“Dark Matter” Season 1 Review: A Physicist is Abducted and Sent To Another Reality

Dark Matter Season 1 Review
Dark Matter Season 1 Review

Newly released on Apple TV+, “Dark Matter” is an absorbing science fiction thriller that delves into parallel universes. The show is based on the best-selling book by Blake Crouch and was created and written by him as well. The first three episodes of the series are directed by Jakob Verbruggen, who directed episodes of The House of Cards, Black Mirror, and The Invasion. The story revolves around Jason Dessen (played by Joel Edgerton), an eminent physicist who finds his life turned upside down when he is kidnapped and subsequently wakes up in a different world. 

The first season of “Dark Matter” includes nine episodes. Following the debut of Dark Matter’s first two episodes on Wednesday, May 8, the series will adopt a weekly release schedule until its conclusion on June 26, 2024.

The Story

It all starts with Jason Dessen, an elated husband and father. He has a perfect life, such as a loving wife, Daniela (Jennifer Connelly), a supportive son, Charlie (Oakes Fegley), and a good job as a professor of physics. Nevertheless, Jason is engulfed in feelings of nostalgia when his old friend Ryan Holder (Jimmi Simpson) calls him. In this place, he reminds him of the time before marriage when he had a passion for scientific research.

Jason wrestles with the desire to join Ryan’s new venture but ultimately chooses stability. It was on that fateful day, while heading home, that his world turned upside down. Jason finds himself abducted by someone wearing a mask, who leads him into an abandoned factory. This is where he encounters the same question that keeps appearing in his mind: “Are you happy with your life?” But before saying anything about it, he gets drugged up and pushed into another world.

Jason wakes up surrounded by complete strangers. Amanda Lucas (Alice Braga) and Leighton Vance (Dayo Okeniyi) make up the group that looks familiar but unknown to him. They believe that he is one of the founders of Velocity Labs Corporation and want answers from him regarding an inexplicable incident that happened to him sometime back. But Jason is utterly confused, he has no memory of this other life or the company.

A terrified Jason manages to escape from the facility. He sprints home, ready to see his family, but finds an empty house instead. Daniela is not there, and Amanda, who has caught up with him, tells him one shocking truth: in this reality, he isn’t married but lives with her.

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Directional and Technical Aspects

The most attractive thing about “Dark Matter” resides in its portrayal of an imaginary multi-verse that emanates from every choice made. In the center of this adventure is Jason Dessen, who moves across different worlds in search of his home. There were changes made during the adaptation for film, which resulted in discrepancies between the two versions, though it is these changes that couple with the prevailing sci-fi theme to suggest that the TV show occupies a different world within the novel’s canon.

Cinematographically, Dark Matter applies similar techniques used by many contemporary prestige television thrillers by using dull colors in the daytime and atmospheric lighting at night. Despite being visually consistent, Dark Matter fails to stand out distinctly from other similar shows, remaining grounded in its sci-fi set-up. As well as this, there is also muted sound design, which played such an important role in Constellation.

Apart from Joel Edgerton’s compelling performance, Dark Matter is loved because it moves swiftly and uses creative cliffhangers a lot throughout its eight episodes, which are perfectly crafted. The writers and directors have successfully fitted each installment with story beats, ending every episode on a teasing note that lures viewers to come back for subsequent episodes. Therefore, each episode feels involved but does not last longer than necessary. 

The show is, however, criticized for its clichedness and for using the same formulas as other sci-fi movies on alternate realities. However, the writer has made some changes to the TV plot to push forward the story and keep viewers entertained. One does wonder if nine episodes is too much for this story. 

Actors Performance

Joel Edgerton’s playing two versions of Jason throughout the show is one of the most captivating things about Dark Matter. Other key actors, such as Jennifer Connelly and Jimmi Simpson, have dual versions of themselves, but what Edgerton does is rich and nuanced. At first, he introduces us to Jason, full of constant desperation, who finds himself navigating through unfamiliar surroundings. The portrayal by Edgerton is remarkable for its intensity, as it draws viewers into the inner struggle of the character.

However, it is when he becomes the alternate Jason that Edgerton truly outshines himself, adding an unpredictably sinister twist to the character that keeps audiences on tenterhooks.

Jennifer Connelly delivers another compelling performance in her role as Daniela from the prime world. Despite being totally ignorant at first, she uses her characteristic strength to build a complex story arc for her character. In contrast, Connolly’s double plays provide great differences, making her an all-rounder actress.

Jimmi Simpson also stands out among the supporting cast members, as he perfectly complements Edgerton’s characters in different worlds. Regardless of the universe or version of Ryan he portrays, Simpson delivers a performance that complements and enhances the dynamics of each scene. His ability to seamlessly transition between different iterations of his character adds depth and dimension to the narrative, making him a key player in the series’ success.

Audience Appeal

This series is the perfect fit for anyone who loves science fiction thrillers with a dash of mystique to them. In this show, the notion of alternative realities is dealt with in a very thought-provoking and suspenseful manner. People who are into shows like “Black Mirror” or “Lost” will likely find the examination of identity, choice, and consequences of scientific investigations fascinating.

Nevertheless, those individuals who prefer quick actions may not appreciate the slow-burn pacing as well as the emphasis on constructing the central enigma. Furthermore, some people might be disturbed by the themes of abduction and reality that have been split apart in this series.

Final Thoughts

The show has made important improvements to the tale but had an overly drawn-out start that presumed genre familiarity among viewers, thus limiting exposition requirements. The actors do a great job, as the show employs strong acting that successfully conveys its deeply moving ideas. However, sometimes it wanders, just like the main character, who has various worlds to navigate across.

If the show follows the general story of the book, then the ending would be a good one. Just like in the book, where he would be able to go back home and see his family again, things will possibly end in the same way for our “Dark Matter” hero on TV. Thus, it is impossible for the two Jasons from the book and TV to meet since, according to the books’ storyline, Jason will regain his previous life.

It’s yet to be seen how the hype of the first two episodes holds up in the next seven episodes. So far, “Dark Matter” looks like a promising sci-fi show despite its criticisms. Stay tuned on Apple TV+ for the next episodes!