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Episode 04: The Left Hand of God
AppleTV+  ·  50 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: February 28, 2024

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel  |  Written by: Peter Harness

Official Synopsis: Jo is increasingly disturbed by differences between her memories and the world around her, including the revelation that she’s been having an affair with Frederic, head of ESA. Henry takes the CAL data core to ESA, where Jo has visions when it is active. Henry theorizes that the CAL may have opened a pathway to another universe. Jo realizes that the “vitamin” given to her is lithium, which was also secretly given to a handful of other astronauts who displayed erratic behavior during or after their time in space. Jo briefly slips into another universe where cleaners are emptying her office and cannot see her. Jo receives a package from Skagerrak Marine Observatory containing audio recordings made of Jo in the ISS after she’d lost contact with TsuP, and of the accidental death of a female cosmonaut in 1967. Alice panics when she slips into the other universe where a wake is being held for Jo; Alice and her doppelganger look at each other. Jo and Magnus fight, and during the struggle Magnus hits his head in a fall. Ian Rogers’ death is investigated by the FBI.

Episode Recap
Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by Erin Qualey for Vulture, February 28, 2024

Orange is warm. It’s inviting. It can also denote a warning. Blue is cool. It’s calming. It can also be icy and dangerous. In Constellation, both colors play a significant role in the world-building of the series. This week, the meaning behind the color dyad comes into focus as Jo begins to uncover more about her altered reality and how her existence has changed since returning to Earth. This week, we learned that the wrong Jo landed in the wrong timeline. The Jo from the current timeline died on the ISS, while this Jo managed to stay alive and return to Earth. We also learn that the bizarro version of Jo was definitely having an affair with Frederic and that she could skillfully play the piano. Why the two versions of Jo switched is still unclear, but for now, the current Jo is stuck and flailing for answers. While Jo gamely tries to settle back into her life on Earth, there are too many inconsistencies to allow her to relax back into things. Both Alice and Magnus remember a more detached version of the woman they see now, and both of them seemed resigned to losing her even before things went haywire during her mission. It feels particularly cruel that the devoted mother and wife landed in the timeline where her alter ego was kind of shit to her family, but here we are. Constellation isn’t trying to pull any punches here with the idea of Jo’s sanity; the show firmly establishes that her version of events is the correct one. As the ground starts to shift under her, we go along for the terrifying ride with her. This is not her beautiful house; she is not the cheating wife.

And she doesn’t play the piano. When Jo spies the piano and feels drawn to sit down even though she knows she doesn’t play, a moment of pure bodily horror unfolds when her hands begin to dart across the keys with skillful precision. She is not herself, she feels out of control, and she has no one to confide in.

Through a series of events with a god-awful therapist, Jo finds out that the vitamins that she’s been given are actually lithium-7, and she begins to suspect that someone is trying to silence her. When Jo tries to confide in the therapist about her rough return, the therapist gives her some roundabout gobbledygook about PTSD and, instead of being a professional and helping her process what she saw, she presses pills on Jo even when Jo insists that she doesn’t want them. This is why people don’t see therapists! Honestly, though, this terrible woman is probably part of the larger cover-up, but it seems odd that the ESA wouldn’t coordinate efforts to try to hide the fact that lithium-7 and the “Star City Vitamins” are one and the same. The idea of taking pills as a quick fix to make unpleasant things go away is peppered throughout this episode. Henry and Irena presumably continue to dutifully take their meds — I’m going to guess that they know what they contain — but Bud quits his despite protests from his daughter. By the end of the episode, Jo doesn’t seem to be taking hers anymore, either.

