Constellation S1E4 Recap: Curiosity Killed Schrödinger’s Cat

“The Left Hand of God”

Jo looking scared
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Constellation S1E4, “The Left Hand of God” (written by Peter Harness and directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel)

Constellation S1E4 begins with Magnus (James D’Arcy) and Alice (Rosie Coleman/Davina Coleman) trudging through the snow before they arrive to the same cabin where we’ve seen Jo (Noomi Rapace) and Alice in previous episodes. It’s an immediate confirmation that Constellation is showing us alternate versions of reality since, in this one, Alice is wondering where she and Magnus are going to live, and he assures her she doesn’t have to worry about seeing Jo again.

Alice in the snowy woods
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Of course, the first three episodes of Constellation strongly indicated that the show was doing something with alternate realities, but it was less clear whether we were ever seeing more than one as the series has tended to follow the perspective of Jo. There was a question about Bud and Henry (Jonathan Banks), and there continues to be one, which I’ll delve into shortly. But whereas they might be inhabiting the same world, the reality where Magnus takes Alice to the cabin seems markedly different from the reality where Jo takes Alice to the cabin.

At the end of Episode 3, Jo and Alice confronted one another about being mismatched versions of themselves (if I can put it that way), and the police were on their way toward their location. Episode 4 does not pick up that thread, but it does ultimately provide another hypothesis for why the police are after Jo: she fights with Magnus towards the end of the hour, and he falls before becoming unresponsive.

So maybe Jo has accidentally killed him and the original Cabin Scenes flow from this same timeline, but that wouldn’t explain how or why Jo has the CAL device with her in these scenes, so you can’t exactly draw a straight line from one thing to the other.

Magnus, Jo, and Alice having a birthday dinner, with silly hats on
Screenshot/Apple TV+

We do see Jo receiving cassette tapes by mail in S1E4, however, and they were sent to her by Skagerrak Marine Observatory. If the name rings a bell, perhaps it’s because Skagerrak was mentioned in Episode 2 shortly after Jo lost the ability to communicate with the ground control team on October 15 (the same date as the cassette recording).

There, Henry was informed that he had a call from Skagerrak, which made Irena (Barbara Sukowa) look askance before Henry asked Irena about her sister (who she says is dead) and Irena asked Henry about his brother (who he says he hasn’t talked to in years). We cut to Bud talking to the media, and it’s not clear whether Henry ever took that call from Skagerrak.

Henry sits at his desk
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Regardless, they’ve sent Jo two tapes. One is a recording of her attempts to communicate with ground control on October 15 (which seems to imply that if Henry had taken that call, they would have been able to re-establish contact with Jo). The other is a recording from November 1967, which seems to be of a female cosmonaut dying in space.

The first man to die in a space flight in real life was Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov, on April 24, 1967. You’ll recall from the premiere of Constellation that everyone insisted that no cosmonauts had ever died in space, which could be consistent with Komarov’s death insofar as he died crashing on re-entry to Earth. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that he had a daughter named Irina.

Regardless, we don’t hear much of this second tape Skagerrak sent to Jo. She’s interrupted by Alice coming downstairs to witness a memorial for Jo being held in their living room, complete with Paul (William Catlett). She screams at the sight of this, which makes sense, and she wants to go hide in a cupboard.

A picture of Jo with three candles above it and flowers below, with people milling around
Screenshot/Apple TV+

So it would seem that the version of Jo who belongs in this reality—where she was having an affair with Frederic (Julian Looman) and knows how to play piano—died, and the version of Jo we’ve been following ended up in her place. That theory is further bolstered by the scene in S1E4 where Jo sees men cleaning out her office who can’t see her (though she does manage to pierce the veil to make one of them yell out in terror).

Jo confronting a German cleaning guy, who is startled
Screenshot/Apple TV+

I think the versions of Magnus and Alice we saw while Jo was on the ISS were matched to our Jo, though I can’t point to definitive evidence about that. It just feels like it, and we can recall the weirdness on the helicopter after Jo returned to Earth, potentially pointing to that as the moment when things went awry.

