WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
The first manned mission from Earth to Mars in 2033 attempts to colonise the red planet.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
The brilliant second season of Mars starting Sunday at 20:00 on National Geographic (DStv 181/StarSat 220/Cell C black 261) for 6 episodes is a much-improved and utterly binge-worthy and addictive dramatic space adventure.
I watched the entire new season after National Geographic made all 6 episodes available to TV critics ahead of it's release.
This season - with new showrunner Dee Johnson at the helm - is engrossing and spectacular.
Toning down on the real-life experts interjecting – and with a much bigger and better focus on the dramatic narrative aspect – Mars series 2 is absolutely terrific.
The second season is centred around the planetary pitfalls and the human conflict story as it plays out in the fictionalised Olympus Town science colony, and the new members of the exploitative private company Lukrum corporation who make their unwelcome arrival.
Fans of Star Trek and The Expanse will absolutely love watching the stellar second season of Mars on National Geographic with a much bigger emphasis on dramatic character development. In addition, Mars is is done scientifically right but not sacrificing narrative tension for boring facts.
The blending between the scripted part and real-world experts sitting in chairs talking to camera is much improved, toned down and much the time devoted to it much less. Viewers can immerse themselves more into the story, with less disruption.
The 6 "subjects" of the new Mars episodes are all anchored in very real possible situations but could just as well be ripped from the plots of the very best science fiction space adventure TV series.
Very interesting and dramatic stories in Mars this season range from an impending solar flare and someone stuck outside alone, the new Lukrum arrivals getting their power cut off, a clever political-industrial power struggle playing out on Earth in the boardroom, the outbreak of a mysterious illness, and even romantic entanglements and medical problems.
There's also a very big disaster, the ongoing search for water, shifting alliances and dictatorial conduct on Earth and on Mars, people keeping friends close and enemies closer, as well as the diplomatic wrangling and interpersonal relationships that come into play when trying to work out some sort of a peaceful co-existence between the diverging interests of scientific exploration and corporate greed.
The character development in the second season is ramped up, causing the central characters to be much better defined and fleshed-out, making them feel much more real, personable, and identifiable than during the first season.
With the bigger time-jump and better narrative – and speculative – exploration of the story of the people on Mars, the majority of the real-life commentary by experts as well as the examples start to feel forced and are not really necessary to tell the story and mankind's quest of space exploration effectively.
The "on Earth" examples to illustrate what's happening on Mars doesn't quite fit so well (anymore), making for an ill-fitting juxtaposition in most episodes - but there is a solution if you don't want to really see these parts.
Watch episodes of Mars' second season recorded or on-demand, and then simply fast forward through these somewhat forced segments.
The episodes of the second season are highly enjoyable, the characters and the situations extremely compelling. Besides a focus on science, the season is anything but boring, and cleverly works in gripping emotional interactions with great pacing, often claustrophobic-like close-ups, and several characters "trapped" in do-or-die life-and-death situations.
It has solid acting from Jeff Hephner whose ruff and forceful character leads the Lukrum corporation (don't get too attached), and Jihae Kim as mission commander Hana Seung who has to remain somewhat stoic to try and keep everyone happy, while both her authority and capacity to find solutions for constant problems are being challenged.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: