Irene and Franklin York are a lot like other older couples. They watch each other about following a doctor’s prescription, joke about their complicated daily intake of pills, and when the mood is right, they put on some Sam Cooke and dance in the living room, just like in the good old days. In short, they are cute. But there’s one key difference between the Yorks and most retired couples: Hidden in their shed, right behind a wooden sign that reads ‘to the stars’, is a gateway to another world.
This is the basic configuration for night sky on Amazon Prime Video. The show’s first episode debuts this week and follows early Irene (Sissy Spacek) and Franklin (JK Simmons) as they go through their lives, which also happens to include an occasional visit to space to enjoy the view. Irene uses a wheelchair while recovering from a recent fall, and Franklin struggles with his memory. With all these challenges, Irene has made the mystery of their space barn a huge priority. She continues to think about it, and she refutes Franklin’s attempts to tell anyone else. “It was meant for us,” she says. “It’s our riddle that we have to solve.”
The first episode of night sky feels so refreshing, especially because of Spacek and Simmons. In the three decades since Cocoon, science fiction stories about the elderly are still quite rare. There is not much in the way of acting. Aside from grappling with the mystery of the cosmos – which, it should be noted, is getting a bit boring for Franklin; after more than 800 visits, he prefers to watch the ball game – the couple is extremely normal. The day after a trip to the stars, Franklin becomes angry with his neighbor for mowing his property line. Irene uses a friend’s Alzheimer’s as an excuse to finally tell someone about what’s going on.
The show is warm, sweet and at times heartbreaking – but unfortunately much of that gets overshadowed as the story gets more and more complicated.
Starting with a major cliffhanger at the end of the first episode, night sky steadily becomes another puzzle box of a show. It is a genre that has been well represented lately by, among others yellow jackets† severance payand Amazon’s Out of range† After the silent, contemplative opening, night sky gets busy and complicated. There is a strange man who lives with the Yorks; a curious neighbor determined to find out what’s going on in the barn; cults and secret societies tied to the portal; a mother and daughter in Argentina guarding an ancient temple; and all manner of seemingly strange technology of unknown origin.
There’s nothing wrong with a good, complex mystery, of course. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about severance pay and Out of rangethe big hole. The problem in night sky is that none of these side stories are anywhere as interesting as Irene, Franklin and their space barn. Instead, they are mostly unsatisfactory detours. Sometimes these detours offer interesting new context — this is especially true when it comes to their temporary roommate Jude (Chai Hansen), who becomes closely intertwined with the Yorks — but just as often they focus on underdeveloped characters and storylines that don’t really go anywhere. to.
This is especially frustrating because, when the show focuses on Franklin and Irene, it’s great. Simmons and Spacek bring a natural warmth to their relationship which is simply a joy to watch, even if things take a dark turn later in the season. Their charm can even help solve some of the show’s problems. night sky is a story where characters make decisions and keep secrets for reasons that seem only intended to advance the plot rather than being something a real human would do. (Serious, everybody lies about everythingeven if they have no reason to.) It’s frustrating, but can be easier to ignore when you’re in the cozy embrace of the York household.
in the end, night sky is a show for people who liked Rose and Bernard the best part of Lost† (Also known as People of Right Minds.) The presence of Spacek and Simmons, along with the central central mystery, is largely enough to propel the show through its eight episodes. Thankfully, the season ends with a note that really evokes that wonderful first episode — but there’s a lot of padding between those two bookends.
night sky begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on May 20.