Dark Matter TV Review

Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly lead a stellar thriller based on the acclaimed science fiction novel.

Last Updated on May 3, 2024

Dark Matter review

PLOT: The series will follow Jason Dessen, a physicist, professor, and family man who — one night while walking home on the streets of Chicago — is abducted into an alternate version of his life. Wonder quickly turns to nightmare when he tries to return to his reality amid the mind-bending landscape of lives he could have lived. In this labyrinth of realities, he embarks on a harrowing journey to get back to his true family and save them from the most terrifying, unbeatable foe imaginable: himself.

REVIEW: Earlier this year, AppleTV+ debuted a series about alternate realities and dueling versions of characters in Constellation. That series carried a heavy science fiction focus that showed how parallel universes can carry paranoid variations on the lives of characters shifting between worlds. Dark Matter mines similar territory but in a far more grounded manner. Using the conceits of the thriller genre, Dark Matter adapts the best-selling novel by Blake Crouch into a masterful genre outing that defies the conventions of sci-fi with a broader tale full of twists, turns, and stellar performances from Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Connelly, and Alice Braga. Captivating from the first episode, Dark Matter is exceptional storytelling.

Dark Matter opens with Jason Dessen, a physicist living in Chicago, his wife Daniela (Jennifer Connelly), and their son Charlie (Oakes Fegley) leading a happy life as a family. Working as a professor at a local college, Jason learns that his best friend Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) has won a prestigious science prize, which he has yearned to achieve. Never questioning his decisions in life, Jason is offered a job by Ryan, which would upend their happy home in Chicago. On his way home, Jason is mugged by a masked assailant who forces him to strip to his boxers and enter a strange room in an abandoned warehouse. After an odd conversation, Jason passes out, only to awaken in an unfamiliar facility where he meets Amanda (Alice Braga) and other unfamiliar people. Paranoid, Jason breaks out of the facility only to discover he is not in his own reality while his doppelganger has taken his place alongside Daniela.

Echoing Jason’s opening reference to the Schroedinger’s Cat thought experiment, Dark Matter delves into the idea of what a single change in decision-making could lead to. In the alternate world, Jason has created a machine that allows humans to traverse these distinct timelines, something his double has used to go to a world where he stayed with the love of his life. This triggers two narratives following unique genre structures to tell a fascinating and complex story. In one timeline, Alternate Jason is the strange one surrounded by people who feel something off about him, while in the other, Main Jason must come to terms with being the fish out of water in a world foreign to him. It is a brilliant and original way to focus a story like this that allows for elements of paranoid thrillers to mix with complex scientific ideas.

Dark Matter review

It also helps that Joel Edgerton is a fantastic lead as both versions of Jason Dessen. Edgerton is an incredibly talented actor who embodies an everyman quality in these roles while giving the audience a way to orient themselves to this convoluted myriad of universes. Jennifer Connelly and Alice Braga are equally skilled at playing different relationships that are key to each version of Jason, who must acclimate themselves to men who are not who they truly know. The whole cast is quite good, especially Jimmi Simpson and Dayo Okeniyi as colleagues of Jason’s who factor into the scientific process that kickstarts this tale. Altogether, Dark Matter must traverse some tricky plot conundrums but pulls it off without much of an issue. Because of how strong the acting is in this series, you are easily able to commit to the mind-altering complexity of this story.

Novelist Blake Crouch had previously attempted to adapt his book for a feature film. Still, the nine-episode series format benefits the narrative far better than a two-hour movie ever could. By changing elements of his novel and expanding others, Crouch himself has stated the series is an improvement over the source material. Filmed on location in Chicago, the series does not rely on significant special effects, but that does not mean this series is not deeply rooted in science fiction. The directing team, led by Jakob Verbruggen on the first three episodes and followed by helmers Logan George & Celine Held, Alik Sakharov, and Roxann Dawson, use the urban landscape of the city in both daytime and noir-esque night sequences that add to the atmosphere and mood of Dark Matter. This series looks fantastic and offers a look, unlike many other genre offerings on television, along with an eerie score by Mindhunter composer Jason Hill.

Whether you have read the novel or not, avoid any details about Dark Matter if you can help it. There are so many great angles this story takes that are unconventional for a series like this that discovering them from episode to episode enhances the experience of this story. Based on the cast alone, Dark Matter is worth checking out. AppleTV+ continues to excel as a home for creative expansions in the science fiction genre, but Dark Matter may be their best project since Severance. After the premiere episodes debut, Dark Matter will move to a weekly release schedule, and I cannot think of a better way to parse out this great tale that will have audiences theorizing week to week about what will come next.

Dark Matter premieres with two episodes on May 8th on AppleTV+.

Dark Matter



Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

5901 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.