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Review: Explore ‘Constellation’ for a Mind-Bending Journey on Apple TV+

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The nature of reality is something that has been wondered about for as long as there have been people. In science fiction and other texts, it has long been something that’s explored and, depending on the medium, has different conclusions. Constellation, the newest space-based science fiction horror show on Apple TV+, is the latest piece of dramatic work to wonder: “Am I really seeing this?” With half of the first season released, we can report: Yes, indeed, European Space Agency astronaut Jo Ericcson (Noomi Rapace) is really seeing this. 

[Warning: Mild spoilers for the first half of this series below!]

The story and cast of Constellation

Jo Ericcson was an astronaut on board the ISS, and we meet her when she’s back to seemingly ordinary life on Earth. She’s with her daughter Alice, barreling down a road, listening to a creepy recording that telegraphs this message: The world is the wrong way around. Much of the first episode is a flashback (or is it?), explaining what we’re led to believe is the incident. The prospect of being stuck in space alone without life support failing is terrifying enough, but Constellation mixes this with an Earthside The Cabin in the Woods vibe. 

Noomi Rapace in "Constellation," now streaming on Apple TV+.
Noomi Rapace in Constellation (Apple TV+)

As the audience, we are left with a tantalizing mystery about the quantum nature of things. Peter Harness and Michelle MacLaren slowly peel back the layers of a cosmic mystery. There are teases throughout the first four episodes; reflections and moments frozen in time after their principal has moved forward, that help build a hair-raising sense of suspense and eeriness. There’s more subtle time slipping (sorry, Loki S2 fans) resulting in lost hours, mysterious experiments, and people and things popping up in jump scares. Constellation is both overflowing with subtext and ambitious in the big science fiction story it is telling. 

What helps elevate Constellation is the talent behind the characters on the screen. There is a brilliant intensity to Noomi Rapace’s performance, amplified by the rawness that she embodies as Joe’s reality frays. A scene in the cabin in the second episode with her fantastic on-screen daughter Alice (Rosie & Davina Coleman) jolts you to your core. And that’s just one moment in many across the first four episodes. 

James D’Arcy in "Constellation," now streaming on Apple TV+.
James D’Arcy in Constellation. (Apple TV+)

James D’Arcy is Jo’s on-screen husband, Magnus Taylor. He’s had a stunning career, but my comic book-loving and Marvel stan heart can’t help but feel a tug in honor of the memories of what we had with him and Hayley Atwell in Agent Carter. As Magnus Taylor in this show, D’Arcy brings much of the natural camera charisma to the screen. Coupled with vulnerability, this makes for an on-screen presence. 

What’s particularly thrilling to me about Constellation is that though each character is fully developed, the story largely focuses on that of Jo. She’s spiraling, and there’s a frantic element as she pushes forward against her breaking point. However, as the lore unfolds, and we learn more about what is happening, we root for her and her situation. The world has gone fuzzy; what’s up is down, what’s blue is red, and like Jo, we’re trying to figure it all out.

Maybe the solution is we need to Go Ask Alice (I think she’ll know) and get one of the handy little red and yellow emoji pills key to anchoring some of Constellation’s other characters (ahem, Jonathan Banks’ Henry Caldera) in reality. 

Another win for Apple TV+ for exciting sci-fi series

From an accuracy perspective, there are moments in Constellation that help world build and sell the story. Although the actors are not in space, moments of eerie TV magic (like Paul’s huge round blood globs floating through zero-G in the pilot) make you sit up and take notice. This is just more proof, as if Ron Moore’s For All Mankind wasn’t enough, that Apple TV+ really knows how to bring science fiction and space to life. The streamer has run with the maximalist approach, and it’s wonderfully indulgent.

Noomi Rapace in "Constellation," now streaming on Apple TV+
Noomi Rapace in Constellation (Apple TV+)

In some ways, Constellation reminds me of Alex Garland’s Annihilation. Only instead of Natalie Portman’s Lena and Oscar Isaac’s Kane, we have Rapace and D’Arcy. Instead of The Shimmer, there’s another reason for why things are not what they seem. There’s a similar unnerving undercurrent that’s the hallmark of smart psychological horror present in both titles. Add in the freezing temperatures, isolation, and big family stakes, and it’s exhilarating, suspenseful sci-fi that is grounded and not lost among the stars. 

Apple isn’t subtle about reminding viewers on what platform they’re watching the show. Though it’s not as egregious as Madame Web’s Pepsi worship nor Aquaman’s thirst for Guinness, the tech company’s presence is definitely felt. Pessimistic viewers would not be wrong to call this the most expensive Apple product commercial ever.

Between MacBooks and iPads at meetings to FaceTime calls on The International Space Station within the first 10 minutes of the pilot “The Wounded Angel,” Constellation gives new meaning to the old Verizon tagline “Can you hear me now?” I’m left wondering if you can get reception through multiple realities. From this show, it sure seems like it. 

New episodes of Constellation air each Wednesday on Apple TV+ . The first four episodes of the show are now streaming. While you’re waiting for another transmission to Houston from Station, check out our review of ISS to get your bastion of international cooperation fix. Let us know what you think about these new sci-fi series on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Ayla Ruby

I am a writer and interviewer based somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. I love all things nerdy - but Star Trek and Spiderman have special places in my heart. Find me at @TulinWrites on Twitter. And visit my other website for more reviews and interviews: movieswetextedabout.com

Ayla Ruby has 169 posts and counting. See all posts by Ayla Ruby