Constellation: Full season
February 26, 2024 6:45 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Jo returns to earth after a disaster in space and discovers that there are missing pieces in her life, so she sets out to expose the truth about the hidden secrets of space travel and recover what she has lost.
posted by Kyol (28 comments total)
This is .... weird. Like they had a good budget for the ISS, decent zero-g wire work, great sets, decent Soyuz landing retrobraking. But then for the whole emergency in space it felt like they had to come up with a bunch of weird and frankly kind of dumb restrictions so they could drag it out a bit. Every 45 minutes the station goes into shadow and there's no life support! Except the tremendous volume of air and warm surfaces in the station. And the Soyuz capsule was in the same situation anyway? But ok we need to move batteries from the station to the capsule so it can have power to return. Wait, wouldn't the batteries power the station through the blackout periods?

Thankfully that seems like it's mostly over after the second episode, and it's just the weird quantum mechanical mystery instead, which is fine. I sort of wish they'd just leaned in on the ambiguity whether Jo is just seeing things or if it's a Spooky Mystery Thing for a little longer, but I suppose it would have turned into something that sort of feels like abusive gaslighting before too long.

I have this nasty suspicion that this isn't going to be a miniseries and they're intending to milk it for multiple seasons, and I don't know that they really have it in them.
posted by Kyol at 6:52 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]

Which is to say, guys, it's 2024, space nerds are out there and will watch your space themed show and roll their eyes _so hard_ at your made up delaying antics. There's plenty of legitimate things you could have done to keep Jo marooned on the crippled station for another few hours. Also, collisions at orbital velocity would have been significantly more traumatic for the size of object that Jo saw, and she should know this, which should make her question the narrative. Harumph. Harrumph Harrumph.
posted by Kyol at 7:01 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]

If it's any consolation, the characters aren't very realistic either: no non-sociopathic research scientist will openly demand their work be prioritized over human lives, and astronauts are supposed to be calm and rational and methodical in a crisis. Boards of accident investigation aren't supposed to be openly politicized and finger-pointing before all the data is collected, either.
I'll be strung along by the mystery for now, but the characters are all acting so actory, moving at full impulse (pun acknowledged) with no restraint or reflection.
posted by cardboard at 7:15 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, that too - I can _kind_ of justify the researcher's demands, sort of, retroactively, given the quantum jibbly jobblies that are going on, but the accident investigation was bugging me too. Like I said, I think they could've strung out the whole idea that maybe Jo was just seeing things, there was no evidence to suggest otherwise, maybe there was some hypoxia and confusion in the heat of the emergency, but she's safe now. And now the show can spend a few episodes showing that actually what Jo thought she saw actually did happen, from a certain quantum perspective and opens up the mystery box so we start seeing the quantum twinning and whatever's going on with the Russian cosmonaut and the Apollo 18 astronaut.

Instead, we're getting ... this thing. I dunno, it's weird, given what the budget looks like, that the writing feels so out of place.
posted by Kyol at 8:34 AM on February 26

If it's any consolation, the characters...

No, no: it is Constellation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:40 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

I watched the first 3 over the weekend and while I really like Noomi Rapace's performance, found the drama of her escape from the ISS gripping and moving, Jonathan Banks is imo completely miscast, (sorry but I am not convinced that he was once an astronaut), it's hard for me to believe anyone would be that concerned for the experiment above the lives of the crew (you can get to space again to do a zero g experiment, we send stuff to space all the time), really that whole character is not hitting for me.

Also, I'd just like sci-fi writers to come up with something other than quantum superposition as the physical basis of their "weird things happen in space" storylines. It can't all be quantum superposition. I know someone once called it "spooky" action at a distance but there are other things in physics you can use.
posted by dis_integration at 6:40 AM on February 27

Zero gravity ought to permit moving more than one battery at a time instead of fetching the battery, replacing the old one, then fetching the next battery, etc. That was silly.

I wonder what the meds in those red and yellow capsules really do.

Roscosmos lady died in one of the timelines, didn't she?
posted by emelenjr at 9:54 AM on February 27

Well, right, I'm figuring Roscosmos lady died in one of the timelines leaving her corpse in space, and the Apollo 18 astronaut has two timelines, one where there was a catastrophe on his flight that killed his two fellow astronauts and one where there wasn't. So we have scientist ex-astronaut in Star City and grieving drunk ex-astronaut on the nerd cruise killing a sceptic. I assume the quantum experiment caused both states to manifest themselves at the same time with catastrophic consequences to the ISS.

