Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons shine brightly in Night Sky
Don’t you love when a character drops some meta commentary about a work of fiction that actually applies to the show they’re on? “It’s got everything: escape, revenge, deception,” Irene York (Sissy Spacek) says of The Count Of Monte Cristo. But of course,

Don’t you love when a character drops some meta commentary about a work of fiction that actually applies to the show they’re on? “It’s got everything: escape, revenge, deception,” Irene York (Sissy Spacek) says of The Count Of Monte Cristo. But of course, we know she’s really talking about Night Sky.

The basic premise of Prime Video’s latest series is simple enough: Elderly couple Irene and Franklin York (J.K. Simmons) have a secret chamber in their rural Illinois backyard that can teleport them to a deserted planet. But like Irene suggests, this show has a bit of everything. It’s not just science fiction; it tackles marriage, grief, identity, and—yes, you guessed it—escape, revenge, and deception, too.

Irene and Franklin have been together for a long time, and flashbacks to their younger selves suggest that despite their differences, their commitment has always been solid. They’re 20 years removed from the loss of their adult son, Michael (Angus O’Brien), and each has processed (and is processing) that trauma in their own way. When a mysterious young man, Jude (Chai Hansen), comes to them by way of the chamber, his presence starts to expose the fault lines in the way they’ve rebuilt their life.

As the Yorks try to figure out what to do with Jude, they also contend with their concerned granddaughter (Kiah McKirnan), a nosey neighbor (Adam Bartley), and a former student of Irene’s who is down on her luck (Beth Lacke). Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Argentina, we’re introduced to Stella (Julieta Zylberberg) and her teenage daughter, Toni (Rocío Hernández), who have secrets of their own that will connect them to the Yorks.

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The good news: Night Sky is meticulously plotted, with each character and detail woven together intricately. Little things—a white lie, a forgotten business card—that seem inconsequential in the moment become hugely important episodes later. The show feels a bit like watching someone do a puzzle from the outside in; as one pressing question gets an answer, a new question pops up in its place.

The mediocre news: The mysteries at its center are what make Night Sky equally compelling and a bit annoying. We always want to know more, and tension is often exquisitely rendered, but sometimes information is withheld for what feels like no reason, and other plot points hinge almost laughably on coincidence. If this feels vague, know that the list of do-not-reveal spoilers for the review of this show is a mile long.

When you separate out the more fantastical elements, Night Sky is a quiet, poignant exploration of family and legacy. It asks big questions: What do we inherit from our parents? Are we doomed to repeat their mistakes? When two people in a marriage need different things, whose needs win out? What defines us as people, and how far will we go to prove that we’re special? It’s these queries—rather than the more obvious ones about Jude and where he came from—that elevate Night Sky to something more interesting.

It helps that the show is driven by Spacek and Simmons, who do incredible work. Simmons sinks into the role of Franklin so perfectly it feels like it was written for him, which is pretty fascinating considering he was a replacement for the originally cast Ed O’Neill. But he ranges from rage to devastation to gruff humor with ease, and his delivery of certain lines (“I just want to be enough for you to want to stay”) are a dagger to the heart.

It sometimes feels like things are coming together a bit too slowly, and the show probably could have been tightened to six episodes rather than eight. A few later developments, like a supposedly long-held tension between Irene and her granddaughter, come out of nowhere, while a decision Franklin makes is so wildly out of character that the writers half-heartedly try to explain it away with a single line.

The final reveal, too, feels rushed and unsatisfactory after such careful buildup. A finished puzzle should feel gratifying, but Night Sky can’t help itself and leaves us wanting more answers—and maybe a second season?

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This article is republished from theinventory.com under a Creative Commons license.

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