‘Constellation’ Episode 8 Recap Breakdown: Is Jo Alive On ISS?


AppleTV+’s science fiction space thriller show Constellation ends its first season with the release of episode 8 this week, but the summing up of matters should have arguably been tighter. The series, which focuses on astronaut Jo Ericsson’s struggles with altered reality after her return from a space expedition, leaves a lot unexplained by its end, raising more questions along the way. There is definitely a push for a second season, and it can be expected to deal with some of the basic matters of season 1 as well, while a few plot teasers have already been placed in the season 1 finale episode.

Spoiler Alert

What is Jo’s situation in the current reality?

Since its very first episode, Constellation has been focused on Swedish astronaut Jo Ericsson, who, as a member of the European Space Agency (ESA), had been posted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on a program. However, the program was cut short because of an unexplainable accident on the ISS, in which something crashed against the station, leading to severe mechanical failures. While Jo and most of her other colleagues survived, one of the American astronauts, Paul Lancaster, died from the impact of the accident. But although Jo returned to Earth, rather miraculously, she started to get used to a feeling of extreme uneasiness, as Jo believed that she was not in her original reality. After all, her relationship with her husband was very different; her daughter Alice did not understand or speak Swedish at all, and even their family car was of a different color. Despite the woman’s repeated reports about these strange occurrences and her constant personal investigation to find the truth, everyone around her has been suspecting her of losing her mind after space travel.

Gradually, over the course of Constellation, the presence of a different reality has been established, and the fact that these two realities have somehow come together and overlapped, in some senses, is also clear. Last week’s episode 7 ended with Jo mistakenly setting her cabin on fire in her wild pursuit to reunite with Alice of her original reality—who understood and spoke Swedish and who always called Jo “mamma.” Although Jo had been able to come close to, and even see, Alice in her original reality, she had decided not to pursue the matter any further and instead to help Alice in her current, altered reality. This decision was followed by the authorities finally catching up to the fugitive Jo and bringing her under control, with it being clear that the Roscosmos head, Irena Lysenko, would decide the protagonist’s fate.

Constellation episode 8 begins with Jo being carried on a stretcher back to the medical facilities in Star City, Russia, where Irena and her team wait for her arrival. Jo is admitted to the facility, with a whole ward being used to house her, where she is also treated by a team of doctors and nurses. She still has the same strange symptoms as before, like a sharp pain in her left eye at times and frequent visions of a dead cosmonaut in an orange suit, similar to the one she had seen in space. However, none of these claims about her are still taken seriously, and the team of doctors, led by Irena, are still confident that they are part of the woman’s hallucinations caused by space travel. Irena directly speaks with Jo, trying to convince her that those who indulge in space travel often have such struggles. Maintaining a similar tone of disbelief, Irena also tries to establish Jo’s reports of her family members acting differently as simple loss of memory or false memory. Therefore, the same pills as before, with only some modifications to the dosage, are still given to her in an effort to make her accept this current reality.

Another new and significant revelation is made with regards to Jo at this medical facility, for the medical tests found her to be pregnant with a four-month-old baby. As soon as the pregnancy is found out, Irena tries to use this information to get Jo under her control. She states that the baby should be the one Jo must focus on at the moment, which implies that she must forget about all her past claims and simply look forward in life. But Jo is not very concerned about the well-being of her baby, at least not immediately, for she is still invested in solving the mystery that has shrouded her life in the recent past. Gradually, over time, the protagonist gets used to this new piece of information: that she will have a new baby in some months’ time, and this does eventually affect her choices.

Who is the other patient at the medical facility?

During her stay at the medical facility, Jo hears the presence of another patient, especially through the loud shrieks of the man at night. When she asks Irena about this man, the latter does not reveal anything about him, only saying that Jo is not supposed to meet him. This situation changes with the arrival of Jo’s colleague and good friend, Ilya Andreev, who pretends to tell the woman that she must accept her current fate but also secretly hands her the key to her ward door. Ilya also suggests that Jo should check out the upper floor of the facility for more answers, and incidentally, this is where the other patient is kept.

When Jo goes to the upper floor, to the only other ward, she realizes that it is more like a prison in which two identical-looking men are kept hostages. The men are clearly not mentally stable or healthy, and their reaction to seeing Jo is also not normal, as they keep speaking something in Russian. When Jo later asks Irena who they were, Irena responds that there is only one man kept in the cell, and he is the first man to have traveled to space. Whether this is actually some fictional representation of Yuri Gagarin, the actual first man in space, or whether it is someone else from a different reality is not made clear by the end of the season. However, it is probably certain that this other prisoner, along with some other suggestions, makes it clear that the alternate realities and their inter-mingling are actually all very real.

In an intense moment, Jo connected the dots to realize that Irena was the same dead cosmonaut she had seen in space, and she blurted out the words from the emergency message that she had heard from the incident. This incident was not from this reality, since Irena had safely returned to Earth, but in another reality, she had died in space after sending some messages to ground control, which were recorded by the Bang twins. When Jo repeats the messages in Russian, Irena is immediately startled, suggesting that she is actually trying to cover up the real truth, for she has been tasked with doing so. In fact, towards the end of the episode, Irena is seen writing to someone, asking them about their experience with regards to space travel and subsequent mental struggles. This letter is probably being addressed to some other space programs, or even maybe to some other reality completely, hinting at the fact that major space organizations are aware of such occurrences, even though they are not officially addressed. 