I assume something similar happened to Jo - she survived in each quantum timeline, but she keeps switching positions between the one where her relationship is on the rocks and one where it isn't.

I think I've caught a few other weird little things in the backgrounds, but nothing specific enough to note. I'm sure there's some eagle eyed viewer guide out there, though.
posted by Kyol at 10:02 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]

Oh, right, like the painting in the cabin is either some kind of angelic thing or some kind of crispy critter, either a demon or a burned angel. But that's obvious. My wife thinks the jeans of the kid who stomped the rabbit in the puddle were darker than the jeans worn by either kid a few minutes later, so maybe Alice is caught up in her own quantum jibbly jobbly.

aaaaaanywho, the second there's a hatch or a ye oldey computer or a smoke demon *pow* off I go to the horizon, y'know?
posted by Kyol at 6:53 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]

I didn't get the impression that the people were jumping back and forth constantly between the different timelines, just that they had switched the one time, after the experiment happened, so Rapace's character is now suddenly in the timeline where her daughter doesn't speak Swedish and she's apparently been on the verge of dumping her husband for the project lead or whatever at NASA (or wherever). Presumably the dead cosmonaut also switched over at this moment and caused the accident. But I didn't catch any sign that she was going back and forth between them afterward, though I could easily have missed it.

I'm much more of a lay person than a space nerd and even I could tell that all the space / physics stuff was a bunch of hooey, and it bothered me. Like, really, the whole station just shuts off without direct sunlight? Who designed this thing, and what are those batteries for? And I'm fine to just hand-wave over some hooey if it's in service to a larger plot or theme, but in that first episode there was literally no other plot that was happening.

(I also kind of thought Rapace's character should have been flattened to jelly after her landing craft that is presumably meant to splash down in the ocean hit solid rock instead, but I'm OK with waving that one away via the anthropic principle, since there is no show without her character surviving.)
posted by whir at 10:05 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]

I also kind of thought Rapace's character should have been flattened to jelly after her landing craft that is presumably meant to splash down in the ocean hit solid rock instead

That was actually correct. Soyuz capsules always land on land. They aren't designed to land in water. Here's an ESA video showing the process. The Soyuz capsule fires rockets just before hitting the ground to slow the speed to about 5 km/hour. Plus the seats have shock absorbers.

The ending of the movie "Gravity" shows why it would be a bad idea for a Soyuz capsule to land in water (that capsule is a Chinese copy of a Soyuz).

It was ridiculous that they sent out the huge number of helicopters and trucks at the same time to reach the capsule and the the trucks and helicopters arrived simultaneously. Either very slow helicopters or very fast trucks.
posted by ShooBoo at 12:20 AM on February 28 [3 favorites]

Sounds like I am good to skip this one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:29 AM on February 28

...the thing is, after you've sussed out the 'thing' the Macguffin - you then have to do the characters, because either it's finding out the Macguffin, or it's how the characters deal with it and, though I really like N.Rapace as an actor, the writing isn't up to the task: "What if you went up to space and came down in a oh so slightly different timeline/Universe" It's either a character study or a chase to sort out the timelines, and by the third episode (I think) it's the former and I don't know that the writing is up to it.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:19 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I mean I'm going to keep watching it because I'm committed by now (and the core "mystery" is kind of interesting, so I'm curious how they'll fail to handle it) but I'm worried that it's going to turn into a multiseason mystery box that never actually resolves anything, it's just mysterious and spooky!
posted by Kyol at 12:02 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]

I assume something similar happened to Jo - she survived in each quantum timeline, but she keeps switching positions between the one where her relationship is on the rocks and one where it isn't.

I think that's firmly off the table in Episode 4 where we see alternative timeline funeral. I think this point it seems that living-Ericsson is the one with the healthy relationship, but she somehow wound up in dead-Ericsson's universe, where she had a bad relationship.
posted by xigxag at 11:03 PM on February 29 [2 favorites]

Yeah, and I think having the daughter seeing both sides of things is honestly adding to the confusion about what's happening. Like, astronauts that suffered a traumatic event in orbit blah blah quantum whatever multiple realities... ok sure, gotcha. And maybe only certain astronauts, because it seemed like the rest of the ISS expedition she was with weren't getting the B vitamins. But how are Henry and Bud able to communicate, as it seems like they are able? And is Jo stuck in some liminal (siiiiiigh) space between realities until her "waveform collapses"?

