The trailers may focus on the sci-fi elements, but this is an emotional drama about an aging couple with great performances from its leads, Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons.
This recap of the Amazon Prime Video series Night Sky season 1, episode 1, contains spoilers.
In old age, there are two inevitabilities — either your mental health deteriorates or your physical health does. Amazon Prime Video’s new sci-fi series Night Sky explores both sides of this coin with a loving married couple. Wife Irene York (played by Sissy Spacek) is still recovering from a fall she had last year and is mostly wheelchair-bound, whilst her husband Franklin (J.K. Simmons) is becoming rather forgetful, to the point it’s now affecting his everyday life. All this would make for an interesting and at times moving drama in itself (which Night Sky is), but creator Holden Miller has decided to throw in some sci-fi fantasy too, with the couple hiding a secret portal to an alien world under their garden shed, as you do. The opening episode “To The Stars” addresses both these human and alien aspects of the streaming service’s latest show.
Night Sky season 1, episode 1 recap
With Spacek and Simmons, you have some serious acting chops on display, but the opening scene reverts to flashbacks instead. A much younger Franklin first lays eyes upon his future wife at a crowded bar, where he fumbles a pool shot so he can introduce himself to the lucky lady. Fast forward fifty-odd years and the couple are happily married, if a little worse for wear. As I mentioned before, these pensioners have quite the secret buried in their garden and the show wastes no time at all in opening up that rabbit hole. The couple makes their way down to the alien portal and are whisked to a viewing platform that exhibits quite the view. A breath-taking vista of stars, constellations, and planets awaits them. From body language and the odd comment, you know this isn’t something new to them, but its secrecy is paramount. I wonder how long it stays that way.
The portal and the viewing platform obviously elicit a thousand questions and this mystery seems to be at the center of the whole production, not just a throwaway plot point. Early on the Yorks drop little clues to its history and the dangers surrounding it, yet they clearly know very little themselves. It has the appeal of Lost’s season two hatch and the scope for an endless array of possible directions to send the story in. Hopefully, the filmmakers don’t squander this delicious concept.
As the couple exit the shed in the middle of the night, a mysterious man watches on from the bushes. Later, he’s revealed to be a friendly if suspicious neighbor called Byron. He knows they’re hiding something and begins snooping around for evidence, but can’t quite prove any wrongdoing. Few characters are introduced in the premiere and those that are don’t carry the same star power as our aging leads. “To The Stars” spends most of its time with the couple, saving the other cast members for later installments.
Irene visits the doctors and Franklin decides to spend his free time running errands. He goes shopping before meeting up with granddaughter Denise. She’s concerned for her grandparents’ health and nosey neighbor Byron has contacted her, mentioning the old couple being out in the dark at night. There’s no denying that J.K. Simmons is a strong, powerful man (have you seen him in Tomorrow War?), yet here he comes across as quite frail and unsure of himself. It’s a depressing angle, focusing on the fragility of later life, but director Juan Jose Campanella manages to draw some heartfelt emotion from it, as the couple appears both authentic and loving. The opener does its job, hooking you in, leaving you ready to hang on the Yorks’ every word, hoping they end victorious. This is one couple you don’t want to see get hurt. Excellent storytelling that introduces a great concept and teases many possibilities.
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