In For All Mankind’s season 3 premiere, Danny plays a familiar song during his wedding reception that provokes Karen to react. This is what it means.
Warning! SPOILERS for For All Mankind season 3, episode 1 “Polaris.”
For All Mankind‘s relationship drama takes an intriguing turn in the season 3 premiere, as Karen’s brief affair with Danny Stevens resurfaces. Karen, the now ex-wife of decorated NASA astronaut Ed Baldwin, grew close to Danny in season 2 when he worked for her at the Outpost in Houston. The son of the late astronauts Tracy and Gordo Stevens, Danny professed his love to Karen, though she did not reciprocate his affection. Nearly a decade after the event of For All Mankind season 2, Danny holds his wedding to his current love interest Amber at the Polaris space hotel, which was jointly founded by Karen. During the reception, Danny and Amber dance to a song that elicits a stunned reaction from Karen and calls back to her and Danny’s relationship.
In its third season, the Apple TV+ series intensifies its already heavily dramatized narrative revolving around the space race in an alternate historical timeline. For All Mankind season 3 commences in 1992 as humanity fixates on landing a crew of astronauts on Mars. The mission to the Red Planet has yet to begin, though episode 1’s exposition contextualizes For All Mankind‘s technologically-advanced present day in which space travel has become accessible to civilians.
Danny and Amber dance to the song “Don’t Be Cruel” by Billy Swan. Certainly not a coincidence, this is the same song that Danny played while he danced with Karen one night at the Outpost in For All Mankind season 2, episode 7, which ended with a kiss between the two. Visibly off-put by the music choice at Danny’s wedding roughly a later, Karen experiences a highly emotional decade at an unlikely time.
Karen’s facial expressions during the scene speak volumes. Hearing the song certainly triggers memories of her affair with Danny a decade ago and her conflicted reaction illustrates her lasting resentment of the short romance. Most importantly, Karen appears shocked because she did not expect this to occur at Danny’s wedding to another woman in For All Mankind Season 3. No one in Karen’s place would assume that the song choice was a coincidence, thus she’s also facing a revelation of Danny’s feelings for her.
Danny’s choice to play Swan’s “Don’t Be Cruel” indicates that he hasn’t gotten over his love for Karen over the decade since their fling. This is somewhat bizarre assuming he’s in love with his bride Amber. Nonetheless, perhaps Danny still adores Karen, and playing the song in her presence was his way of subtly informing her of his lingering feelings. After all, no one else would recognize the song’s significance, as Ed never learned the identity of the man Karen cheated on him with. It’s unlikely that the song was meant to slight Karen since she and Danny shared a hug earlier at the wedding. Regardless, For All Mankind Season 3’s early reference to season 2’s most scandalous development hints at an unresolved matter between Karen and Danny that could reemerge at any point.
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New episodes of For All Mankind air Fridays on Apple TV+.
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