It's difficult to describe Apple TV+'s new series Constellation, starring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks.
Part sci-fi, part space opera, part psychological thriller, part ghost story, it's in a box all on its own – but one thing's for sure, it's absolutely spectacular.
Starring the incomparable Rapace as astronaut Jo, the series follows a traumatic mission into space and the aftermath, which sees our hero find her home very different to how she left it.
Her husband Magnus, played by James D'Arcy, doesn't know what's going on – and neither does her daughter Alice, played by newcomers Rosie and Davina Coleman. But, as Jo starts to make some kind of sense of her situation, the stranger it becomes.
Created by former Doctor Who writer Peter Harness and Michelle MacLaren (who picked up two Primetime Emmys for her work on Breaking Bad), Constellation will have viewers hooked from beginning to end as they try – and fail – to predict what will happen next in the twisty thriller.
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At times, it'll have you tearing out your hair in frustration for Jo. At others, it'll have your heart in your mouth.
The twists and turns are brilliant (and we're keeping completely quiet about the jaw-dropping ending), but it's how grounded the show is that sets it apart. It absolutely ran the risk of falling into the same traps that psychological thrillers often do – spending too much time on the surprising us that the characters are pretty much forgotten about. Not Constellation.
At its heart, it's a character-driven story, and Rapace's chemistry with her co-stars always... brings it back to Earth (sorry). The show's dedication to Jo's role as a mother is particularly effective. Amid all the craziness, Jo and Alice are always the focal point and everything is always brought back to a simple story of a mother trying to find her way back to her daughter.
Youngsters Rosie and Davina Coleman are perfectly cast as Alice, Jo's intelligent and terrified daughter who has no idea what's happened to her mum.
Meanwhile, Breaking Bad star Banks plays former astronaut Henry Caldera – a character slightly separated from Jo's story – but he completely steals the show whenever he's on screen. We can't say too much about his story beyond an already intriguing first-look image (look closely – there's more to that scene than first meets the eye) but his performance as a whole is completely mesmerising.
The supporting cast are just as brilliant and just as essential to the success of the series. William Catlett stars as Paul Lancaster, a teammate of Jo's, while Barbara Sukowa plays the mysterious Irene Lysenko – and they're just two of the standout supporting cast members.
All of this is not to say that Constellation is a completely flawless series – the pacing in the middle could definitely have been improved and it falls into the trap so many series do in the current TV landscape of favouring a slightly confusing cliffhanger over wrapping up the story a little more in the hopes of securing a second season.
For this series, though, I can almost forgive it.
The concept of Constellation isn't worlds away from anything that's been done before (it's not hard to think of a fair few other shows with similar starting premises) – but the execution is brilliant. Pairing a desolate setting of space with the isolation Jo goes through when she returns home makes for a simple but gripping ride – and it'll prove very difficult not to race through the episodes.
Plus, Constellation is just the latest in a series of shows that have made Apple TV+ a force to be reckoned with when it comes to sci-fi, from Severance to Silo. It wouldn't be a surprise at all if Constellation reaches the same kind of heights as its predecessors – it certainly deserves to.
The first three episodes of Constellation will be available to stream on Apple TV+ from Wednesday 21st February.