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Episode 06: Paul Is Dead
AppleTV+  ·  50 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: March 13, 2024

Directed by: Joseph Cedar  |  Written by: Peter Harness

Official Synopsis: In another universe, the ISS is hit by debris, and Jo is killed when thrown against the cupola. Paul is the astronaut left behind to fix Soyuz 1, during which he keeps hearing the sound of Jo breathing. Alice, upon being told of Jo’s death, hides in a cupboard and has a vision of Jo approaching her. NASA allows Paul to leave Jo’s corpse on the ISS. Paul faces a complication with the Soyuz that can only be fixed from the outside, but the error is fixed on its own and he sees a shadowy figure watching him from the ISS. After returning safely, Paul is disturbed by differences between his memories and the world he’s in, including how the CAL has never existed. Paul and his family attend the wake at the Ericsson house, where Paul and Alice see the other universe where Jo is alive. Paul finds Bud, who realizes he’s from a universe where Apollo 18 was a success. When Paul presses for answers, Bud loses his temper and shoots him. Alice insists that Magnus take her to the cabin, where Alice sees Jo arrive as well.

Episode Recap
Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by Erin Qualey for Vulture, March 13, 2024

Let’s be very clear about one thing before we start: Jo would never have left Paul behind. Never. Not in a hundred multiverses. I feel very strongly about this. That’s why, when Paul guides Jo’s rigid corpse into the abandoned shell of the ISS, it feels all the more brutal — a slap in the cosmic face that can never be undone. This week, Constellation finally provided concrete answers by showing us what happened on the ISS from Paul’s perspective. And wow, is that pre-credits scene a doozy? Everything is as it was. Jo is chatting with Alice, and Paul starts the CAL experiment. As he locks in lasers with Audrey, we switch to the perspective of an object rapidly approaching the ISS. (Did the CAL open some sort of portal for Irena’s body to slip through? Discuss!) The object hits and Jo goes flying. The scene goes out of focus for a few seconds, and Jo is suspended in time and space, trying desperately to get back to her FaceTime chat with Alice. This moment seems to be when reality splits, and Jo and Paul switch places because moments later, a space vacuum sucks this Jo into a corridor and ends her particular journey. The tremendous suction flings her directly into a window that looks down on Earth. The sickening sound of her frontal lobe hitting the glass, coupled with the copious amount of blood that immediately pools around her head, is a shocking beat that confirms that the “other” version of Jo is dead. While we’ve visited this knockoff version of reality before — Bud exists here, after all — we haven’t seen the direct fallout from the collapse of the ISS. In this parallel universe, we follow Paul as he navigates the aftermath. It comes as no surprise that he’s experiencing gaps and changes in his reality as well. After the accident, he immediately searches for the CAL. It’s gone … because it doesn’t exist in the timeline he’s been transported to. Later, this becomes a sticking point in the hearings that take place following Paul’s return. Much like Jo with the dead body, Paul knows what he experienced, and he’s getting a really eerie feeling when no one else believes him.

Paul also experiences odd happenings while he’s trying to escape from the ISS. It’s all a mirror of what Jo experienced during her time alone in space. In a way, both astronauts are being haunted by the ghost of their crewmate, only the ghost is actually alive in another reality. Jo hears Paul’s voice in a recording, and Paul hears Jo’s voice in a recording. Jo hallucinates holding onto Paul’s hand, and Paul hallucinates grabbing hold of Jo’s hand. While all of these instances are mirrored experiences, something else also appears to be at play here. Why did the corpse head coverings float away in both realities? And who — or what — pressed the button from inside the ISS to release the jammed bolts on the Soyuz capsule? Back in my premiere recap, I theorized that the camerawork wanted us to think that it was Paul’s disembodied arm that pressed the button to release Jo, and perhaps it did. But then, did Jo’s corpse press the button in Paul’s timeline? And, if so, how? And why? Before Paul leaves, though, he hears Jo breathing, and he freaks out. Admittedly, there are many reasons for him to freak out here. His nearly dead crewmate might possibly be sucking up his limited supply of oxygen as she tenaciously holds onto life, and also, um, he’s alone with his friend who is dying and he can’t do anything to help her. So, instead, he leaves her behind, unceremoniously pushing her into the body of the ISS. This man is supposed to be the mission’s commander and he can’t even deal with this? For a moment, I kind of wished he had died in both timelines because that’s what people who abandon their friends in space deserve!

