'Constellation' season 1 episode 6 review: Haunted houses and new perspectives

Man inside a space shuttle wearing a white spacesuit.
"Constellation" season 1 episode 6 'Paul is Dead' is out now on Apple TV+. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

"Constellation" is back up this week with a strong sixth episode that expands the show's borders once again and, more importantly, recovers the hard-hitting drama we missed in episode 5. It's not about making things more complex, but about switching viewpoints and beginning to answer questions before it's too late.

The series now switches director to Joseph Cedar ("Our Boys"), who recaptures – and even amplifies – the creepiest bits of the premiere. He manages to create a consistent 'haunted house' feeling that's hard to shake off throughout the episode. 'Paul is Dead' is the kind of 'middle of the journey' chapter that radically changes our understanding of the story and focuses on a different main character to mix things up and set a new course. Moreover, William Catlett (playing Paul Lancaster) gives us the strongest performance of the show so far.

"Constellation" is just one of the many exciting new sci-fi shows and movies coming out in 2024: "Halo" season 2 has been a fun ride so far; "Dune: Part Two" is the movie that everyone is talking about right now; and the Adam Sandler-led, trippy space flick titled "Spaceman" is a solid watch on Netflix.

Related: 'Constellation' creators on ghostly voices and piecing together a satisfying sci-fi puzzle (exclusive)

Spoilers ahead for "Constellation" season 1 episode 6: 'Paul is Dead'

Jo aboard the International Space Station (ISS), before the accident. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

From the opening moments, it's clear that 'Paul is Dead' won't be just another episode. Following last week's disappointing and rather aimless fifth chapter, it was time to either ramp up the pace or offer something more compelling besides Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks gradually losing their minds (both of whom are spectacular).

Thankfully, this time around we're getting some answers… although we'd already guessed some of them because the mystery at the center of the series isn't exactly hidden. But still, seeing what went down in the other universe/reality and how it differs from the main post-accident timeline gives episode 6 more than enough energy to keep viewers glued to the screen. The fact that the actors were also given excellent dramatic material to work with definitely helps too.

The main point of 'Paul is Dead' is that Paul isn't dead in this other reality. We knew as much from past nuggets of information and speculation, and we also knew that Jo didn't make it. What we didn't know for sure was that they essentially switched roles, however. In fact, it all starts with Jo suffering a gnarly death after the station collision that changed everything.

Paul thinks he's heard Jo's corpse breathe. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Past scenes inside the International Space Station (ISS) kept us in the dark about whether the odd CAL experiment caused the accident or an external factor ruined everything. According to episode 6, the mysterious dead cosmonaut happened first, instantly ruling out their appearance due to a reality-altering event and supporting the conspiracies theories thrown around about a past cover-up.

With Jo dead after smashing her head against a window and one crack sucking her eye out into outer space (ouch), the evacuation of the ISS happens in the same way. Except, this time, Paul is alive and stays behind sorting things out much like Jo did in the universe where we have spent most of the runtime so far. If you thought Jo had a bad time with visions and noises that weren't there, Paul's existence quickly becomes a living hell.

Of course, we know Jo's breathing and other phenomena actually comes from the real Jo elsewhere, but the main difference here is that Paul loses his cool. This leads to Paul leaving Jo's body behind, something that is criticized by several people as soon as he's back on Earth. So, was this Jo actually alive and did she somehow help both her Paul and the other Jo get out of the malfunction that prevented their return to Earth? Apparently not! It seems that someone did help them, but it was neither 'dead' Paul nor Jo. Our third-reality theory gains strength, though we're still waiting for a later reveal.

Magnus struggles as a father. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Once we return to Earth, things don't become any simpler or less spooky. In fact, getting answers (and new questions) to some of the show's weirdest moments only makes the overall feeling more uneasy. Despite the lingering secrets, we largely know how it's all playing out, and the most uncertain element of the series is the final destination, which may well be locked behind a 'see you in season 2' cliffhanger. With only two episodes left to go, we're either getting that or a very rushed conclusion.

The Coleman sisters playing Alice shine brighter this episode too. Both Alice and Magnus (James D'Arcy) come across as much more interesting characters in this reality, one where Jo is sadly gone forever and they don't even get closure. Despite surprisingly putting most of the episode's weight on Paul to underline the parallels and discrepancies between the two realities, there's a sensible exploration of grief in display here through both characters. As for Alice's 'ability' to see into the other reality, well, we remain baffled.

With Jonathan Banks' Bud Caldera removed from NASA, as shown early on, and therefore the CAL experiment, there was a huge question mark surrounding Paul's entire role in that other reality. It turns out that, much like the surviving Jo, his memories aren't his, but dead Paul's. In this universe, the CAL experiment was discontinued over a decade ago, so he's talking nonsense to everyone about his incredibly complex work aboard the station.

Bud Caldera doesn't want any visitors. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Since Paul is in a far more unstable and rapidly crumbling mental condition (related to his curiosity), things get even more awkward real fast, with the astronaut lashing out at his family and co-workers. Looking at the bigger picture, we can also infer some strong commentary on the lack of psychological support for astronauts, especially after such a grave event. NASA and the other organizations, in both realities, appear to be more interested in staying out of trouble and sweeping the dirt under the carpet than actually facing uncomfortable matters.

It's easy to deem 'Paul is Dead' as the 'full circle' moment of "Constellation," but we're far from done with the conflict at the center of the story. Moreover, Paul, Jo, Alice, and the Calderas are all an emotional and psychological mess, and it's hard to see how it all can be wrapped up before the season ends. Thankfully, Paul starts asking the right questions, eventually finding Bud and possibly getting himself into trouble – Bud, the fallen Caldera, isn't thrilled by Paul's visit and shoots him.

For some viewers, little else might be needed to achieve a satisfactory conclusion now that we know what's up in both universes. Yet, we still have several characters looking for answers and solutions, and at least a couple of conspiracies which allude to larger plans that didn't go right for the organizations involved. As spectators, 'Paul is Dead' might've given us big emotional moments and some of the answers we needed, but this twisted sci-fi tale is far from over. Could Alice be the key to linking much of the dual-reality drama together in the middle of the Swedish wilderness? We can't wait to find out.

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Fran Ruiz

Fran Ruiz is our resident Star Wars guy. His hunger for movies and TV series is only matched by his love for video games. He got a BA of English Studies, focusing on English Literature, from the University of Malaga, in Spain, as well as a Master's Degree in English Studies, Multilingual and Intercultural Communication. On top of writing features and other longform articles for Space.com since 2021, he is a frequent collaborator of VG247 and other gaming sites. He also serves as associate editor over at Star Wars News Net and its sister site, Movie News Net.