'Constellation' season 1 episode 8 review: This isn't the conclusion you're looking for

Woman wearing a hospital gown lying on a stretcher being carried by two medical professionals.
Episode 8 'These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin' is the "Constellation" season 1 finale. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

"Constellation" has been a bumpy ride to say the least. While there's been remarkable sparks of promise along the way, we've been fearing the worst for weeks. Unfortunately, in this final episode writer Peter Harness' story crash-lands and gives viewers little reason to stick around for a second season.

Harness could've taken far more interesting paths after the last two episodes rather than giving up and hoping to land another season to make up for lost time. Instead, we have mother and daughter repeating the same things over and over again. However, we must commend series director Joseph Cedar ("Our Boys") and the cast as they manage to hold down the fort, making an impression in an otherwise redundant chapter – Jonathan Banks shining particularly bright.

As a last-minute maneuver to make "Constellation" viewers ask for more, the season finale 'These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin' isn't nearly enough.

Related: 'Constellation' episodes 1-3 review: A well-made thriller that may be revealing its cards too soon

Once you're finished with "Constellation", why not check out our collection of the best space movies and best sci-fi TV shows? Or if you want to take a screen break, then our list of the best space books should interest you.

Spoilers ahead for "Constellation" season 1 episode 8: 'These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin'

 Bud Caldera gets a second chance.  (Image credit: Apple TV+)

The central mystery of the show has been anything but mysterious ever since it was presented plain as day in front of us in the three-episode premiere. Despite this, "Constellation" had managed to come up with a handful of pretty interesting questions while shuffling its cards and characters around. Episode 7 encapsulated most of the show's weaknesses and strengths, so the chances of getting a solid finale were 50/50. Sadly, we're stuck with a timid and repetitive one.

We see Jo Ericsson (Noomi Rapace) being immediately – well, as fast as the vast distances allow – taken to a psychiatric hospital which looks anything but welcoming. Irene Lysenko (Barbara Sukowa) is carefully looking at Jo's condition and controlling what's happening with her, as her questions before departing with Alice (Rosie and Davina Coleman) were uncomfortable to say the least.

It's been teased for weeks that Roscosmos and other institutions were trying to hide something, yet the definitive answer is a realistic but narratively boring one: "We think people go mad up there, and we try to keep a lid on things." That's the gist of it. No dead U.S.S.R. cosmonaut cover-up as far as we can tell, and surely, in the main reality, no previous CAL experiment before Henry Caldera's (Jonathan Banks).

Jo and Magnus will try to reconnect.  (Image credit: Apple TV+)

This locks Jo into a room, literally and figuratively. Besides briefly seeing the mad cosmonaut who 'lives' upstairs, the character has nowhere else to go and instead is left to dwell on thoughts that she's been having for most of the season. Progress and payoffs stopped happening long ago, it seems. We see Jo returning time and again to her ability to play the piano, and we learn that she's pregnant with a baby that could be her husband Magnus' (James D'Arcy) or her boss Frederic's (Julian Looman) (or both at once) due to the double-state CAL hi-jinks.

Any sort of science-y resolution, at least in this season, is almost immediately torn apart by Bud Caldera. Bud is now inhabiting Henry's body in reality A, while Henry is stuck with Bud's troubled life in reality B. Why? Because he takes an axe to the experiment which Henry loved so much. Despite the dramatic editing of the scene, the destruction of the device changes nothing and adds a compelling layer of mystery to the mix that simply comes in too late. The characters suffering double-reality effects aren't being 'rolled back' anytime soon. Jo and Alice are still seeing and hearing things, and the Calderas have fully swapped places.

Jo and Alice are aware of what's happened.  (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Not all hope was lost the moment we realized that "Constellation" was 100% not committing to the bit, however. As we've said before, the series' more personal side and dramatic beats were good enough to end up saying something worth hearing. Sci-fi and thriller elements aside, Jo's fractured family and their struggles, as well as Henry and Bud's regrets, are a story worth telling when set against the backdrop of space exploration linked to the human mind.

Besides confirmation that the dead cosmonaut is indeed an alternate universe Irene Lysenko (who we learn was called 'Valya' by her friends), 'These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin' instead focuses on how the main characters can move on and leave behind something they probably cannot fix.

Jo still can't make anyone but Alice believe what's going on, and Henry is stuck with Bud's life and problems (which include killing one person and attempting to murder another). It's a depressing picture, yet there's some comfort in knowing that, somewhere, things are alright (kinda) for your other self.

The other Alice and Magnus move on.  (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Bud Caldera starts living a better life and lets Irene know something's definitely wrong and that she died in his reality. Meanwhile, the motherless Alice and Magnus decide to pack things up and leave their home, finally letting the idea of ever seeing Jo again go. Likewise, the Jo who's alive and the other Alice, the ones we've been spending most of our time with, choose to accept each other and try to become a family. Of course, Magnus barely knows what they've truly been through, but he just wants to get his wife back and connect with his daughter, so he'll take this 'win' for now.

It's the kind of realistic, far-from-ideal emotional resolution that could make the finale work as well as episode 6, yet Harness chooses to add more questions to the pile when he's just brushed off the previous batch: Which version of Paul Lancaster (William Catlett) woke up in the hospital after being shot by Bud Caldera? How deep is Irene Lysenko going to dig to try to learn if Henry (now Bud) and Jo were telling the truth? Honestly, we were okay with putting all that aside and letting the characters try to make something out of the cards they were dealt.

The biggest shocker comes out of nowhere before the credits roll: The dead Jo that Paul left behind is apparently still alive in the International Space Station (ISS). Did the destruction of the CAL device have something to do with this? Is this the possible third reality we'd been theorizing about? It's a wild, last-minute swing that veers into cosmic horror and feels like it belongs to a far more entertaining and schlocky show. Here, it sticks out like a sore thumb and makes the idea of a second season less appetizing.

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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.