Things happen for a reason, but if things had played out differently? Most recently, For All Mankind has been toying with the concept of alternate histories. The series explores a reality where the United States wasn’t the first country to land on the moon and lost to their Soviet counterparts. However, the Space Race doesn’t stop there. With all three seasons of the show available on AppleTV+, including the latest Season 3, For All Mankind brings you on a journey that spans from the 1960s to the 1980s.
If you’re into alternate histories, check out these shows below.
Kingdom is not your average zombie show. Set in Korea during the Joseon dynasty kingdom, trouble brews when the king’s health starts to decline due to smallpox, with rumors spreading that he has died. As Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) tries to uncover the cause of his father’s illness, things get even more complicated. During his trip to the former royal physician, Lee Seung Hui (Kwon Bum-Taek), the prince and his accompanying guard are instead led to a village consumed by an unnatural plague that resurrects the dead. On top of all this, political conflicts ensue back in the kingdom. Unbeknownst to the prince, Chief State Councilor and head of the corrupt Haewon Cho clan Cho Hak-Ju (Ryu Seung-ryong) is brewing an evil scheme to take over the government along with his daughter, the Queen Consort Cho (Kim Hye-jun).
The western entertainment industry is no stranger to post-apocalyptic zombie shows. With hit TV shows like The Walking Dead and Z Nation, audiences are used to seeing the dead come back to life and devour the living. With more zombie releases throughout the years, the genre eventually becomes repetitive and saturated. However, Kingdom is proof that you can put a refreshing spin on the trope. What sets the show apart from the rest is that it’s not just a zombie show but a combination of different genres: horror, periodical drama, and politics. Like most zombie shows, there will always be the undead chasing after the protagonists. But what makes Kingdom different is its subtle criticism of the kingdom’s extremely hierarchical society. The Middle Ages weren’t kind to anybody who weren’t part of royalty or aristocracy, and Kingdom shows this by portraying how the upper echelons deal with the dead. Audiences will realize that it’s not the plague destroying the kingdom – it’s the mistreatment of the innocent by the corrupt rich, and powerful.
Adapted from the novel series of the same name written by James S. A. Corey, The Expanse takes place two hundred years in the future when humanity has colonized the Solar System. Under the political jurisdiction of the system’s three largest institutions, tensions begin to rise between the three powers. Conspiracies start to unravel, threatening the already fragile state of their relations and disrupting the tenuous cold war between them. The show is told through the eyes of a disparate group of protagonists: United Nations Security Council member Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), ship officer James Holden (Steven Strait), and his crew, as well as police detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane). As the story unfolds through separate storylines, audiences get to watch how different individuals navigate their way through intergalactic political conflict. And don’t forget the crises brought forth by undiscovered alien technology.
In addition to the show’s stellar visual and narrative elements, The Expanse is an addictive sci-fi show that blends soap opera storytelling minus the cheesiness. The plot is detailed and leaves no crumbs, ensuring that the show’s world-building is as meticulous as possible without sacrificing credibility. Despite the complicated story and the different points of view between the main three characters, the show isn’t bogged down by its complexity and instead feels effortless. In terms of special effects, the sci-fi show may not be up to par with the legendary Star Trek movies, but audiences can see how much effects work is invested into The Expanse, especially for SyFy. The Expanse is an exciting tale of discovery and venturing into unknown lands.
Counterpart is a sci-fi thriller that followers everyday corporate employee Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) living a peaceful, quiet life as he works for a Berlin-based United Nations agency, the Office of Interchange (OI). However, due to his lowly position, he does not know what his agency actually does. Soon, he discovers that below his headquarters is a checkpoint that connects parallel Earths (the “Alpha” and “Prime” worlds), created during the Cold War in an experiment. Things get more shocking when Howard Silk meets his Prime Earth counterpart, an accomplished clandestine spy. With the two Earths diverging, crucial matters emerge when a rogue assassin from the Prime world goes on a murderous spree on Alpha Earth to seek vengeance.
When people hear the word “sci-fi,” they immediately remember “starships” and “aliens.” But that isn’t the case for Counterpart. Instead, it’s a subtle series that explores the Cold War in Germany set in a completely alternate setting where technology is more advanced. There are three main classes of characters audiences will need to pay attention to, the “agency,” the “counterparts,” and the “spies.” These three groups yield different levels of power against each other, unraveling the motives, personal conflicts, and the compromises characters have to make in their daily lives. Despite the high-tech gadgets that pop up throughout the series, the show still uses old computers with green screens and short wave radios as their main props, giving the show an authentic steam-punk aesthetic. With top-notch acting and solid slow-burn writing, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
No one can run away from absurd office shenanigans, not even the United States Space Force in Space Force. The show focuses on the newly-established Space Force and the people assigned to make this branch work and be taken seriously by the United States Armed Forces. Space Force’s first Chief of Space Operations, Mark Naird (Steve Carrell), goes on a highly-ambitious and perilous mission of getting “boots on the moon” by 2024. That doesn’t stop Chief Scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) from giving the Naird constant reality checks, which doesn’t do much but dampens his spirits. Throughout the series, the two continuously butt heads with each other as they juggle between science and human intuition, not to mention the government officials constantly on their tails. Of course, no office comedy is complete with its enigmatic employees, from the super nosy Space Force social media director F. Tony Scarapiducci (Ben Schwartz), foul-mouthed lead assistant Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang), and accomplished pilot Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome).
