“The Astronaut Wives Club” took a dark turn with Gus Grissom’s (Joel Johnstone) death on Thursday’s (July 30) episode.
For the first time, the Mercury mission wives are faced with the real danger and consequences of their husbands’ profession that goes beyond fame and Life magazine covers. Fortunately, they had decided to use their camaraderie earlier in the episode to make sure they’re treated fairly by NASA in case of such disastrous circumstances.
Betty Grissom (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) leads the charge when the Wives Club gives NASA demands that they not only be notified in a timely manner when their husband has been injured or killed but that they have an efficient way to getting his belongings from the Cape. They also demand that they be made accurately aware of the dangers of each mission and should any of the wives get pregnant their husband’s career shouldn’t be made to suffer.
It’s an empowering girl-power moment for Betty and the rest of the wives, but none of them were expecting Betty to be the one to need those demands first.
However, “The Astronaut Wives Club” is sticking true to real life events. The real Gus Grissom died on January 27, 1967 during an Apollo 1 training launch. He was the first of the Mercury 7 astronauts to die.
As “The Astronaut Wives Club” creator Stephanie Savage tells Entertainment Weekly, Grissom’s death is the first bend in a darker turn for the show.
“The show started out on a lighter note, they [the wives] engaged in this sense of competitiveness with who’s going to go up first and the sparkle of who’s going to be in the spotlight with the Life profile,” she says. “As we get deeper into the journey, those conflicts are going to seem superficial compared to what’s going on now,” Savage says. “The race for space starts to take a darker turn.”
As more missions start to deploy with the introduction of the Apollo program, there’s more need for the wives to actually be a club and not just a social group. According to Savage, that’s exactly what they’ll become.
“This is an episode where you see the wives coming together in a more formal way,” Savage says. “The club part of the Astrowives gets more codified.”