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Episode 02: Live and Let Die
AppleTV+  ·  50 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: February 21, 2024

Directed by: Michelle MacLaren  |  Written by: Peter Harness

Official Synopsis: Jo seemingly blacks out and loses hours of time. Having lost contact with TsuP, she completes repairs and calculates deorbit parameters on her own. The strange occurrences continue, and Jo seemingly hallucinates that Paul is still alive. Jo recovers the CAL data core and records a farewell for Magnus and Alice that she leaves behind on the ISS. As Jo is inside the Soyuz MS and prepares to detach it from the space station, a complication arises that can only be fixed from outside the Soyuz, but the error is mysteriously fixed and Jo sees a shadowy figure watching her from the receding ISS. Jo lands safely and is reunited with her family, but Alice and Magnus are confused when she speaks to them in Swedish. In the flashforward, Jo recognizes the second Alice as “hers”; this Alice asks Jo if she is a ghost. Jo brings second Alice back to her cabin, but she disappears, leaving the other Alice that Jo doesn’t recognize.

Episode Recap
Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by Erin Qualey for Vulture, February 21, 2024

Watching people do things in space with a time limit is almost always compelling (see: The Martian, Gravity, Apollo 13), and the second episode of Constellation does not disappoint in that regard. In a tense hour, we watch with bated breath as an oxygen-strapped Jo struggles to fix the Soyuz 1 capsule by herself while the world stands by in horrified fascination. The episode is once again bookended by brief visits to a snowy vista in the near future. Jo rushes to safety in the warm cabin after finding who she thinks is the real Alice. She quickly runs a steaming hot bath for her freezing child — to anyone who has ever taken a First Aid class, this will register as a huge no-no, but hey, it’s a TV show — and then panics when they run out of hot water. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a warm, safe, sleeping Alice in the bedroom and starts to lose it. She whirls around the cabin, toggling her attention back and forth between the two girls, one in the bath and one in bed. Bath Alice is only seen through a fractured reflection in a mirror, and we also catch glimpses of Jo in that mirror as well. As Jo walks into the bathroom, Bath Alice is gone, and Bed Alice is awake and asking questions. Jo is flummoxed and furious. The scene abruptly ends by transitioning to Jo on the ISS. As I said in my previous recap, if the show hadn’t firmly established that the events in the cabin take place five weeks after the events in the ISS, I would be 100 percent convinced that Jo’s oxygen-addled brain was hallucinating it all. If the intent here is to disorient us, it’s successful.

Jo herself is somewhat untethered from reality as she floats around in the near-defunct ISS. She suddenly realizes that she has lost hours of precious time. What happened to her in those hours? Did she pass out due to stress and lack of oxygen? Or might this be an important gap in time that will get filled in later? Do we have a Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde situation going on here? She lost nearly 12 hours, right? At this point, though, it doesn’t really matter. All Jo knows is that she has to hustle if she wants to make it back to Earth. Her love for Alice and Magnus motivates her, and she works diligently to retrieve batteries from elsewhere in the station and reconnect them to power up Soyuz 1. As she works, she talks to hear someone’s voice, even if it is her own, and she starts to hallucinate a garbled message from her dead crewmate, Paul. Yes, Paul is still dead, but he comes back to haunt Jo in several ways throughout this episode. First, his head covering comes off, floating up to greet Jo as she’s hard at work. Jo takes an ill-advised break to replace it and lays in the capsule next to the body, wishing that someone, anyone, could hear her. She admits to no one in particular that she’s afraid of the dark. Jo is a stoic and capable woman, but she’s also vulnerable and terrified. And scary things just keep happening. She hallucinates (?) Paul’s voice as she plays back her own recording. He tells her to stop breathing, which is a horrifying thing to hear anyone say in any situation. A bit later, Paul’s hand floats into view. Curious, she follows it. It seems to be reaching out to her, so she grabs it, and for a second she sees her old friend on the other end of the disembodied limb. Jo returns to her work, successfully replacing all of the batteries and starting the undocking procedure. She still has no contact with TsUP. Every time she runs into a problem, she is the only one who can fix it, and we’re right there alongside her, adrenaline pumping through our veins. These moments feel akin to watching someone play a particularly tricky video-game sequence, only the penalty for losing the level is certain death. There’s a moment in which Jo keys in the previous de-orbit parameters, and the ancient onboard computer denies her because the parameters are outdated. Jo gives it a few hard whacks like one might smack a vending machine with a dangling treat. Voilà! It works. Later, when a bolt gets stuck and Jo finds out that it’s an issue that takes two crew members to resolve, the camera work seems to subtly be implying that someone or something (Paul’s disembodied hand?) intentionally assisted her from the outside of the hatch.

