see your kid again?
Lu: Of course, yes.
Misha: And the woman you love?
Misha: Then, on some level, you're not relieved we're going home?
Lu: Because I didn't come here to fail.
Lu contrasts NASA, but NASA administrators are not emotionally involved in any way, shape, or form. Their main goal is to ensure the safety of their astronauts. If there is a way to save their lives, they will take it, even if they abort the mission.
NASA would never take any risk because they think only astronauts are high stakes, but what about the Atlas crew? The stakes have always been higher for them because Mars is their dream.
As Emma learned on Season 1 Episode 7, people can have multiple dreams and value multiple things. However, Emma still initially decides to go back to Earth, but for the wrong reason -- fear.
She is misguided because she is terrified of letting her crew down. Landing on Mars would be their death sentence, and Emma could not live with that burden, even for a short while. Emma is also scared of never seeing Matt or Lex ever again, even though she knew the risks of joining this mission.
Kwesi: Forgive me. This might sound a little foolish, but I thought that if I could bring life back to Mars, then I could show people that it is not too late to save Earth. I thought this was God's plan for me.
Emma: Surely, God's plan wasn't for you to die.
Kwesi: Well, traditionally speaking, God's a bit unforgiving when it comes to his disciples sacrificing their lives.
Ram: I would have wanted to land on Mars eight months ago, even if it meant certain death. It's what I promised my brother.
It is ironic because of everyone that could remind Emma of her values; it was Lu who did. Furthermore, despite caring about the mission to Mars immensely, what really drove Lu on "Vital Signs" was Emma herself.
The point of reminding Emma of her values is not to get to Mars no matter what, but rather, for Emma to make a good choice, but how can she do that if fear fuels her?
Lu convinces Emma to give Mars a chance, but more importantly, Lu reminds Emma of who she is and where her real values lie. Lu reminded Emma what defines her as a person, and how she developed her values -- hope.
Emma: I am leading, and if Ground tells us that a sonic boom means that there's even a decent chance that Pegasus is down there intact, then hell, yes! Full speed ahead. But we all know they're not gonna say that. They're gonna say exactly what you said, Ram, that if a plane disappears from radar, its pilot isn't coming home. And the only thing a sonic boom gives us is a very faint and dangerous hope.
Lu: And that's all this mission is.
Lu: And when did you forget that? Where is the woman who stood on the Moon and asked the whole world to believe in impossible things? Who leapt off the side of a spaceship with nothing to cling to but hope? Who went into her crewmate's room when he was sick, and stood outside of my door and told me it was okay to love? Hope has never been my North Star. Honor, discipline, duty. Never hope, until I met you. You... Emma, I don't wanna die, I really don't. But I'm willing to die for hope.
It was hope that drove Emma to Mars in search of better options for humanity. It was hope that made her fall in love with Matt and shaped her family. Hope got Emma to where she is today, and therefore, it is her most significant value.
If Emma does not make her decision based on hope, then it will not matter whether the crew lives or dies because she made the wrong choice.
In hindsight, it is evident how Emma relied on hope and how she influenced the crew. Misha, Ram, and Kwesi seemed fine with slingshotting around Pegasus II until Lu presented her idea. It was not promising, but Lu's suggestion did provide a spark of hope needed during this time.
Imagine Lu convincing Emma about hope when Emma was the one who inspired Lu. This interaction shows how intertwined Emma and Lu have become.
Furthermore, Lu's hope speech shows how the crew is tight-knit and whatever decisions they make affect them. Kwesi, Ram, and Misha may have taken backseats on "Vital Signs," but they were just as integral to Emma's decision.
It does not matter what Ground says or does. Emma values Matt's and Lex's opinions, but they are not on the Atlas with her. While their anxieties are valid, there are only four other people in Emma's predicament, four other people who can empathize with Emma. So, Emma has to make the right choice for her crew and no one else.
Of course, once Emma remembers her hope, she becomes confident and makes a new choice. She never seemed more sure of herself than she did when she officially decided.
But I have no doubt that whatever comes next, we can take it on together, as a family. And I know this because today I was reminded what got me here. It's the same thing I saw in you, Matt, that made me know you are my soulmate. It's the same thing that makes you the person you are, Lex, brave enough to get that test. Hope. Hope made us the people we are. People who can chart voyages to the Moon and walk amidst the stars. People who might inspire others to cure cancer and CCM, and end wars and all the other things we wish we could change in this crazy, crazy world. Because the thought, the mere possibility, the hope that we might succeed is enough for us to keep trying.Emma
Getting to Mars was never about living or dying. Of course, Emma, Lu, Ram, Kwesi, and Misha all care about their lives and do not want to die. However, if death occurs because of their choice, it should not matter as long as it is a good one.
Lu says hope is worth dying for, and while it definitely is, good choices are worth even more.
Now that Emma made her final decision, there is no turning back. She has officially sealed the Atlas's fate, but Emma made the right choice no matter what happens. Even if the crew dies before reaching Mars, Emma still made her choice by weighing the consequences and picking the option with her strongest values.
That is truly the difference between a good and a bad choice, and AWAY portrayed it beautifully.
So, we're not coming home yet. We will, soon, but first, we're going to Mars.Emma
Your turn, Fanatics!
What did you think of AWAY Season 1 Episode 8? Do you think Emma made the right decision? Will the Atlas survive the remainder of the trip despite their barely functioning water system? Now that the Atlas is closer to Mars than ever, what do you expect on the final two episodes?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
You can watch AWAY online right here, at TV Fanatic!
Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.