But then Alice comes along and sees the other side, too. Maybe Jo was unknowingly pregnant with Alice in space. Or they're going to claim some kind of descendant principle. Aie yie yie...
posted by Kyol at 10:18 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

I’m enjoying it so far, I have needed the recaps to fully follow all the moving parts.

Constellation Series-Premiere Recap: The Little Rocket Girl [Vulture / Archive]
Constellation Recap: The Woman Who Fell to Earth [Vulture / Archive]
Constellation Recap: Go Ask Alice [Vulture / Archive]
Constellation Recap: The Changeling [Vulture / Archive]
Constellation Recap: Lost in Liminal Space [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 2:08 AM on March 13

Yeah, once they got out of space it has settled down nicely, but I should probably read some recaps to see what I'm missing, too. The last episode with the Scandi Marine Observatory added a nice bit of context, although my wife had to ask "wait, so how did Alice end up in the cabin on the other side of the lake for Jo to rescue her and have both of them at the same time back in the 1st or 2nd episode?"

I mean, if it all boils down to spaaaaaaaaace maaaaaadnessssssss......
posted by Kyol at 10:39 AM on March 13

I mean, if it all boils down to spaaaaaaaaace maaaaaadnessssssss......
Waiting to see!

I’m sad now I’ve caught up and have to wait a week! I watched the first 6 over the last few days.

Constellation Recap: The Others [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 11:38 AM on March 13

(and, like, space madness is still better than an open-ended mystery box that never bothers to reveal any answers, just "ooooh spooky, innit". ... ... I wonder if anyone has done an unsatisfying show plots tier list, hrm.)
posted by Kyol at 1:22 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

So, seeing Paul's side of things was interesting. I'm still kind of hung up on who's gone where and what has happened, and how many different realities we're seeing, and Alice is still a goddamn joker in all of this, but it's holding together, more or less?
posted by Kyol at 7:30 AM on March 14

And wow Vulture heard your questions 😂

I hope Paul in Bud’s universe is ok!

Which Constellation Universe Is Which? [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 12:10 PM on March 14

I think Vulture might have a bit of a mixup with Paul, but it's hard to say what's real what what's not, and I'm not rewatching the first few minutes of first episode to see if Universe B Paul (the "CAL doesn't exist" Paul) was like "what the fuck is the CAL you weirdos" before he died in the universe with the CAL.

I _think_ Alice's bunny rabbit's embroidery changes ears? And I think they're on kind of thin ice with the story at this point with what looks like 2 episodes left? C'mon guys, bring it on home.
posted by Kyol at 1:07 PM on March 14

I binged the first six and Paul is shown working on the CAL (I hear COW half the time!) and talking about what he’s doing like he understands it.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:07 PM on March 14

Well, right, but that was Paul from the CAL universe with non-philandering-Jo talking to Swedish-speaking-Alice, not non-CAL-Paul post-accident.

I think those are the adjectives we need here?
posted by Kyol at 2:20 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Oof! I’m 100% here for the vibes with this show rather than to totally understand it but that episode could have been half the length with the same story. Also Valya is terrifying!

Constellation Recap: The Cabins in the Woods [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 3:43 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Yeah, weirdly for how I was grumbling earlier, I'm kind of falling into this as 100% vibe-based entertainment. Does it make sense? Does it have to? Does it withstand trying to keep track of whether this is English-daddy-loving-mummy-knithatted-Alice or if this is Scandi-mommy-loving-mamma-betoqued-Alice and which world she's currently inhabiting? Not in the slightest. And I think unifying the timelines made some of the "wait, is this before or after the prologue at the cabin?" questions clear up.

Honestly, I half think the performances by Paul and Alice in the last couple of episodes kind of saved it - versus Jo who felt like she was just sort of stumbling along instead of ... I dunno, it just feels like she hasn't been inquiring about what's happened _or_ been pissed off that everybody is gaslighting her?

And yeah yeah I know she was poking around where she shouldn't have been in the liminal office space data blah blah, and she _has_ been trying to figure it out, but on the other hand it felt weirdly passive to me, like she was just going along with it. Maybe it was the absence of any sort of dialogue about it, and the writing wasn't up to showing Jo questioning it on her own without having another astronaut or her husband or anyone to discuss it with.
posted by Kyol at 7:38 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Ooh I really hope there is a season 2!

Constellation Season-Finale Recap: Somewhere Else [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 2:59 PM on March 27

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