Constellation makes quantum mechanics entertaining

Photo courtesy of Apple TV Plus
LOST IN SPACE AND TIME: After a disaster aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Jo Ericsson (Noomi Rapace) returns to Earth to discover everything is not as she remembers it, in Constellation, streaming on Apple TV Plus.

Created by Peter Harness (Wallander, Doctor Who) based on a concept by Sean Jablonski (Nip/Tuck), this sci-fi psychological thriller/mystery follows astronaut Jo Ericsson (Noomi Rapace) who after a deadly accident on the International Space Station returns home to discover her life seems … different. She doesn’t remember the marital trouble she supposedly had with her husband, Magnus (James D’Arcy). Her daughter, Alice (Davina Coleman), is suddenly unable to speak Swedish. She even remembers the family car as a different color. Is she losing her mind? (eight 50- to 58-min. episodes)

Glen: Science nerds, this one’s for you. The general concept is that when astronauts travel to space, their experience causes some sort of rift in the space-time continuum, an anomaly former NASA astronaut Henry Caldera (the great character actor Jonathan Banks) was trying to measure in an onboard experiment called the CAL that was attempting to record a new form of matter. It may very well be possible that his experiment is responsible for Jo’s quantum mechanics conundrum—did she return to an alternative reality? It helps to know Erwin Schrödinger’s thought experiment about a cat in a box with a mechanism that can kill it, which sought to prove that in quantum physics, tiny particles can exist in two states simultaneously. The cat can theoretically be both alive and dead until it’s observed. Did Jo die in the accident or live, or do both possibilities exist in separate realities?

Anna: At first, I felt a bit lost with Constellation. It takes a minute to adjust to watching and tracking seemingly different realities. But once it sinks its teeth into you, this series is nothing short of compelling. Jo doesn’t think she’s losing her mind, but everyone around her seems to. She suspects that Alice also feels a change in their realities as well, but she doesn’t know the solution for either of them. It seems she’s battling with the “her” that may have been—or perhaps is—just somewhere else? It all gets a bit weedy to explain, especially without stealing the fun away from the show and its reveals. What I can say for the series is that its cast and writers know what they’re doing, and now that all episodes have been released, I have no doubt a lot of people will be binging this start to finish in a short amount of time.

Glen: I’m not educated enough to know if the story holds up scientifically, but I know enough about Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics to understand where the writers are going with it all, and it’s certainly interesting and entertaining. What really makes the series for me are the performances. Rapace is always engaging, and her Jo is being torn apart psychologically. The scenes on the space station when she’s forced to remain behind and find a way to enable another escape pod are gripping. I’ve already mentioned Banks, but good grief, he turns in another incredibly intense performance as Henry, whose alternate-reality character goes by Bud. If you’re like me and the science is something of a mystery, go with it. At its heart, it’s the story about a person desperately trying to get back to her family, and we can all relate to that.

Anna: Luckily, I’m not too concerned with the reality of it all, so its accuracy doesn’t matter much to me. I felt at first like I might get lost in trying to understand it, but the series soon strays into the human stories much more than the science behind the different dimensions. Instead, we watch as everyone involved goes on their own journey to piece together what they can about the lives they know or think they know. I’m with you as far as the performances go—both Rapace and Banks knock it out of the park with their work here. If you’re looking for a new series to get absorbed in, give Constellation a shot at captivating you.

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Comment at [email protected].

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