Constellation S1E8 Recap: O Lord Thou Pluckest Me Out (Season 1 Finale)

“These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin”

Magnus and Alice leaving their house
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Constellation, S1E8, “These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin” (written by Peter Harness and directed by Joseph Cedar)

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih     shantih     shantih
– T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” (1922)

The title of Constellation’s Season 1 finale, “These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin,” invokes T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which was written in the aftermath of World War I. There, Eliot was thinking about the threat of the ruin of civilization but also his own psyche. The old world was gone, or shattered. Arguably the fragments the line refers to are precisely the literary fragments he references in the stanza, and I don’t want to get too caught up in hashing this all out for you, but I do think it’s worth noting that one of them is from Dante’s Purgatorio.

What is purgatory if not a liminal space, between heaven and hell, where perhaps there’s a minimal difference between a wounded angel and a poor devil? Jo (Noomi Rapace) has lost her world and been thrust into another, but her real distress in Constellation Season 1 has come from occupying a space in between.

By the time Episode 8 ends, Jo has decided to accept the reality she finds herself in. She realizes she doesn’t really have a choice, but she also sees in the Alice (Rosie Coleman/Davina Coleman) who is not her Alice and the Magnus (James D’Arcy) who is not her Magnus just enough to choose to love them—fragments to shore against her ruin.

Irena looks concerned

Constellation S1E8 begins with Jo, who had previously been taken into Irena’s (Barbara Sukowa) care, being committed to an asylum staffed by nuns. She’s given electroshock therapy and informed that she is pregnant. For this reason, Irena does not want to give her lithium, but she has an alternative treatment in mind. It’s not entirely clear what that is or what the pills are that Jo will end up taking.

Regardless, Jo resists until Ilya (Henry David) comes to visit. Everything he says is in line with the idea that she should submit to treatment, but as he leaves, he slips her the keys to her room.

Ilya in Jo's room
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Given the opportunity to escape the asylum, Jo’s curiosity impels her to investigate the screaming coming from the room of the other patient in the facility, whom Irena has told her is incurable. When she looks through the window to the room, she sees two men wailing for mama.

This, understandably, freaks Jo out, and she goes back to her room to curl up in a fetal position. And after she talks to Irena again, pushing on the question of whether there was a version of Irena who died in space, she relents. Because Irena is right: pushing on this question won’t help Jo. She can’t change it. It cannot be undone. She has a child and a husband in this world, and if she doesn’t commit herself to treatment, she’s going to end up like the guy upstairs (this last part is implicit).

Yura playing chess with himself
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Irena tells Jo that her fellow patient was the first man in space, which would make him Yuri Gagarin. In the credits for the episode, he’s listed as Yura (Christopher Fairbank), which I suppose is close enough for the reference to land. And, if you’re curious, Yuri Gagarin died on a training flight in 1968, with conspiracy theories popping up as to the cause of the crash. I was the opposite of surprised to confirm that in reading up about him.

There is a constant question that runs through Episode 8 as to what Irena knows and what she doesn’t. In her first scenes with Jo, it very much feels like she’s being deceitful (or at least unwilling to be honest), and that never quite drops. But, after Jo starts reciting the lines from the tape of Irena dying in space, Irena gets freaked out and calls Henry (Jonathan Banks), saying it’s urgent. Later, she writes a letter asking astronauts to anonymously share their issues with her, even if they don’t want to use a word like “madness” to describe their experiences.

Jo, prepared for electroshock therapy
Screenshot/Apple TV+

There are real indications that Irena is undertaking an investigation that she’s previously denied the value of. I don’t think that she has secret knowledge that she’s hiding from Jo (and others); I think that she’s not been honest with herself, or isn’t willing to truly broach questions about what happened to her. But that may be changing.

Unfortunately, when Irena meets Henry for dinner, it’s not Henry but Bud. The world-swap this pair underwent in Episode 7 has held, leaving Henry to be charged with the murder of Ian Rogers (Shaun Dingwall) and the attempted murder of Paul (William Catlett) in the world that had been Bud’s (and leaving Bud to do as he pleases in the world that had been Henry’s).

Bud and Irena hugging hello. She looks concerned as she pulls away
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The first thing Bud does is listen to the Caldera ghost tape with the aid of the CAL device. Then, he takes an ax to the CAL and destroys it. He blames this on Jo, and Frederic (Julian Looman) notes the odd fact that “Henry” doesn’t seem to care about losing his precious, though he doesn’t make a fuss about it (for the moment).

At dinner, Bud is forthright with Irena about who he is, which probably spurs her to investigate matters in ways she hasn’t previously, even if in the moment she just tells him to take his pills.

Bud, in a coat and winter hat, raising an ax (out of frame) to destroy the CAL (out of frame)
Screenshot/Apple TV+

We learn that in this world, Ian Rogers guides tours about Jack the Ripper, and it’s not entirely clear if he and Mr. Caldera have had a previous relationship in this reality. Regardless, Bud gives him flowers, kisses him on the cheek, and tells him to live life to the fullest. I thought this scene was a little odd, but maybe it’s just going to show how happy Bud is to be back in the reality he came from. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, as opposed to his counterpart, who’s now facing down a miserable existence.

