Wednesday, February 21, 2024

REVIEW: 'Constellation' - Jo Grapples With a Life on Earth Where Small Details Are Different in 'Somewhere in Space Hangs My Heart'

AppleTV+'s Constellation - Episode 1.03 "Somewhere in Space Hangs My Heart"

The space agencies begin their investigation into the ISS collision. Jo struggles to reconnect with Magnus and Alice.

"Somewhere in Space Hangs My Heart" was written by Peter Harness and directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

The urgency of the moment has passed. Now, the various agencies overseeing the International Space Station have the time to assess what actually happened up there. Of course, no one is particularly interested in Jo's theory. It's impossible for a dead cosmonaut to have been the object that struck the station. It's much more sensible if a garbage bag or other debris created the damage. That's an explanation everyone can support. It's not the truth of Jo's experience though. She is told she needs to rely on the people who have gone to space. Only those who have traveled beyond Earth's atmosphere can understand the reality of how she feels. Her mission was to detail the ways in which the human body responds to longterm exposure to zero gravity. That was interrupted by this disaster. And yet, the experiment is still ongoing. Things are just slightly off in Jo's life. It's enough to notice without producing too many questions right now. Of course, it's terrifying in a few weeks when Jo declares that she doesn't believe Alice is her daughter. That's an extreme escalation.

No one else who was on the station can corroborate Jo's story. Instead, she is made to distrust what she saw. Her eyewitness testimony is unreliable. It's better to just accept the official position. That will allow for a smooth transition back to normalcy. However, the other members of the crew didn't have the same exposure as Jo. She was alone. Her symptoms could be explained by a lack of oxygen to the brain. That caused hallucinations and the loss of time. Jo has to accept her limitations. She is an unreliable narrator. It's not a choice on her part. She advocates fiercely for herself. She leans on Magnus and Alice for support. They too feel the tension within this family. It's not like how things once were. That's strange. They don't know how to respond. It doesn't make sense. They are providing Jo with the time and space to acclimate to life on Earth once more. She just went through a traumatic experience. Everyone must show respect to her and the life lost along the way. It's a tragedy. And yet, the mission never stops.

Henry and Irena went through something similar to Jo when they went to space decades ago. They too were made to question their memories and actions. They rose to positions of power where they encouraged the cycle to repeat. They respond in different ways to what Jo is going through. Henry presents himself as a supportive resource. Meanwhile, Irena is cold and distant. She leads the charge to offer a convenient explanation for the disaster. It's possible she knows precisely who the deceased cosmonaut is. The show lays it out plainly that the design of the suit came from Irena's time as an astronaut. It's later inferred that she is the body that never made it home. Of course, that doesn't line up with the reality of her leading the Russian program and grappling with her own mortality. She's dying. That affords a certain amount of perspective for her. However, it's terrifying when Henry looks down and sees a mummified corpse instead of the woman he has counted on for many years. That's a startling image. One that immediate takes him out of the tender nature of that moment.

Henry's experience is different. He is presented with two separate lives entirely. He is seen as a person of great expertise and authority in the space program. One moment he's explaining quantum physics to Alice. And then, he's on a cruise discussing his mission to the moon with a conspiracy theorist. More distinctions are made. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist is known as Henry. Meanwhile, the washed-up astronaut and alcoholic goes by Bud. The parallels are still clear. The narrative goes back-and-forth between them. They cannot be split. They are one and the same. They offer two paths this character could have gone down. Bud wants to fill the blank spaces in his memory. He recalls the mission going perfectly. And yet, he returned to Earth with two of his co-pilots dead. It makes no sense. Moreover, he gets details about his past wrong just like Jo. People use that as evidence that he is fabricating a fanciful story of going to the moon. They question his lived experience. It's a sad, solitaire life. Henry pushes people away too. However, he remains in pursuit of answers. He may be the only person who sees the grand connections. No one is quite willing to come out and explain it in detail to offer a more enriching experience. That's problematic.

Jo possesses the container that unlocked these clues for Henry. Obviously, their lives will continue to collide in intense and dangerous ways. The police are coming for Jo after she runs away with her daughter. But now, she's questioning if that is even true. Alice is very perceptive. She understands many things that are complicated even for the most brilliant minds. She offers compassion even when she's terrified about what's happening. She also freaks out when her rabbit is stomped on. She loses a friendship because she saw something that didn't happen. Henry follows his instinct to examine further. He forges a connection. He too sees something no one else does. He can't translate it into something meaningful. He is eager to prove his life's work has merit. He was awarded for his efforts in the past. That was a long time ago. He's still searching for answers. Meanwhile, Jo is being gaslit into believing something that accommodates everyone else. No one is looking out for her. And so, she grows more desperate to make sense of a life where small details don't add up to what she loved and missed. Instead, she is being forced to accept something that doesn't feel right. That's difficult to convey in a dramatic way. As such, the story loses some of its power. The intrigue remains high though even as many things are still incredibly confusing.