AWAY raised the stakes to a new level, adding drama and chaos to the Atlas.
More importantly, AWAY Season 1 Episode 3 focused on the true beauty of love and its painful consequences. Who knew a simple change of staff in Mission Control would prompt Lu's backstory and a secret romance?
"Half the Sky" was unexpected, emotional, and compelling in every way. Plus, a character who is a woman of color and sapphic? Definitely a bonus.
We learn about Lu's decision-making process and what sets her apart from everyone else. However, what makes Lu unique is not how she makes choices, but rather, how everyone else makes choices for her.
After all, she had no control over Mei's transfer from Mission Control. CNSA monitors all of her phone and video calls since the beginning. So, when Lu wanted to thank Mei for her service, Li Jun refused Lu's request, and there was nothing Lu could do about it.
Furthermore, Lu did not even have a chance to come out herself. When Li Jun found Lu's romantic note for Mei, rumors began circulating at NASA about their relationship, which led to Jack Willmore outing Lu to her crewmates.
Lu did not get a chance to come out on her own terms or whenever she was ready. She did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to the woman she loved, someone she would not speak to for three years. Lu felt more ostracized and isolated than ever, especially since Li Jun and another colleague betrayed her.
Lu may not have had many choices, but she did get to choose how to react to what happened, and rightfully, she was furious. Of course, she hid her feelings about Mei's sudden transfer, but she became angry when Jack outed her.
Despite yelling at the wrong person, Lu had every right to be as furious as she was. There was a reason why Lu and Mei's relationship was private and why Lu was still in the closet. We learn about these reasons through flashbacks. Lu's past decisions influenced her reactions to present choices, even if she did not realize it.
It was infuriating how Lu felt like she had to apologize to Kwesi and Ram for her outburst, but thankfully, they realized they were wrong by gossiping about Lu's private life.
One of the pivotal moments of this episode was when Emma supported Lu during this challenging time, despite Lu initially thinking Emma was at fault. Emma dealt with this situation the way a commander should -- she reprimanded Jack and asked him to step back while comforting Lu the best she could without overstepping boundaries.
Look, I know you wanted to be the one leading this mission. But a commander has one job -- to take care of the crew, and Lu just had a meltdown. And now she's trapped in a tin can with four people that know her deepest secret. Not 'cause she wanted it, not because she asked for it. Because you wanted to feel important and score some points with the boys.Emma
Emma arguably influenced Lu to come out of her shell and acknowledge the situation. Emma may have been a commander since AWAY Season 1 Episode 1, but on "Half the Sky," she truly fulfilled this role.
Emma: Lu, there's no excuse for what happened to you out there, and it happened on my watch. But I can promise you this: you will never receive an unwanted look or word from the crew again. Look, I don't know what to say here, except I'm so sorry about Mei. I don't... I don't know the first thing about your relationship, and it's none of my business. But I do know what it feels like to be apart from the people you care about. How you live and die with every phone call. And if... suddenly, those calls were taken away... Lu, I can't even imagine. I didn't know Mei terribly well, but she was the best CAPCOM I ever worked with. And it may sound silly, but I was always so impressed with her English. She speaks it better than most Americans. You speak it well too.
And while Jack was one of the episode's villains, he did try to make amends by organizing an opportunity for Lu to privately call Mei, where no one else would be listening.
We have not forgiven him since outing someone against their will is extremely homophobic, but at least he recognized that he was wrong and tried to show he was sorry. However, Lu is the only one who can be the one to forgive him and not anyone else.
We learn how Lu and Mei fell in love through flashbacks, at a time where Lu had far more freedom with her choices. It was surprising to learn that Lu felt like she could not physically cheat on her husband despite Lu and Mei's apparent feelings for one another.
However, Lu did not realize she was already cheating on him, even if it was only emotionally. But that is the thing about falling in love -- you do not have control over who you fall in love with, even if you are married to someone else.
Lu did not have much wiggle room in her past, either -- she was a year or two away from going to Mars, and she was already in America, learning English for the voyage. It is simply illogical to ask her husband for a divorce when representing her family and all of China on this mission.
So, Lu did the best she could in this situation. She kept her relationship with Mei strictly platonic. Mei helped Lu with her English skills, while Lu taught Mei brush calligraphy.
Lu's feelings did not waver, and she had more important decisions to make the day before she left. This time, Lu acknowledged her feelings -- she agreed to sleep in the same bed as Mei (without doing anything else), and she accepted a ring from Mei. While it was never explicitly stated, it definitely felt like a promise ring.
Lu's past decisions show how no matter how hard someone can try, you cannot control everything, such as love. Love is a powerful feeling, and it is one of the very few exceptions that nobody can decide on through a simple choice.
We are not defined by who we fall in love with, but rather, our choices when we are in love. And we learn a lot about Lu when she fell in love with Mei. Above all, Lu values honor, respect, and integrity. She acknowledges she fell in love with Mei, but she cannot act on her feelings out of disrespecting her husband.
She cannot divorce her husband because of ill-timing, but Lu makes the best of a difficult situation. She is level-headed and intelligent, but she also has a big heart full of love.
Women hold up half the sky.Lu
After learning about Lu and Mei's past, we witness their final phone call in the present. They have only one hour to speak with each other, and then they are cut off for three years.
Their conversation was nothing short of emotional, powerful, and hopeful. Lu and Mei discuss their current predicament, but they also discuss their future together. Things are grim now, but Mei promises to wait for Lu, even though she is not obligated.
Their love knows no bounds, and it was beautiful to see unconditional romantic love between two women of color no less.
We can only hope they survive their three-year drought, and they will be able to spend the rest of their lives together in happiness.
Lu: This mission was taken from you, and they reassigned you somewhere else. Something definitely has happened. It's my fault. I'm so sorry.
Mei: It's because I love you that the mission was taken from me, and I will never be sorry for that.
Meanwhile, Matt wants Lex to go back to school, after spending several weeks by his bedside and tending to his recovery. While the choices here do not have exceptionally high stakes, we learn a lot about Lex and Matt because of them.
For example, Lex feels responsible for her father since Emma is in space for three years. Although Matt is insistent about Lex going back to school, Lex is scared of missing something important at the hospital.
She feels like she cannot live her own life when her father is fighting for his. Despite the extensive care Matt has, Lex only feels at ease when she is by her side since Emma cannot be. However, Matt wants Lex to live her life.
We see Matt and Lex's contrasting values -- Lex cares about support and routine, while her father cares about normalcy and recovery. Now that we know, their dynamic will be even more interesting moving forward.
Whatever's gonna happen to me is gonna happen. You being here is not gonna change that, okay? You understand? And when I'm feeling down in here, thinking about how brave you're being gives me strength. And you going back to school, getting back to your life, you have no idea how much that helped me today.Matt
We want to hear from you, Fanatics!
What did you think about AWAY Season 1 Episode 3? What do you make of Lu's reactions to other people's choices? Do you think it was time for Lex to go back to school? What are your expectations for future episodes?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
You can watch AWAY online right here, at TV Fanatic!
Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.