Ultimately, I’m glad Paul isn’t dead in this timeline. The contrast between how Paul and Jo deal with the ensuing weirdness of returning to an altered state of reality is fascinating. William Catlett is terrific at playing Paul’s disbelief and confusion as it manifests in an indignant anger to the outside world. Paul is clearly a man who is used to being in control at all times, and here he has none. He also harbors crippling guilt over leaving Jo behind (as he should), but he has no one to talk to about any of it. When his crewmates ask if he’s had his psych eval, Paul’s reaction is almost violent. His temper flares up under the surface as he gruffly declares that he is in control. The picture that Constellation is painting of space agencies and their treatment of mental-health issues is not a very flattering one. Both Jo and Paul are terrified to tell anyone the truth for fear of repercussions, and they’re both (rightfully) very skeptical of the pills they’ve been given. It’s a safe bet that if we ever see the inside of that “rehabilitation” clinic that Frederic mentioned to Magnus and Michaela mentioned to Erica this week, nothing good will be happening there. Yet again, I wonder: If all the astronauts are coming back with mental-health issues and claiming they’re having breaks in their reality, then it’s probably time to come up with a better plan to help them. Or, better yet, maybe just stop sending people into space?! Eventually, Paul ends up at Jo’s funeral. His daughter, Wendy, grabs Alice and brings her over to him. Wendy overheard a panicked Paul tell his wife that Jo might still be alive up there, and she wants him to share that news with Alice. We know this is ridiculous because, even if Jo had been alive when Paul left, there was no more oxygen in the ISS, so she’s most certainly dead. But Alice hears this and wonders.

In addition to following Paul in the aftermath of the ISS accident, we also see what’s happening to this version of Alice, whose mother died in space. It still feels very odd that both versions of Alice are experiencing oddities in their realities and can see through the time-space continuum, especially when Wendy, Paul’s daughter, isn’t experiencing the same thing. Is it because Alice was FaceTiming her mother when reality split? Does it have to do with the mystical CAL? Or is the mother-daughter bond just that strong? Constellation doesn’t seem to be offering any explanation for this … at least not yet. Much like with Paul, we get to see the mirror images of what Jo experienced on the ISS in the premiere, but now we see these incidents through Alice’s eyes. The sequence in which Jo hallucinates finding Alice’s beads on a cabinet door within the ISS is actually Alice! Her Alice! And Alice saw her too! Well, she saw Jo’s flashlight, anyway. Later, she hears her mother playing the piano from an alternate dimension. Her ability to see into the alternate reality isn’t limited to Jo. She also sees a flickering reflection of Henry in a window. We also see that the person who the “other” Alice saw stomping on her beloved bunny was actually this version of Alice.

Alice remains one of the most intriguing characters in the Constellation narrative. She might be a child, but she’s also tenacious, brave, and curious. In this reality, Alice is angry that her mother is gone, but she also finds reasons to hope she might be alive. Her quiet determination and resourcefulness are admirable qualities, and they make her a character worth rooting for, even when the adults all seem to have lost their collective minds. In fact, when Paul and Alice spot the “other” Alice and Jo across the room at the funeral, it’s Paul who faints and Alice who moves closer for a better look. Sure, she screams for her mama, but who could blame her? The search for the truth sends Paul and Alice on journeys to find people they’ve lost during this debacle. Alice convinces Magnus to take her to the isolated, icy cabin, and Paul heads to Los Angeles to confront Bud Caldera. Paul is shocked at what he finds in Bud’s apartment, and he’s too frazzled to even consider the ramifications of how he’s approaching the situation. Paul’s disbelief at encountering this absolute mess of a man instead of his mentor and idol, Henry, is a direct slap in the face to Bud. Bud knows Henry; he knows what he could have become in another timeline. Drunk and desperate, Bud grabs a gun and shoots at Paul. Maybe Paul is dead, after all.

At the cabin, Alice is having better luck finding answers. After a brisk hike in the snow, Magnus and Alice finally arrive. They go in and see the picture of the Gollum-like creature on the wall. As I had previously speculated, it is a changeling! Alice says that Jo liked it, so she likes it. Magnus is pretty fed up with all of this talk — he just lost his beloved wife and he’s dealing with what he believes to be a delusional grieving child — so he declares that it’s bedtime. Alice is woken up by the sound of an approaching car. It’s her mother.

Guest Cast:

William Catlett (Paul Lancaster), Henry David (Ilya Andreev), Carole Weyers (Audrey Brostin), Sandra Teles (Yazmina Suri), Chipo Chung (Michaela Moyone), Lenn Kudrjawizki (Sergei Vassiliev), Rebecca Scroggs (Erica Lancaster), Sadie Sweet (Wendy Lancaster), Eleanor Fanyinka (Eryn Lafferty), Eva Bay (Charlotte Weiss), Emily Cox (Sara Schiller), Bettina Hoppe (Jenny Gruber)