The following contains spoilers for Moonhaven S1E3, “The Envoy” (written by Brad Caleb Kane and directed by Laura Belsey)
If you’ve read what I wrote on Moonhaven last week, you already know I was disappointed by S1E3. The question of whether the culture of the titular Moonhaven is good doesn’t get a direct answer this week so much as “The Envoy” spends its hour arguing that everyone who thought it was as good as claimed was woefully naïve. The implication is that the plan was imperfect, and that either IO couldn’t sufficiently grapple with the darkness that lies in the human condition, or worse, that people were simply given too much freedom to explore those dark impulses.
It would seem that Maite does have a nefarious plan, or at least we see her directly undermining the Bridge by denying her permission for the transports to land. Paul says she’s been the chair of the council for ten years, which both makes her refusal to step down more understandable and the attempt to pull the rug out from under her last minute less so. I honestly had thought in previous episodes that the council was dissolved and reformed much more frequently, to disrupt that old adage about how power corrupts.
I hold out some thin hope that Maite is actually working against an exploitative scheme on the part of ICON or something like that, and maybe there is a big twist in store for us next week with Tomm regaining consciousness, but in terms of the philosophical stakes of Moonhaven, I feel like the game is lost already with S1E3. Either the plan to save humanity through a colony on the Moon was a trick from the beginning, or it was flawed from the beginning, and the question of what holds value in life falls by the wayside as the plot devolves into an antagonism between factions. It’s a story as old as time, which directly gives the lie to the idea that the future is better.
It’s a common pitfall in science fiction that rather than following out the logic of the premise, this is simply used as a backdrop for an all too familiar story. Often this is interesting anyway—don’t get me wrong I enjoy science fiction—but it can have a way of only being so in the abstract. I thought a lot about the movie Surrogates in 2020, for example, but never brought myself to actually rewatch it.
My biggest worry about Moonhaven at this point, though, is that it won’t even be that. The premise in itself—sending people to the Moon so they can return and better humanity—is kind of silly. It’s easy to predict that this wouldn’t work, and the intriguing possibilities for this story lay in exploring how maybe it could work, or a nuanced portrayal or why it ultimately didn’t. Instead it seems that we’re getting a rehashed narrative about tribalism, and worse, the suggestion that this is so deeply embedded in human nature that even the most well thought out attempt to overcome it is misguided.
Maybe that’s true, but it’s an incredibly reactionary political position. The cynic who shoots down our ideas for a better tomorrow as naïve by the same token makes us naïve by following their tribal interests. Insofar as a universal regard for humanity (as embodied in the Mooner slogan expressing solidarity with the Earth) rejects an Us v. Them mentality, the reactionary sucks us into their game by setting themselves up as a Them we need to fight against. And so all of the sudden we’re reactive, and forming our own tribe to fight for.
There’s nothing for it. Reactive forces always win. Just look at the political reality we face in the real world at present and the power of those who deny rather than affirm human possibilities. There is nothing easier than raining on a parade and taking some petty joy from doing so, or drawing a circle around a section of humanity while writing off the rest.
Moonhaven has suggested to us strongly that precisely these inclinations have led the Earth to get worse and worse. The only out is conceived to be through a clean slate—a society built on a great affirmation and defined through a universal solidarity. Reactive forces cannot be vanquished by reacting to them, but only through sublimating them to an affirmation of life.
As such the idea of the Mooners coming back to Earth to save us does seem doomed from the beginning, and if the culture of Moonhaven could be preserved through the refusal of the Bridge, then I think I’m all for it. That is, when it comes down to it, if we have to choose a side, I am inclined to take that of the Mooners who want to keep what they have for themselves. The problem is that this is already tainting the Mooners with the very human problems they were meant to escape.
So I think after three episodes that the lesson of Moonhaven is that humanity is doomed. And I’d honestly be fine with that if the details were a bit more compelling.
Perhaps I am missing something, or wrinkles to come will complicate this picture. At the end of S1E3, Tomm wakes up. We still don’t know what was going on between him and Strego, why the latter killed Chill, or what they were doing in any level of detail. Indira seems a bit naïve but “The Envoy” provides her with a backstory that should keep her from being so.
She’s been betrayed before and seen how selfish interests can lead to such betrayal. Mostly she seems stunned by what’s happening in S1E3, and laments how IO foresaw problems, but there is also her trust in Tomm, which I sincerely hope means Bella’s interpretation of events is off base.
More than anything, this is what I remain intrigued about going into Episode 4: how Tomm’s actions fit together with Indira’s plan. If they don’t, and Bella is on the right track in labeling him a double agent, then we seem doomed to a story about two factions fighting each other where humanity itself is sure to be the loser.
See you next week.