‘Dark Matter’ Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Is Jason Dessen In An Alternate Universe?


Based on the novel by Blake Crouch, who serves as the creator of the Apple+ TV series as well, episode 1 of Dark Matter follows Jason Dessen, a physics professor who is happily married to his wife, Daniela Dessen, who is a painter and runs a small gallery. They have a son, Charlie. Jason and Daniela are friends with Ryan, who informs Jason one fine day that he has won the Pavia Award. Jason is mildly happy about it, probably because he thinks he should’ve won the award instead of Ryan. However, he is too modest to explicitly state stuff like that. Anyway, Jason goes about his day and then returns to his family to have dinner together. It seems like Jason takes a detour to visit a decrepit storage unit and makes notes about what he has done that day. But he doesn’t bring that up. Instead, he talks to Daniela about Ryan’s big win and how his friend has invited him to a party that he doesn’t want to attend. Daniela persuades Jason to give Ryan the attention he seeks. Sadly, as soon as Jason steps out of his house, things go wrong.

Spoiler Alert

Jason Is Abducted by a Masked Assailant

At around the 15-minute mark of the first episode of Dark Matter, Jason heads over to The Village Tap near his house. Given how the bartender, Matt, knows Jason, it means that he is a frequent visitor there, and he is nice enough to be revered by the guy who deals with dozens of drunk idiots on a daily basis. Ryan requests that Matt open a bottle of the best scotch to celebrate Jason’s contribution to his success. Then, Ryan proceeds to get Jason acquainted with his colleagues and “fans.” It gets awkward very quickly because they apparently can’t believe that Ryan, the genius, has a friend who is as ordinary as Jason. But Jason handles it all pretty well. As things begin to wind down, Ryan comes up with a proposal: He is planning to open a neurotech company, and he wants Jason to be a part of this new chapter of his life. Jason and his family will obviously benefit from the money, but there’s a huge difference between wanting and needing money. 

It’s evident that Jason and Daniela do not earn much, but they’re comfortable and they are happy with the life they’ve built together. And Jason doesn’t want to uproot that very life that he has made with Daniela in Chicago and move to San Francisco. So, he wants to reject Ryan’s proposal on the spot. Ryan urges Jason to discuss it with Daniela at least once and then arrive at a decision. Jason agrees to do so, and he heads home. While walking underneath the subway train lines, Jason is abducted by a masked assailant who apparently knows everything about Daniela and Charlie. Since this assailant is holding a gun to Jason’s head, he is compelled to do whatever he says, like driving to a decrepit warehouse.

Jason Runs Away From The Scientific Facility

After reaching the warehouse, the masked assailant takes off Jason’s wedding ring and then takes away his clothes. Jason tries to one-up the assailant and ends up just hurting him a bit. The assailant injects something into Jason and then orders him to wear a different set of clothes while he is on the verge of passing out. The assailant is seen monitoring an odd device, and then he starts talking about multiple possibilities and whatnot. He says that he is doing it for Jason and himself. Jason tries to take off the assailant’s mask to reveal his identity, but the assailant says that he won’t believe the truth if he just blurts it out to Jason. Of course, Jason can’t make head or tail of what the assailant is referring to, but anyone who has watched a movie or a show that even has a miniscule subplot involving an alternate universe will know that the masked assailant is another version of Jason. 

A few minutes later, Jason wakes up in an operation chamber of sorts, where his clothes are removed. He is bathed profusely and checked for radiation. When he passes all the tests, he gets to meet Amanda. The woman apparently knows Jason, but Jason has no idea who she is. Then, he is taken to Leighton, and Jason quickly recognizes him. Leighton displays Jason in a room full of scientists, and he is asked to describe his “experience.” When Amanda tells Jason that he has been gone for around 14 months, it becomes extremely clear that all these guys think that they are talking to the version of Jason that they know. Since the Jason we’ve been following since the beginning of episode 1 of Dark Matter is overwhelmed by this information dump, he freaks out and makes a run for it.

Is Jason Dessen in an alternate universe?

Just for clarity, I’m going to refer to the two Jasons as Jason1 and Jason2. Jason1 is the physics professor, and Jason2 is the masked assailant. I hope we are all on the same page now. Okay, at the end of Dark Matter, episode 1, Jason1 reaches what he thinks is his home and finds Amanda there. He sees that the whole place looks nothing like his home. He sees the Pavia award that Jason2 has received, along with a slew of other awards, but is still unable to make sense of the whole situation. When Jason1 notices a bunch of security officials entering the house, he makes a run for it, again. While all this is going on, Jason2 wears Jason1’s wedding ring and gets cozy with Daniela. 

It’s abundantly clear that Jason2 wants the life that Jason1 built. Jason1 does aspire to be as successful as Jason2, and that’s why he is getting to have a taste of it. However, the big issue is that, regardless of what Jason1 wants, he doesn’t want to achieve it at the cost of his family life. If Jason1 had been as materialistic as Jason2 thinks he is, I guess he wouldn’t have fought back. But he clearly loves Daniela and Charlie very much. And that’s why he is going to fight to return to his universe and possibly punish Jason2 for making a rash decision on his behalf. As mentioned before, I’m sure you’ve seen this story multiple times. I have. That said, this show is really watchable because of Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly’s performances. It’s so effective and charming that I’m fine with the fact that the plot is derivative as hell.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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