Wednesday, February 21, 2024

REVIEW: 'Constellation' - Jo Relies on Her Expertise to Calculate a Way Back to Her Family in 'Live and Let Die'

AppleTV+'s Constellation - Episode 1.02 "Live and Let Die"

Jo races to find a way back to Earth before her life support runs out. Henry is concerned about his experiment.

"Live and Let Die" was written by Peter Harness and directed by Michelle MacLaren

At one point, Jo is interacting with two versions of her daughter. She carries an injured Alice back to the cabin to warm up. She's grateful to finally reunite with her. And then, she realizes her daughter is still asleep in bed right where she left her. She looks around the room and sees Alice in two places. It doesn't make any sense. She comments that the daughter she rescued smells like the Alice she has always known. And yet, she disappears. The Alice left behind doesn't foster that same maternal instinct. Jo still obviously has affection for her daughter. However, she is also willing to risk her safety in pursuit of someone only she can see. It's only a fleeting moment of human connection. Jo is chasing it. She can't allow Alice to be left alone. She has to protect her. It's such an extreme place. Jo's mind can barely grapple with reality. The only connection she has is her daughter. She also carries the technology that may have caused all this chaos. She doesn't know how to use that information. It's just crucial. It provides her with value in a world that makes very little sense.

Of course, that disorientating story takes place in the future. The narrative goes back and forth in time. It offers the reassurance that Jo safely returns to Earth after being left alone on the International Space Station. She has the expertise to make the necessary calculations for a safe re-entry. She is largely annoyed by the recorded messages broadcast to her. They aren't useful. They just repeat the same information over and over again. They offer no compassion or connection to her family. All she wants is for Alice and Magnus to know just how much she loves them. In this isolating journey, the only company she has is the sound of her own voice. Sure, the recordings tease that more noise lurks within the station. She doesn't have the luxury of time to investigate every single instance. Instead, she's unnerved by the sight of Paul's severed arm. Instead of offering a connection, it's only a reminder of the pain that was caused because of this disaster. Meanwhile, people on Earth talk in cryptic conversations about the value of this program and the secrets that still lurk out there in the universe.

For the longest time, mission control doesn't know if Jo is still alive. They've lost all contact with the station. They don't know if their messages are getting through. Everyone wants to prepare Magnus and Alice for Jo's death. They don't know that for certain though. Instead, they are left in this weird limbo where either outcome could be true. Alice shows the wisdom beyond her years to understand that ambiguity. It's still tough. Irena mourns the deaths accompanied with this work. She guides everyone through the grief. This is a part of the job. It's also experience from a lifetime of this work. She has risen to a leadership position. However, she also knows her government will pull out of the coalition. She knows the mission on the International Space Station wasn't meant to last this long. The priority has shifted away from space. Instead, conflicts are being fought on Earth. The pursuit of the cosmos can be left to the billionaires with the vast resources and egos to push the boundaries of known reality. Henry and Irena clearly know more about the overarching mysteries. That's not enough to guarantee their continued presence in this profession. They've endured those tragedies. And now, they are responsible for even more in the pursuit of the same answers.

Jo only has a limited amount of time to pull off her mission. She has lost time as well. She believes she passed out from a lack of oxygen. She doesn't know how she will accomplish everything to return to her family. Somehow, she does precisely that. For a moment, she believes she has failed because one of the bolts to the shuttle won't detach from the station. The repair requires two people. It's not possible for her to fix it. Jo doesn't know how the situation resolves itself. All she's greeted with is a shadow that suggests something more happened on the station. She doesn't have to confront that question because she's intensely focused on the task at hand. She worries if her calculations are correct. She has no way of communicating with mission control. When she lands, there is no guarantee that people will find her. Everything works out. Jo faces off with a wolf for a brief instant. Then, the troops arrive. Balance has been restored with everyone providing Jo with the support she needs to acclimate to Earth once more. She risked it all. She reunites with her family. She also comments how she forgot what Earth smelled like. That sense is clearly one of the big differences that determines Jo's grasp on reality. It's only just introduced when she is rescued. In a few weeks, that comes to separate her from what she loves.

This experience isolated Jo in many ways. She was left behind on the station in the hopes of making the necessary repairs so that all the astronauts could make it home. She succeeded. To do so, she had to rely on herself. She was cut off from the rest of the world. Even though she spent a year in space, her daughter was only one call away. The family remained in contact with each other. The space program invites the family into the process. It's not some mysterious entity that pushes them away. Everyone acknowledges the importance of maintaining these connections. Yet Jo's grasp on reality is slipping away. That too creates isolation. It is no longer limited to herself. Alice previously mentioned that her mother abandoned her. She wanted to know why it took so long for Jo to rescue her. That makes no sense either. Jo simply springs into action. She would never purposefully hurt Alice. However, she lands on Earth bringing more than she understands. Henry is amazed by the results of his experiment. Jo's embrace of Alice also isolates her from this world. That results in her too believing she is on the helicopter all by herself. That's a paralyzing visual for Jo who has the training to endure the harshest of environments. It's even more frightening when it's a child in that precarious situation.