“The Abyss Stares Back” concludes with a twist that is supposed to reframe everything we’ve seen in Nightflyers thus far, but it’s so silly that it might work to undermine the show in the long run.
This recap of Nightflyers Episode 3, “The Abyss Stares Back”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s only fitting that a show like Nightflyers – which thus far has cribbed from countless go-to sci-fi and horror staples – opens its third episode, “The Abyss Stares Back”, with that classic genre fixture of the idealistic academic – in this case, Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken) – trying to explain to his skeptical colleagues what’s out there in the great unknown. Extra-terrestrials? Weirdo peeping-Tom starship captains? All of the above?
“The Abyss Stares Back” certainly has no shortage of that last one. Captain Roy Eris (David Ajala) is keeping secrets from everyone and nobody knows why. Now and again he randomly teleports somewhere near Melantha (Jodie Turner-Smith) so he can ogle her, despite the fact she’s having it away with Lommie (Maya Eshet). Those two are having a better time of things than Karl, who is becoming increasingly paranoid about the captain’s – and, for that matter, the ship’s – dodgy behaviour, while Hartley (Youssey Kerkour) can’t shake flashbacks to the robot spider attack from the previous episode or stop imagining ghosts roaming the halls. But is he only imagining it?
Nightflyers has shifted blame for everything pretty rapidly from Thale (Sam Strike) to Eris, which seems like somewhat inconsistent characterization to me, but what do I know? Dr. Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol) naturally thinks he’s a darling, as does Tessia (Miranda Raison), that weird bee lady, but Rowan (Angus Sampson) isn’t convinced. He has a conversation with the telepath that includes a white rabbit and a tapeworm, which I’m sure is all kinds of ominous symbolism. Lommie connects with the ship as per Karl’s insistence, but the system begins deleting itself; Malantha, being “genetically engineered for space travel”, braves a cloud of radiation to fix an engineering fault; and Karl and Rowan head out in search of the captain’s DNA to break through biometric locks in certain areas of the ship. Oh, and eventually Hartley suffers a psychotic break, tries to take the ship’s bridge crew hostage, and gets his neck snapped by the captain. Phew.
That’s a lot happening to say that it really doesn’t feel like much is happening at all, with that stretched-thin, time-killing feeling still being the greatest drawback of Nightflyers, but at least “The Abyss Stares Back” had the decency to end with a bit of a cliffhanger reveal. In Eris’s private quarters Karl is beset by a physical manifestation of his wife, who starts plucking out bits of her brain and chucking them at him, and it’s only when Eris arrives to call her off that he reveals his psychotic dead mother’s personality was uploaded into the Nightflyer and she has been trying to kill everyone the whole time. Well, if you say so!
You can check out our thoughts on the next episode by clicking these words.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.