As Jo prepares to launch, she leaves a tearful and heartfelt message to both Magnus and Alice on her iPad. She thanks Magnus for the sacrifice he made so that she could go on this mission and then pours her heart out to Alice. When she says, “No matter what happens, my eyes are always on you,” it’s heartbreaking. Noomi Rapace makes Jo’s love for her daughter palpable, but we still don’t know what motivated her to spend an entire year away from her family and risk death in the process. Something tells me we’re going to find out. Of course we know that Jo doesn’t die. But let’s press pause on her for a moment as we check in with the humans on the ground. One of the most intriguing pairings in the episode is Henry and Irena. We see the two meet face-to-face at the landing strip in Kazakhstan, and even the first looks they give one another suggest a fraught relationship. They both appear to be very influential in the space community. Irena tells Henry that she’ll be pulling Russian support for the ISS project soon as it was never meant to run this long; Henry protests. But he’s mostly protesting because he wants his precious CAL back, and he’s not sure if Jo is going to make it. The two also share a cryptic exchange in which Henry asks Irena about her sister, and she says that he should know that she passed away years ago. When Irena asks Henry the same question, he says that he hasn’t heard from his brother in “many years, thank God.” But it doesn’t exactly feel like Henry is telling the truth about this mystery brother. In fact, it seems like Irena and Henry both have firsthand experience with what is happening to Jo in real time. Are these mysterious “siblings” actually other halves that came back with them from space somehow? We see Henry’s identical brother, Bud, give an interview to a major news organization about Jo’s situation, and he gets increasingly angry with the reporter’s line of questioning. (Breaking Bad fans will enjoy Banks trotting out his signature Mike Ehrmantraut sneer on glorious display here.) It’s unclear whether Bud is Henry’s twin, a space apparition, or living in a separate universe, but one thing is for sure — Bud Caldera has an anger problem.

Elsewhere, we meet Frederic. Apparently, Frederic was the dude who trained Jo for four straight years in order to complete this mission, and he’s got some pull with the space people. Magnus pleads with him to try to do something to save Jo, and Frederic comes up short. There’s a sense that this smarmy space bro may be the reason that Magnus and Jo were having problems before she left, and this information makes me want to know a whole lot more about all of these relationships. All that’s left for the people on the ground to do is wait. So they do. And, when the countdown ticks to zero, they immediately give up hope. Irena gives a short prayer that cryptically mentions “brothers and sisters,” a callback to her prior exchange with Henry. Everyone somberly resigns themselves to Jo’s fate except the industrious Sergei, who continues to broadcast to her in case she can hear them. Sergei is a real one. Mere minutes later, they get a signal. It’s Jo! Sergei is so elated that his little headset almost pops off. They confirm that she has the CAL and then they ask her to change her parameters. The girl is hurtling through literal space at 8Gs, so … no. Obviously she can’t reach 7 million buttons to change her parameters, so she’s just destined to fall where she may, and the team will have to find her.

In a thrilling sequence, the cavalry convenes to search for the capsule as it falls. Dozens of helicopters and trucks are deployed, rumbling across the desert to find a single human. As citizens of the universe, we all have a vested interest in humans coming home safely from space, and this overwhelming team effort is heartening. Jo lands. The images of the stark, otherworldly capsule against the arid desert landscape are captivating. The orange-and-white parachute catches a gust of wind, and for a moment it feels like the whole thing might go off a cliff. But honestly, what’s another hundred or so feet when that thing has just dropped hundreds of miles from the sky, am I right? Jo is elated and, despite her body’s protests over being reintroduced to gravity, she somehow makes it out of the capsule, only to come face-to-face with a wolf. It’s unclear whether or not this is a hallucination — only the boldest or dumbest of wolves would come close to a giant capsule that just fell from the sky — but there’s not much time to contemplate the situation because the cavalry arrives, and the wolf runs away. So much for Jo being hard to find. Jo is elated to be home and even more elated to be reunited with Magnus and Alice. As the family is evacuated from the site via helicopter, Jo and Alice hold hands. As they touch, they simultaneously experience the sensation of losing the other and being totally alone in the helicopter. They both have respective moments of panic but are quickly reunited in psychic space. Oddly, neither tells the other about what they’ve just experienced. It feels very strange that Alice is also experiencing these skips in reality.

Jo goes right back to being blissfully back on her home planet, taking a deep breath and saying, “You forget how Earth smells.” It feels worth mentioning that Jo’s sense of smell is prominent three times in this episode, first in the present timeline when Jo smells the “rescued” Alice and rejoices in her scent, and then again when she frantically smells the other Alice and only registers feelings of panic. If Earth is home, then so is Alice. Smell is the sense most tied to memory, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this comes up again in a later episode. Back in the snow, Jo retrieves the CAL from a nearby shed and insists that the other Alice come with her. The exchange: “Where is she?” “Who?!” “You!” is pretty great. And, as the two head out into the elements to find the other Alice, it feels very much like they’re racing into a blizzard to chase an apparition.

Guest Cast: William Catlett (Paul Lancaster), Barbara Sukowa (Irene Lysenko), Lenn Kudrjawizki (Sergei Vassiliev), Chipo Chung (Michaela Moyone), Rebecca Scroggs (Frida Lancaster), Sadie Sweet (Wendy Lancaster), Dmitry Koynov (Helicopter Pilot), Alexey Golousenko (Ground Crew Member), Anton Levit (Mission Controller), Philipp Fortunkov (Rescue Team Member)