For nearly two decades now, almost anything in media that is related to outer space grabs my attention. There’s something beautiful and haunting about the stars and planets and exploring what’s beyond our Earth bubble. Now to be clear, I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut. Even if I was offered the chance to orbit Earth, I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to do it. However, I think it’s wonderful and fantastic all the same. Space is calming, glorious, suspenseful, and eerie all at once and The First manages to capture every bit of it.
Set just over a decade into the future, science and technology have advanced and are now at the point where humans are ready to set foot farther than they have before. The First begins on launch day for aerospace company Vista as they prepare to send five astronauts on a two-year mission to Mars. Told over eight episodes in the first season, The First chronicles the choices and sacrifices that families and crew members make to be part of history.
Sean Penn stars as Tom Hagerty — a former astronaut turned commander and trainer for the first Mars crew. He’s since left the program due to tension with Vista leader, Laz Ingram (played by Natascha McElhone). Ingram is the serious, somewhat cold visionary and partial financial backer of the Mars program. She’s smart and focused on the big picture, and the current U.S. administration doesn’t always share her point of view. Featuring an impressive ensemble cast, The First tells the story of nearly a dozen astronauts and engineers and their families including Hargerty’s daughter, Denise (Anna Jacoby-Heron). Tom and Denise are working to rebuild their relationship after the sudden death of their wife and mother, Diane (Melissa George).
The series is told both as it’s happening and through flashbacks. With new challenges constantly presenting themselves and the impact of the first launch fresh in everyone’s minds, Hagerty and Ingram must rely on each other if the mission is to succeed. The drama is rich and heavy, and something to be enjoyed at a slower pace. It’s not cluttered, there’s just a lot going on.
Just from watching the trailer, this new show felt very much like something I would enjoy. And from the two-and-a-half episodes that I viewed, that’s definitely the case. A delightful feeling of suspense and dread is very present, and every moment will have the audience questioning, “will they do this? Can they do this?” Each episode is accompanied by a swelling, hopeful score, that perfectly tugs on all the emotions. However, I do have one criticism: for a show that’s about space, there’s very little of it to be seen. Don’t get me wrong, there are stunning, gorgeous flashbacks to previous missions that fully grasp the beautiful horror of space, but I was just expecting more of it and less of the human drama. Regardless, I really enjoyed what I’ve seen and plan to finish the season. I give The First 4 out of 5 planets.
All eight episodes of The First will be available to stream on Hulu starting on September 14th. The show is intended for a mature audience and contains some nudity.