Wednesday, February 21, 2024

REVIEW: 'Constellation' - A Tragedy Destroys the International Space Station While Jo Is Left Behind in 'The Wounded Angel'

AppleTV+'s Constellation - Episode 1.01 "The Wounded Angel"

A disaster on board the International Space Station becomes a fight for survival.

"The Wounded Angel" was written by Peter Harness and directed by Michelle MacLaren

The drama offers plenty of intrigue and captivating action right away. An experiment aboard the International Space Station goes awry. Scientists were looking to discover a new state of matter. It's only possible in zero gravity. Jo can't explain it. She has no connection to the experiment whatsoever. And then, it works for six seconds. In the aftermath, the station comes close to complete destruction. Astronauts are killed. They have to prepare for an emergency evacuation. They are running out of life support. Jo was scheduled to go on a space walk. She still completes that task. The mission has simply shifted. She must investigate what struck the station. She discovers the body of a former cosmonaut. It disappears into the vast emptiness of space just as quickly as it appeared. Ilya couldn't provide visual confirmation to back up Jo's claim. Jo still transmits her message. She doesn't know what it means or how it happened. She is the individual meant to endure this dangerous reality. Those on Earth don't have to reckon with the true possibility of what lurks just beyond the atmosphere.

Jo has a family too. She isn't unique in that way. All of the astronauts have loved ones on Earth waiting for them. Three successfully land back on the surface. They survive this brutal disaster. Jo stays behind in the hopes of restoring enough power to the other capsule. She never forgets about her family. They are always on her mind. She also has a job to do. She will sacrifice her life to ensure the safety of the crew. That's the kind of person she is. It isn't even up for debate. Once NASA proposes the repair plan, Jo accepts being left behind on the station by herself. She has the expertise to make this repair happen. She's also tasked with retrieving the experiment that may have caused the disaster in the first place. It's very important to Henry and Irena. Those two share a connection beyond their work representing the interests of separate entities on the mission. They both take the same pill. It's distinct. They seemingly operate with a mission beyond what's currently presented. They have an understanding of the larger picture. Everyone else is reacting to the immediate problem.

Jo's family is connected to the space program. Jo's husband works as a teacher for the European Space Agency while their daughter is enrolled at the school. When tragedy strikes, it's easy to collect them up and bring them to the command center leading the mission in Kazakhstan. Jo desperately wants to speak with her family. Once they enter the room though, the connection drops. It's vital for the astronauts to remain in contact with mission control. The scientists on the ground provide the directions for how to face any problem. The astronauts have to then execute it. Jo is tasked with retrieving batteries to power up her escape capsule. It's a long and grueling process. Time appears to be slipping away. The timer she set for how long she would be in the dark speeds up in the end. The system still comes back online as scheduled. Jo notices these alterations to her life. She can't address them. It's right back to the mission. She has to follow orders. When the connection is lost, that's when she investigates more. She feels compelled to do so. She wants her family. They seem out of reach right now.

Jo appears to transcend reality. After making it back to the capsule with life support function, she hears a noise coming from elsewhere on the station. She opts to explore. It's dangerous. No where else on the station is safe. She can't run out of her emergency oxygen. She puts on the mask anyway. She needs to know what's creating the noise. Once she gets close, she's suddenly in a completely different environment. Gravity is in effect once more. She can breathe without the mask. At the end of the hallway, an armoire sits with the pounding come from within. The handle is marked with the necklace Jo's daughter, Alice, gave her. It's calling out to her. She doesn't open it. The narrative then shifts back to five weeks in the future. That's how the episode began. The narrative was meant to showcase how Jo got to that moment where she was on the run with Alice. They escaped to an abandoned cabin. It's a familiar environment for Jo. Alice is afraid though. She maintains a connection to her previous life. It's distant. It's a story conveyed through a screen. That's how she recognizes her mother. It's not the terrifying darkness that creeps around a world that no longer makes sense.

Jo relates to that isolation and mystery. She knows Alice is asleep in bed at the cabin. Yet she still hears her daughter crying out for help in the middle of a blizzard. Jo makes that trek into the unknown. This time she stumbles upon the familiar cabin. It's not the same as before. The painting that decorates the wall features a new image. Snow covers the inside. It hasn't provided safe refuge for the family. Instead, Alice is trapped within the armoire. Jo has the courage to open it. She's still confused by what she finds. In fact, the audience should be puzzled by all of this as well. It's disorienting. It requires an immense control and purpose over tone and direction. The confusing nature could keep viewers away. The action provides the intrigue to keep moving forward. Jo still possesses the experiment that seemingly caused all this destruction. She escapes for a reason. She isn't trapped on the station forever. Of course, the most thrilling moments come when she's in that zero gravity environment. The drama on Earth can't quite match that intensity. It's presented as more normal. Jo apparently brings that high-octane drama back with her. It's not trapped on the station forever meant to be decommissioned. People can't give up the research and the potential it holds. It simply has an impact on the lives of those who didn't know the risks or the peril that could be produced.