But first, Jo heads to ESA to do some research on the matter. She runs her pills through a fancy testing machine that confirms that they are, in fact, lithium, and then she starts to do some digging. She finds out that she’s been given a different version of the vitamins, marked “B,” and the rest of her crew has “A.” Hmm. She goes down a bit of a rabbit hole, finding that all of the astronauts who were given her version of the vitamins eventually cracked up. As an outside observer, I’d say that the pill-popping attempt to quell the visions and whatnot from the timey-wimey space stuff that seems to happen on every single mission is failing miserably. Bathed in the now-trademark dual orange and blue hues of the series, the sequence in the ESA is strikingly beautiful. As two of the only people in the building, Henry’s and Jo’s stories overlap, and the color palette is implemented to great effect. While the palette was defined in early episodes by director Michelle MacLaren, the director of episodes three and four, Oliver Hirshbiegel, begins to deploy the contrasting hues as a vital narrative device. Both Henry and Jo experience breaks in their realities during this time — Henry is surrounded by a soft orange glow as he confides in a colleague who is not actually there, and Jo exists in sepia tones as she witnesses movers removing items from her office under a harsher bluish light. The sequence with Jo is particularly interesting, as the movers cannot see her, but when she gets right up in one of their faces, she’s able to break through to the alternate reality for a moment. Interesting. Later, she dashes down a bright-orange staircase. It’s worth noting that as Henry talks to his (nonexistent) colleague about the CAL, he’s aware that he sounds slightly off. Yet he knows that something is going on. He invokes the observer effect, an idea in physics that states that an experiment can be changed just by the act of observing it. Henry believes that, as the observer, he is being changed by the CAL experiment. He’s the only one who can see the rings, after all. He’s scribbling incoherent pictures that look like a child’s drawing of an owl! And yet. In a thrilling yet brief scene, we also see that the FBI agent assigned to Bud’s case sees the same pattern. When she’s checking the CCTV footage of Bud’s altercation with the snooty reporter, the screen goes wonky, and two rippling pools disturb the image. It seems like the universe doesn’t want Bud to get caught for his misdeeds. It’s still unclear if Bud and Henry are actually brothers or if they are in two separate timelines, but it’s starting to feel like the two-timeline theory is the more plausible scenario.

As the episode draws to a close, Jo becomes increasingly frantic over the gap in her memory versus her current reality. She has a fight with both Frederic (ew) and Magnus about her mental state, and as everyone is chilling out from that altercation, she finds a package addressed to her with tapes claiming to contain recordings of when she was alone on the ISS. The package also has a tape of a female cosmonaut from November of 1967. Could this be Irena? And, if so, which Irena is it? There’s not much time to contemplate this as Alice wakes up, stumbles downstairs, and sees a horrifying tableau. She scans the room and sees Paul’s daughter, Wendy, but then she catches a glimpse of herself. She’s at a funeral for her mom. In the alternate reality, it seems as if Jo died and Paul survived. However, it’s still unclear as to why Alice is also having these visions when she was not actually in space. Is it her emotional connection to her mom? Alice screams her little head off, and Magnus tries to put her back to bed in the cupboard. This sets off an argument between Jo and Magnus that results in Magnus getting bonked on the head and Jo absconding with Alice. There are several gasp-worthy moments in this week’s Constellation — the scene in which Jo breaks the reality barrier is one, and the scene in which the FBI agent sees the weird swirl pattern is another — but the most shocking and eerie beat comes in the last few seconds. I initially watched this episode right before bedtime, and the image of the Gollum-like skeleton that inexplicably lingers onscreen at the end haunted my dreams.

Eagle-eyed viewers might have clocked that we’ve seen this creepy dude before. When Jo enters the second snowy cabin and rescues the “real” Alice in the first episode, she passes by Hugo Simberg’s painting titled The Wounded Angel that’s in the original cabin. However, instead of an angel on the stretcher, there’s this guy. In the new painting that caps this episode, he’s sitting in the cabin. Presumably he’s the devil? Or perhaps he’s supposed to serve as a warning sign for Jo that she shouldn’t be messing with her current reality.

Guest Cast: Chipo Chung (Michaela Moyone), Clare-Hope Ashitey (Agent Lenora Bright), Mona Vojacek Koper (Agent Iona Frost), Bettina Hoppe (Jenny Gruber), Reiner Schöne (Professor Louis Freeman), Michel Diercks (Jimmy Wangel), Joshua Spriggs (Conspiracy Theorist), Rankin James Duffy (Pupil in Classroom), Thilo Prothmann (Otto, Cleaner), Joachim Foerster (Stefan, Cleaner), Holly Horne (voice of Connie Caldera)