What happens to Jo and Alice, finally?

By the end of Constellation season 1, Jo agrees to reunite with her family members in this present reality, even though she still does not believe them to be her real kin. Nonetheless, she decides to look forward and raise Alice in this reality, along with the baby she is about to have, especially since her relationship with Magnus in this reality also becomes better. Alice also agrees to bury the past and accept Jo as her mother, with the family reuniting and moving on. This causes heartbreak for the other Alice in the other reality, though, as she too has to finally accept that her mother is no more and has to move on with life. Both the girls are helped by their respective fathers, and although the motherless Alice tries to contact Alice of this world through the tape recorder, she does not get any reply from the other side. This is because Alice, in this reality, has decided to not indulge in the past anymore and to accept Jo and move on. Thus, the family does reunite in the end, trying to forget the fact that they are actually from different realities.

Can Henry protect himself from legal trouble?

At the end of Constellation episode 7, Henry and Bud Caldera had also somehow exchanged their positions in the two realities, one taking the place of the other. Bud Caldera was possibly the one who had completed the Apollo 18 mission, but he had somehow been transported to another reality in which the other astronauts had died, and the mission had failed. But the sudden switch now, most possibly because of the CAL device, meant that Bud was now back in his original reality, in which the mission had been a success and in which the astronaut had become a Nobel Prize winner, while Henry was now in the alternate reality. Henry is seemingly the one who had actually failed the mission, and the subsequent switch luckily took him to a different reality, in which he went on to become a hero.

However, although Bud seems to be the one wronged, according to this theory, the man’s inherent problems and issues are made apparent in the season finale episode. Bud destroys the CAL device and blames it on Jo, as it becomes obvious that this switch of realities will not be possible without the device. He makes some seriously sexist remarks about female astronauts and then goes on to meet with Irena, stating how she was actually dead in the reality he had been living in for so long. Bud had also been the one to push his professional rival, Ian Rogers, into the sea from the cruise ship, and he now shamelessly visits Ian Rogers in this reality as a crude celebration of him getting away with murder.

On the other side, Henry Caldera finds himself in grave danger in an alternate reality because he is now deemed the murderer of Ian Rogers and the shooter of Paul Lancaster. Although Paul had not died from the incident, Henry is charged with both crimes, and he desperately tries to prove to the investigators that he is not the same man. As proof of his claims, Henry tells the authorities to make him take a polygraph test and also to compare his DNA to that of Bud. While the polygraph test results come out in his favor, the DNA of Henry and Bud is found to be exactly the same, and so Henry cannot avoid legal trouble. He also admits to having invented the CAL device, which technically caused the death of Paul in space, but his fate is not made very clear, with the suggestion that he will be imprisoned.

What can we expect from season 2?

Based on the manner in which Constellation season 1 comes to an end, it seems very likely that a second season will follow, in which more of the mystery will be cleared. Firstly, the baby in Jo’s womb is going to be a point of interest since the test result seen by Irena actually shows two dots, almost like the result shown by the CAL device when two realities existed at the same time. Whether the baby’s presence will directly prove the presence of different realities and whether Irena and the authorities will actually officially address the matter remain to be seen. The baby’s presence, especially if it is found to be the biological child of Magnus, can also prove Jo’s claims in an indirect manner because the couple in this reality had not been intimate with each other for quite some time now, and their marriage was on the brink of ending. However, this matter might also get covered up by Magnus himself, since he has decided to be together with the woman.

Along with the mysteries of space and alternate realities, Constellation also seems to be adding a different supernatural layer to itself, for the very end of episode 8 shows the floating body of Jo still inside the ISS. The body is missing an entire chunk of flesh on the left side of the face, but it suddenly wakes up, with Jo opening her other eye and clutching onto a photo of her and Alice. The injury to the body is sure to kill anyone as per normal rules, but Jo waking up suggests that a ghostly version of herself is also about to come into the fray. Or it can also be that the conditions in space, especially inside the ISS, has stopped any blood loss from her body, and prevented any infection in her wound, to keep her alive. But which reality this version would affect still remains to be seen, as the body is also supposed to have been transported into an alternate reality. 

Henry and Bud’s fates are also kept unclear, with the suggestion that Henry needs to desperately return to the current reality in order to protect himself from imprisonment. However, this looks almost impossible because the CAL device has been destroyed, meaning that Henry will have to invent something similar or find some other means to return to his reality. Bud staying on in this reality would also possibly create more chaos in the near future, and the next season will perhaps cover more of it.

At the very end of episode 8, Irena also tells Alice that her friends used to call her Valya, which is the same name that the girl had assigned to the character in the nightmare. Irena and Valya were probably the same person in different realities, like Henry and Bud, but the second version had passed away in space. The identity of the other prisoner in the medical facility, who claimed to be the first man in space, will also probably become more important in the next season, if and when it is made. Lastly, Paul Lancaster is also seen waking up inside the hospital, after being shot by Bud Caldera, but the manner in which he reacts to still having an arm suggests that this is Paul from the other reality, the one who had lost his hand and then his life too. Whether this means that one can still return to their original realities would be seen only in the second season, along with many other questions hopefully answered.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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