Why Netflix’s Away Spent So Much Time On Religion In Season 1

netflix away hilary swank

When it comes to the vastness of the universe, there was a lot for Netflix’s Away to tackle. The first season of the series often brought up the question of faith and religion, and provoked further analysis into the possibilities. Recently, showrunner Jessica Goldberg explained why Away spent so much time on religion in Season 1 and how it ultimately shaped the series.

In Netflix’s Away, Hilary Swank’s Emma Green grappled with the arduous task of leaving her family behind to go on a mission to Mars. It was dangerous and, with no guarantees that things would go smoothly, the only thing Emma and the rest of the crew had was their faith — be it in a higher power like God or something else — to bring them hope for a safe return. Jessica Goldberg revealed why discussions of faith were happening so often onscreen. Here’s what she told TheWrap:

When you talk about the universe, it’s hard to eclipse those questions of faith. We did a lot of research, we talked to a lot of astronauts, and one thing we kept hearing was when you’re up there, if you’re atheist, you’re even more of an atheist, or if you believe, you become a deeper believer. I think because we were having those conversations in the [writers] room, they just worked into the larger fabric of the show.

I think there’s certainly a lot to mine from discussions on faith, especially considering how people from all backgrounds approach the subject. That was certainly reflected in Away, with each of the five astronauts having a different perspective or belief regarding religion and faith. Dr. Kwesi Weisberg-Abban, for example, grew up Jewish and prayed often while on the mission, while Dr. Lu Wang was agnostic.

For Jessica Goldberg, it was important to speak with a variety of people who have been to space, be they astronauts, engineers, or scientists. It gave her a sense of what it was like for them to peer down at Earth and how that may or may not have changed their relationship to religion and faith. She teased a bit about how it could factor in a potential Season 2 of Away, should Netflix give the order. In her words:

In our [writers] room, we’d be talking about these things, and then it would definitely evolve back to, ‘Is there a God? Do you need faith to get through these kinds of missions? What happens if you believe in nothing? What if there is other life out there?’ If we get to go on and have a Season 2, that question will play even more deeply because the question of life on Mars is the scientific basis, you know, it’s the holy grail of what Mars could possibly hold.

The series has not been officially renewed as of this writing, but I’d be interested to see how these discussions evolve in Away Season 2. That said, Away creator Andrew Hinderaker already has plans for “a multi-season arc” and I hope someone at Netflix is listening.

Away Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix. For more on what to watch, be sure to check out our fall TV premiere guide, as well as our Netflix schedule for options.

Mae Abdulbaki