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‘Dark Matter’ Review: Another Gripping Apple TV+ Sci-Fi Series

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Dark Matter is the newest sci-fi mystery to debut on Apple TV+, an adaptation of the novel by Blake Crouch. Starring Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly it’s an enthralling program that, so far, is a nice addition alongside another of my Apple TV+ favorites Severance. The story hinges heavily on the many-worlds interpretation, which can be heavy material for some viewers. Thankfully, the exposition in the first episode of Dark Matter crosses that bridge and makes for an enticing set-up. 

[Warning: Heavy spoilers for the first two episodes of Dark Matter below!]

Apple TV+’s Dark Matter has a fascinating construct

Everyone has at least once in their life thought, “What if I had done this instead of that?” It could open different opportunities and result in a life with some parallels, but it’s a far cry from the path already taken. Dark Matter tackles this head-on by asking, “Are you happy with your life? Or have you ever wondered what else you could have been?” Knowing the infinite realities that could have or currently exist can be overwhelming and yet somehow hopeful. 

Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton) and Daniela (Jennifer Connelly) in Dark Matter
Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton) and Daniela (Jennifer Connelly) in Dark Matter

For Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton), it’s a gamble with many cards left to play. In his world, he’s married to the beautiful and caring Daniela (Jennifer Connelly) and father to a kind teenager, Charlie (Oakes Fegley). Jason is a professor at Lakemont College (a fictional institution) in Chicago, teaching physics to bored students and living a quiet and slightly regretful existence.

His closest friend Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) has won the Pavia, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize, and it’s cause for celebration! The Pavia comes with a monetary award, one that Ryan utilizes to entice Jason to work for him in San Francisco. 

As attractive as the tripled salary could be for Jason, it’s a heavy contemplation to uproot his family across the country. Charlie seemingly takes after his artistic mother, looking at art schools while deciding how to approach his crush. Daniela works hard in curating her gallery to get a show, and her career, going.

Jason harbors a bit of resentment and jealousy against Ryan for having garnered prestige and money, these emotions help drive the proposed questions above. Not too long after, it goes from hypothetical to literal in a partially anticlimactic manner. 

Joel Edgerton’s role as double Jason is disappointing

The surprise that happens halfway through the first episode of Dark Matter is that Jason gets kidnapped, drugged, and then wakes up to a perplexing situation. He’s embraced by Amanda (Alice Braga), a woman who knows him but not the other way around. Jason has been considered missing for over a year, and it only becomes more complex after that.  The kicker is that the person who did all this to him was himself. In another reality, a decision to not have the child with Daniela, Jason chose to pursue science and made breakthroughs. Of course, this came at a cost, in this case Daniela, and that further explains the questions that were extended to the Jason we first followed.

Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) in Dark Matter
Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) in Dark Matter

What weakened the whole idea was that the reveal happened within that same first episode. You don’t even have to listen too closely to recognize Edgerton’s voice as the “antagonist” and even the kidnapping scene gives it away a little too easily. It’s not a mark against the actor but more the approach.

Also, the intention of having Edgerton show the narrowest of distinctions between Jason’s is underwhelming. The only stark difference between them is the original Jason being understandably confused about, well, everything. Jason, from the other reality, has been planning this out for a while, so he just slips right into the former’s life with minimal trouble. After a bit, the cracks barely begin to appear, but not enough to put Daniela or Charlie on alert. 

The progression for Dark Matter’s premiere episodes is provocative enough

One thing I easily enjoyed was the audio cue showing the switches in viewpoints. It’s almost humorous to mention, but it actually sounds like the Nintendo Switch sound, so I instantly connected it with being a “switch”.

The premise of Dark Matter is thought-provoking: how much life can veer so drastically by a singular decision. The domino effect is applied in infinite variations due to a choice with a cascade of consequences. In the other Jason’s life, he acquires the fame, success, and wealth that he missed out on by moving forward with his application of science. It’s not enough since it costs him Daniela, and Jason uses his achievements to jump through realities until he’s able to find one where he can be with Daniela. 

Episode two ends with a disturbing cliffhanger, enough to keep me hanging on to see what happens next. Overall, I already feel invested in the series, even with 6 episodes left to go. There’s enough mystery and thrills that a weekly release could inspire, like within the show, so many possible outcomes by the end.

Does Jason make it back to his family? Will Jason’s family ever catch on that he’s not the man they’ve known? Is the grass greener on the other side? Time will tell, and I will be watching gleefully for these answers!

Dark Matter is now streaming the first two episodes on Apple TV+ , new episodes come out on Wednesdays. Are you going to check out the series? Have you read the book? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or join The Cosmic Circus Discord server where we have discussion forums for these series!

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

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