Constellation - Photo Apple TV+
Constellation – Photo Apple TV+

Sci-fi reigns supreme as Apple TV+ continues “Constellation,” its newest space saga. What evolves as a spooky, eight-episode mystery begins in Sweden as a woman is seen driving through a snowy forest with her young daughter.

The driver is Johanna “Jo” Ericsson (Noomi Rapace), an astronaut who recently returned from a disastrous mission on the International Space Station. Commander Paul Lancaster (William Catlett) died after a mysterious ‘collision’ and Jo’s colleagues – Russian Ilya Andreev (Henry David), European Yasmina Sun (Sandra Tele) and French Audrey Brostin (Carole Weyers) – took to an escape pod to conserve oxygen and power for Jo.

After pleas from ground control, Jo manages to save the extraordinary CAL (“Cold Atom Laboratory”) experiment, master-minded by aging Nobel Prize-winning scientist/astronaut Henry Caldera (Jonathan Banks) and his cosmic twin Bud. 

Described with ‘quantum entanglement’ mumbo-jumbo, CAL’s enigmatic purpose somehow relates to the 89-year-old thought experiment “Schrodinger’s Cat.”

(Irish physicist Edwin Schrodinger imagined a hypothetical cat in a box with a mechanism that releases radioactive poison. Until you look inside, the cat is both alive and dead – simultaneously – posing the question of when exactly superposition ends and reality resolves into one possibility or the other.)

So how does this CAL capsule – showing how one particle can exist in two different states simultaneously – relate to Jo? At one point, Henry looks at her, noting that “curiosity killed the cat.” Is that a warning not to try to break the space-time fabric and observe the unknown?

What Jo does come to realize is that the life she comes back to does not appear to be the life she left behind. Her car, once red, is now blue. Her 10-year-old daughter Alice (twins Davina & Rosie Coleman) no longer speaks Swedish and hides in cupboards to escape “the Valya.” Plus, Jo’s marital relationship with husband Magnus (James D’Arcy) has changed. 

(Fans of “The Matrix” may relate to a pivotal choice between reality and illusion that evokes memories of Neo’s red pill/blue pill parallel universe quest.)

Although Jo cannot play piano, when she sits down at the keyboard, she expertly executes Sergei Rachmaninoff’s difficult classical prelude #3, reading the intricate sheet music and exhibiting amazing physical dexterity.

Above all, why is no one willing to acknowledge that – somehow – in space there was a sudden collision with the desiccated corpse of a long-dead USSR female cosmonaut?

Created as a baffling, non-linear, psychological thriller by Peter Harness (BBC’s “War of the Worlds” miniseries), it’s based on an idea from Sean Jablonski, and directed by Michelle MacLaren, Oliver Hirschbiegel and Joseph Cedar.

The production involved designer Andy Nicholson creating an almost full-scale space station at Germany’s Studio Babelberg, including special effects coordinator Martin Goeres’ camera platforms and microgravity simulator harnesses for weightlessness. 

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Constellation” is a confusing yet compelling, slow-paced 7, streaming on Apple TV+ with the finale airing on Wednesday, March 27.

And Just Like That - Photo Max
And Just Like That… – Photo Max

If you’ve spent any time channel-surfing, you’ll see countless re-runs of “Sex and the City,” the successful six-season franchise starring Sarah Jessica Parker as sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw with her besties: pragmatic lawyer Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nison), WASPy Charlotte York-Greenblatt (Kristin Davis) and uninhibited publicist Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall).

After two big-screen spin-offs, the cast – minus Samantha – reassembled for the sequel “And Just Like That…” in which the quest – finding/marrying the right man – was abandoned in favor of each of the admittedly middle-aged women finding/defining herself.

In the first episode of the new series, Carrie becomes a widow, selling her once-coveted Upper East Side brownstone. Her husband, known as Mr. Big (Chris Noth), collapsed from a heart attack while working out on his Peloton. At the urging of her publisher, Carrie then becomes the keynote speaker at WidowCon.

Self-righteous Miranda suddenly leaves her husband Steve for Che Diaz (Sara Ramiriz), a self-professed “queer, nonbinary Mexican Irish diva” who does stand-up comedy. And Charlotte’s marital relationship with Harry (Evan Handler) comes into question along with her now-teenage daughter Lily’s (Cathy Ang) sexuality.

So much controversy erupted about Samantha’s abrupt exit to London that actress Kim Cattrall was paid a fortune to appear in a highly-anticipated, admittedly antic-climactic 75-second cameo in the final episode of the second season.

Without Samantha, the second season was cluttered with superficial supporting characters, like Aidan (John Corbett), raising three sons in Virginia; Anthony (Mario Cantone) falling for an Italian studnik; unexpectedly pregnant Law professor Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker); divorcee Nya (Karen Pittman); and commitment-phobic, real estate agent Seema’s (Sarita Choudhury) involvement with a Marvel director.

Obsessively self-involved Carrie is still chirping…but now it’s about career frustration, breast cancer and – above all – existential disappointment and loneliness. Not much fun.

Perhaps Miranda puts it best as she ponders whether her relationship with Che was “a good train wreck” or just a train wreck.

On the Granger Gauge, the second season of “And Just Like That…” is a forced, frustrating 5, streaming on Max. My January 2022 review of the first season of “And Just Like That…” earned a 6.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.