"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Night Sky: Down Home Portal Done Up Memorably

Just finished binging Night Sky on Amazon Prime Video, another travel to other worlds narrative that does it not through space ships or time machines, but some kind of conduits or portals built by some interstellar or intertemporal civilization.   Outer Range did a good job of this with a time-travel hole out on the range.  Night Sky does this with a portal to another world in a shack in the backyard.  And it's lifted immensely by two peerless lead performances by J. K. Simmons as Franklin York and Sissy Spacek as Irene York, an aging married couple in the fictitious town of Farnsworth, Illinois.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Let's start at the end of the eight-episode season to see what I think we know:  As Irene demonstrated pretty early on, the alien world outside their window comes packed with oxygen.  Which is why she and Franklin survived at the end, and their neighbor Byron likely did, too.  The body that we saw with the knife sticking out of him was likely the guardian Jude killed in his escape to our planet, and why he was all bloodied with someone else's blood when Irene first saw him and took him into her and Frank's home.

Ok, what else do we know?  There are "apostates" who escape "guardian" control.  Jude is an apostate, Stella and Nick are guardians.  And there are also guardians who have left that role, and help apostates or at very least don't hunt them.   Hannah (played Sonya Walger from Lost, Flashforward, For All Mankind, and many more) refers to this third group, of which she is a member, as the "fallen".   So that's a nice set-up of characters and allegiances. 

Back to the portals:  they connect different parts of the Earth -- characters use them to travel instantly from Mexico to Newark, NJ, and from Farnsworth to Bangkok -- and Earth to at least one other planet, the one that has oxygen, and some kind of little city not far from its side of the portal.   Whoever built them did that as long as several hundred years ago -- there's a sketch of a door to a portal in Argentina in the early 1700s.

The personal story of the Yorks is touching and  powerful, all the more because it is brought to life by such brilliant acting.  The other characters range from interesting to compelling, which is a good range for a series like this.  Denise, the granddaughter (well played by Kiah McKirnan), was especially effective in her story, starting to go down the same troubled path as her father, rescued by Jude, her knight in shining armor.

Questions remain.  What happened to Byron?  Where is Jude's father?  This all adds up to a memorable series -- creds to creator Holden Miller -- which would be well served by a sequel, which I'd binge a day or two after it was released, as I did with this first season.  My wife, not generally a fan of science fiction, enjoyed it, too.

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