Swank elevates Netflix’s sci-fi drama, ‘Away’

In Netflix’s latest foray into drama series, Hillary Swank (‘Million Dollar Baby’) stars as an astronaut leaving her family behind on Earth as she journeys to Mars. // Photo courtesy of Netflix

Our Take: 4 Stars

What happens when a crew of astronauts leaves on a high-risk mission to Mars?

Nextflix’s series “Away” explores just that premise. The show follows commander Emma Green (Hillary Swank, “Million Dollar Baby”), a middle-aged astronaut, as she leaves her husband and daughter behind on Earth to lead an international crew of astronauts on this dangerous journey.

As the crew leaves for Mars, the show explores the emotional situation back on Earth with Green’s family, and the tension on board the shuttle, where Green must prove herself fit to command her crew.

Already news sources and critics have raved about the show. According to an Observer review, “the series develops enough emotional honesty and compelling space drama to elevate itself above the normal Netflix drudgery.”

The show combines the emotional challenges that Green faces during her mission with thrilling science fiction sequences to create an experience that is truly exciting to watch.

Although “Away” falls under the science fiction genre, the content doesn’t feature explosions and battles with aliens. It has a “The Martian”-esque feel — a realistic portrait of the future, with character development and emotion.

The show is rife with pathos. Tear-jerking scenes of Green video-chatting with her family remind viewers of how far away she really is from them. Swank is brilliant — already known for her acting prowess, she manages to take it up a notch. Her performance is the key that elevates this Netflix series.

Her family members back on boring Earth, in the meantime, struggle with their own crises. Viewers follow the backgrounds and sacrifices of other crew members and feel emotionally connected to them.

As if this was not already enough to take audience members on a rollercoaster, the show focuses on important aspects of current politics. It delves into topics like public opinion about the space program and the LGBTQ+ movement across the world.

Technically, “Away,” provides a more realistic view of what a mission would look like in terms of the crew’s behavior independent of Mission Control. When Green and a crew member are required to do a space walk to avert a crisis, they have to act independently to solve the problem as they can best assess. This short term drama provides a nice respite from the emotional turmoil.

In summary, “Away” is the perfect mix of science fiction, pathos and politics. With a little emotional connection and a few NASA smarts, Green and her crew might just, in fact, make it to Mars.

Away is streaming on Netflix.