Constellation Review

Astronaut Jo Ericsson (Noomi Rapace) returns to Earth after an accident aboard the International Space Station. But the life she comes back to does not appear to be the same one she left behind.

by James Dyer |
Published on

Streaming on: Apple TV+

Episodes viewed: 8 of 8

Quantum superposition, explains Jonathan Banks’ scientist, is the ability for something to exist in two conflicting states at the same time, until directly observed. Likewise, Apple’s Constellation is simultaneously a gripping, precision-tooled psychological thriller and a confusing, languorously paced sci-fi yarn, depending entirely upon which episode you’re seeing it from.


We join Swedish astronaut Jo Ericsson (Noomi Rapace) aboard the ISS in the middle of a year-long shift away from her husband Magnus (James D’Arcy) and her daughter Alice (played by twins Davina and Rosie Coleman). When a sudden collision causes havoc, Jo must repair the damaged module in order to make her way back to Earth before running out of air.

The eureka moment, when it comes, is a stunning, Damascene revelation that sends domino-like ripples back to the show’s very first scene.

But, in sequences that tip their space helmet to Event Horizon as much as Gravity, those final hours in space are punctuated by sinister hallucinations: her daughter in a blizzard-whipped cabin, an ominous cupboard door. It’s not until Jo is safely back on terra firma in Episode 3, though, that the show’s central premise gradually begins to assert itself. Her car, once red, is now blue; her daughter no longer speaks her native Swedish; and her once happy marriage now feels strained and distant. Meanwhile, her account of the collision (involving the desiccated corpse of a long-dead Russian cosmonaut) is dismissed out of hand in a maddening display of institutional gaslighting.


All of this plays out amid a series of fractured moments that seem to conform only loosely to the concept of linear time. It’s a disorienting, elliptical mode of storytelling that blends actual flashbacks (and forwards, and sideways) with seeming hallucinations — rarely bothering to distinguish between the two. The dread-laden atmosphere ensures we’re rarely bored, but we’re also left perpetually grasping for narrative threads that remain maddeningly out of reach. Right up until everything clicks into place.

Early episodes might give the impression of a story adrift, but writer Peter Harness (McMafia) knows exactly what he’s doing here. The eureka moment, when it comes, is a stunning, Damascene revelation that sends domino-like ripples back to the show’s very first scene, instantly making sense of what came before. It’s a risky move but one that pays off, resulting in a heady rush that is absolutely worth the wait. It just takes a handful of episodes to get there.

Rapace keeps a tight hold on us throughout, her performance a ball of frenzied confusion and barely contained panic. But it’s the Coleman sisters who truly shine, lending Alice a heart-rending aura of bone-deep grief and a wisdom far beyond her years. Amidst all the quantum entanglements and fracturing realities, Constellation’s core is the relationship between those two characters. A mother-daughter bond that transcends time, reality and the spaces in-between.

Initially baffling, occasionally maddening, but ultimately brilliant. This thoughtful, brain-bending sci-fi thriller is absolutely worth persevering with.
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