Alice’s teacher talks about Alice being at a liminal age in this episode, and that relates to my overall hypothesis about what’s happening to Jo insofar as she doesn’t seem to be fully in one reality or another but weirdly in-between (at least at moments).

Would lithium help to ground her?

Jo looking studious
Screenshot/Apple TV+

I was somewhat surprised that Constellation S1E4 provided so straightforward an answer as to what is in the pills Jo was given, which we’ve also seen Henry and Irena taking. Lithium is a known substance with psychotropic applications, and Jo’s psychiatrist explicitly prescribes it for her in their session. That the ESA was secretly trying to get her to take it is sketchy, and taking lithium is not without its risks, but we are talking about a naturally occurring element.

The records Jo finds indicate that perhaps her peers were, in fact, given the B-12/Vitamin D pills, as they are categorized as A, whereas she and Henry (along with a woman who claimed to see angels and another who tried to murder her family) are categorized as B. Or maybe they’re lying to everyone, but there’s at least a difference here.

Jonathan Banks in glasses on a computer screen
Screenshot/Apple TV+

As Jo enters to do these tests, Henry is talking to someone on his computer, and when she’s leaving and tries to talk to him, we get more information. The person on the screen appears to be Henry himself, though this version is wearing glasses. This makes me think it’s not Bud either, but we don’t really know. And then Henry very ominously tells Jo that curiosity killed the cat.

This is in some contrast with their conversation earlier in the episode, in which Henry engaged in something of a monologue about astronauts who’d experienced ill effects from being in space. One of them heard a dog barking and claimed it was Laika, for example. It’s a mix between feeling like he wants to help Jo and that he thinks Jo can help him figure out what’s going on with the CAL device, but she definitely notices that whiteboard he’d been writing on, and one wonders if he was writing on it so she’d notice.

Henry in front of a whiteboard that lists stress trauma, lithium 7, and death in space
Screenshot/Apple TV+

No one else can see what Henry sees when he runs the CAL device, and he’s clearly getting a bit frustrated about that. He talks to another scientist named Louis (Reiner Schöne), who insists he’s got a false image from when the device ran in space and that he couldn’t possibly have created a path to another universe. Meanwhile, Henry wonders if he’s experiencing some kind of observer effect in reverse.

I think that’s the direction that Constellation is going in, with certain individuals unmoored from their native realities, or something along these lines. And in that regard, all of the stuff with Bud is more interesting than it would be otherwise.

It remains unclear whether Bud and Henry are versions of the same person in different realities or if they inhabit the same one, though I’m leaning toward the latter hypothesis (particularly given whoever was on Henry’s computer screen in this episode). I think there’s some possibility that whatever happened on Apollo 18 created doubles, though I suppose we can’t rule out that they’ve just been twin brothers from the beginning, even if I think that’s doubtful.

Bud on the deck of a cruise ship, looking at the water
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Bud’s cruise ship is being detained by the FBI to investigate the death of Ian Rogers (Shaun Dingwall), but it would appear that the CCTV footage has been made useless by an interference effect that resembles what Henry sees when he looks at the CAL device. That’s intriguing! Bud calls his daughter, Connie (Holly Horne), but she just says she’s busy and he should take his pills. He proceeds to throw those pills into the ocean.

In many ways, Bud’s story feels like the one that’s the closest to giving us answers to the big questions that define Constellation to this point. Still, I don’t expect them anytime soon. Clearly there is work to be done in bringing Jo’s present story together with the Cabin Scenes set in the future, and I wouldn’t expect any kind of huge revelation until after that’s happened.

The first four episodes of Constellation have provided a lot of clues about where we’re going, but more than anything I’m excited to see how the show gets there. So far it’s been consistently compelling in both its style and substance. I hope it sticks the landing in the back half of the season.

A creepy painting at the end of Constellation S1E4: The Poor Devil by the Fire ; The Devil by the Pot by Hugo Simberg
Screenshot/Apple TV+ (The Poor Devil by the Fire ; The Devil by the Pot by Hugo Simberg

See you next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

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