DARK MATTER Review: Of Twists, Turns, and Alternate Lives

Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Connelly, Alice Braga, and Jimmi Simpson star in Blake Crouch's mind-twisting series, debuting on Apple TV+.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
DARK MATTER Review: Of Twists, Turns, and Alternate Lives

Confusion reigns.

Dark Matter
The first two episodes debut globally Wednesday, May 8, exclusively on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut weekly. I've seen all nine episodes.

Frankly, I'm not smart enough to grasp quantum mechanics.

Perhaps that's why Dark Matter frustrates me so much: I'm at war with my own ignorance and limited intelligence. Thus, dear reader, you are probably in a better position -- or superposition -- to understand what's going on in the new series, created by Blake Crouch, based on his own novel, which was first published in 2016.

Joel Edgerton stars as Jason Deesen, a university physics professor in Chicago. Jason is happily married to Daniela Vargas (Jennifer Connelly), an art gallery owner, and they love their teenage son Charlie (Oakes Fegley). One night, Jason meets his longtime friend Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) for drinks; on his way home, the tipsy Jason is mugged and drugged by a masked assailant.

When he wakes up in strange surroundings, Jason finds himself under suspicion by people he does not recognize, including Leighton Vance (Deyo Okeniyi), who claims to be the co-founder of Jason's company, which does something related to technology. Jason can't quite figure it out, but he escapes from everyone's clutches and heads home, where he is greeted by Amanda Lucas (Alice Braga), who claims to be his girlfriend.

Jason is confused. So was I.

Over the course of its nine episodes, the series proceeds to unpeel (slowly) many layers of its labyrinth mysteries, often taking the form of a thriller, with urgent editing and a clipped pace. Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly give beautifully-modulated performances, as does Alice Braga, whose role becomes more defined as the show progresses.

All the below-the-line efforts are outstanding, especially the production design by Patricio M. Farrell and the art direction by David S. Bridson, Jami Brimmer, and Amy Frazzini. The visual effects are smart and thought-provoking, which becomes more essential as the show goes on.

All of this is to support ideas that have been explored countless times before. The key difference in Dark Matter is that it revolves around ordinary human beings, endowed with thinking ability, but not super-powered nor magical or supernatural.

In theory, that should be a refreshing change. The problem is that the characters are not sufficiently defined so as to resemble recognizable people. From an early point onward, the series is primarily concerned about action and movement, rather than why the characters behave as they do. Confusion reigns over both elements, so that the show becomes progressively more irritating, rather than intriguing and engrossing.

I'm not sorry I watched all nine episodes. Edgerton and Connelly are so good that it makes it worthwhile just to soak in their performances. And it's entirely possible that more intelligent readers will enjoy the show much more than dumb old me.

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Alice BragaApple TV+Blake CrouchJennifer ConnellyJimmi SimpsonJoel Edgerton

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