Carell’s well-known for his low-brow comedy, which doesn’t come to you in full force but still leaves high enough damage and humor. Space Force leads toward satire more, in which the humor also comes with wry, intellectual wit. However, in almost every episode, Space Force somehow incorporates unironically heartful and powerful messages that tug our heartstrings. The show is meant to poke fun at governments and show that high-ranking individuals also can butt heads with each. Take away from accolades, and these men are just people with many differences and perspectives of the world. Not to mention the fact that they still have to report to their superiors (the President of the United States), confront cowardly politicians, stretch their budgets, tend to media pressure, and the classic Russian spies. All in a day’s work for a government official.
What if the Allies lost World War II? The Man in the High Castle depicts an alternate universe where Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan conquer the world after their victory during the way. Adapted from the novel of the same name, the show takes place primarily in the United States, where the Axis powers have divided the once-great nation into the Greater Nazi Reich in the east and the Japanese Pacific States to the west. Each region is separated by a neutral zone across the Rocky Mountains. The show focuses on different individuals navigating their way through this dystopian world and seeing their lives intertwine. From the law-abiding Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), the rebellious Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), to the conflicted double agent Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank).
Creative a fictitious alternative reality based on actual events like the German-Japanese occupation is a risky one. Extensive research and meticulous preparation are crucial to ensure that the show remains accurate despite having an entirely different outcome. The Man in the High Castle has proven to take this project seriously with the number of hours they put into their research. Audiences can see it through their technology, costuming, and even their music, all taken from aspects of Nazi and Japanese cultural progress in mid-1950s America. What makes this show interesting is that audiences can figure out other alternate historical events that could potentially happen due to the Nazi and Japanese occupation, leading to further plot developments. For example, would there be friction between the Germans and Japanese forces in this world? Would there be factional in-fighting within the Nazi Party? The theories are endless.
Hollywood can be extremely tough to break into, especially in the 1900s. And frankly, the entertainment industry wasn’t as inclusive as today’s generation. But what if it was? Hollywood is a miniseries that navigates the American film industry from 1947-to 1948, but with the traditional power dynamics dismantled. Directed by Ryan Murphy, well-known for his work on American Horror Story and Glee, Hollywood is a reimagined miniseries that follows a group of ambitious actors and filmmakers post World War II. Each character shows a different glimpse behind Tinseltown, bringing attention to Hollywood’s unfair systems and their judgments towards people of other races, genders, and sexualities. The show features a star-studded cast featuring Darren Criss, Jim Parsons, Samara Weaving, Joe Mantello, and David Corenswet.
Hollywood may have a somewhat sloppy start and comes with a predictable “from rags to riches” storyline, but all that leads to an incredibly gratifying climax. The show’s writing uniquely portrays what if the film industry is played out through an entirely different ballgame. The writing is fast-paced, and everything happens so quickly, just like in Hollywood in real life. Although more work can be done in production design (which sometimes feels a bit inauthentic), it’s still entertaining and intriguing enough to watch from start to finish. It’s far from your typical old-school Hollywood flick.
1983 is a crime drama based in Poland that takes place in an alternative timeline where the overthrow of communist Polish People’s Republic didn’t happen, and the Iron Curtain still exists. In 1983, Poland’s course of history entirely changed when a series of coordinated terrorist attacks dismantled the country and halted Poland’s liberation. Twenty years later, the Cold War continues. Still, things are heating up when law student Kajetan Skowro (Maciej Musiał) and Milicja Obywatelska investigator Anatol Janów (Robert Więckiewicz) discovers a conspiracy behind the Iron Curtain. Time is running out for these two men as they try to stop tragedy from happening again to Polish lives and ignite a revolution.
1983 goes back and forth from 2003 to 1983, which can be puzzling for some audiences. But the show’s tight pacing is necessary as it keeps audiences engaged and enthralled. As you learn to go with the show’s flow, audiences can keep up with the events that spring up in Poland due to maintaining the Soviet Bloc. The show takes a unique spin by incorporating spying elements, where unconventional technology is used, like smartphones (remembers, this is 2003). It’s a robust, tough show with unexpected plot twists and grungy ultraviolence. Not to mention, most of the credit goes to the top-notch cast who managed to bring the script to life.
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