Ian Rogers, looking dapper

We do need to ask why, exactly, Bud has so much antipathy for Henry, and that relates to how what happened to Mr. Caldera on Apollo 18 would seem to be different from what’s happened to Irena, Jo, or Paul. Caldera is the only one who apparently did not die in either reality, though his crewmates did in one and not the other. Were they somehow both in each reality until Henry managed to push Bud away? That’s my theory at the moment, and what Irena says to Bud at dinner feels like it’s in line with this.

An alternate, wild possibility, is that either Bud or Henry is some kind of space zombie. As Constellation S1E8 comes to a close, we return to the ISS, where we see the iPad Jo left up there floating through a corridor until it is grabbed by the corpse of Jo that was left up there, which is suddenly animated. The iPad and the dead body are from separate realities, so perhaps dying in space can lead to this metaphysically weird result.

The Irena who died in space has appeared to Alice as the Valya and spoken to her. Her corpse, like Jo’s, was left in space. Perhaps since Henry’s wasn’t, he is similarly dead/alive, but without any injury to make this evident. And then he managed to take over what should be Bud’s spot.

This is just speculation! There do seem to be space zombies in this show, though.

A dead Jo, missing an eye, holds an iPad that shows Jo and Alice
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Constellation S1E8 sees Magnus struggling in both realities. Indeed, at one point, we see each version of the man in therapy at the same time, though for somewhat differing reasons. Equally, the timelines of the two Alices coincide at moments, creating another opportunity for them to communicate with the Fisher Price tape recorder, but the English Alice doesn’t oblige.

Separately, and yet somehow in a way that feels mutual, each Alice decides that the right thing to do is to move forward. One accepts that she’s lost her mother and doesn’t begrudge the other Alice, who now has her mother in her life. The other Alice decides to drop her insistence that Jo isn’t crazy in order to be able to visit her and tell her that even if she isn’t her mummy, she can be.

She needs a mom, and Jo needs an Alice, so they agree to be there for one another. It’s a poignant scene.

Jo and Alice talking outside
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Jo and Magnus similarly reconcile and decide they want to have the baby that Jo is pregnant with. Magnus, of course, doesn’t buy the story about two realities, but Alice knows it’s true. Thus, she asks Jo: where will the baby be from?

Now, at one level we might wonder if Magnus is the biological father of this child, and it’s worth noting that Constellation has given us dates to work with. Irena tells Jo here in Episode 8 that she’s four weeks pregnant. We know that Jo returned from space around October 15, and when Henry/Bud is arrested for murder, Agent Bright (Clare-Hope Ashitey) says that it’s November 8, 2021.

Those events occur in a different reality from the one where Jo exists and is pregnant, but, as previously mentioned, S1E8 gives us various moments where the timelines in the two realities line up. If that’s the case here, it’s cutting four weeks pretty close, giving us a timeframe where Jo could either have conceived with Magnus right after she returned from space or had sex with someone in space.

Given that there really hasn’t been anything to indicate that Jo was having an affair with Paul or Ilya, I don’t really think that Constellation is setting up a Maury Povich-style situation. But, it is a possibility.

The more interesting level of Alice’s question is the metaphysical one. Presuming Magnus is the father, this is a child with one parent from one reality and one from another, so how does that fit into things?

It’s not for nothing that there’s an interference pattern on the ultrasound that resembles what Henry saw through the CAL device.

An ultrasound showing an interference pattern, in Constellation S1E8
Screenshot/Apple TV+

If one thing is clear coming out of this season finale, it’s that the creators of Constellation intend to make further seasons. While there is meaningful resolution in this episode—as Jo, Magnus and Alice reconcile in one reality and Magnus and Alice reconcile in the other—a lot of threads are left dangling.

Henry has been charged with crimes that Bud committed. Paul is alive and wakes up confused in the hospital. Irena is starting to investigate what’s going on in a meaningful way and has told Alice that her friends call her Valya. Jo’s corpse has awakened as a space zombie. And so on.

I sincerely hope Constellation is renewed for Season 2, as I’ve found the series a joy to watch, ponder, and write about. I’m sure there’s more to be said than I’ve managed to fit into this recap, and I continue to think about whether I have more to say about the Hugo Simberg paintings.

For now, I’ll leave you with an English translation of the lyrics to the Swedish lullaby that Jo sings in S1E8, “Trollmors Vaggsång”:

When mother troll has put
her eleven small trolls to bed
and wrapped them up tight in her tail
then she sings to the eleven small trolls
the most beautiful words she knows:

Ho aj aj aj aj buff,
ho aj aj aj aj buff,
ho aj aj aj aj buff buff!
Ho aj aj aj aj buff.

Written by Caemeron Crain

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

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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