Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Dark Matter!

Dark Matter launches today on Apple TV+ with Alice Braga, Jennifer Connelly, and Joel Edgerton. I’ve seen only the first four episodes, but so far the show isn’t just good. It’s extraordinarily good.

How extraordinarily good? The kind of extraordinarily good where you want to watch it again and again, knocked out by what you’ve already seen while also noticing layers you didn’t catch the first time (yes, I’ve watched the first two episodes three times already because that’s all I have access to!). The kind of extraordinarily good that I expect is going to win awards—for the writing, the acting (all these amazing actors playing subtly different versions of themselves!), the directing, the cinematography, the music, the main titles…everything.


If you’re into science fiction, you’ll love the genre elements—the notion of a multiverse, and how consciousness creates reality, and the science behind these notions. But for me, the science and speculative aspects, while fascinating, take a back seat to the human drama, which involves questions about the impact of the decisions we make, and how we know whether we’re living the right life, and what love means and what’s really important on this short ride of life.


In the way it’s built on science, the show reminds me a bit of 3 Body Problem. But while 3DP was intriguing and certainly beautifully produced, I can’t say I was ever particularly moved by it (a little by the plight of the character Will Downing, who’s battling metastatic cancer while grappling with a love he’s always been afraid to declare). I was glad when the first 3DP season was done and had no urge to rewatch any of it. By contrast, I can’t stop thinking about Dark Matter, or talking about it with my wife Laura (who’s as obsessed with the show as I am). And it’s killing us to have seen episodes 1-4 and to now have to wait three more weeks for episode five.


Another thing Dark Matter slightly reminds me of (in a more favorable way): the book and movie Altered States. The science there was also interesting, but far more consequential was the human drama, the costs of pursuing knowledge, the power of love in the face of the otherwise nothingness of existence.


I should note that Blake Crouch, who created the show based on his novel of the same name, is a friend. Ditto Jacque Ben-Zekry, also a writer and producer on the show. Blake and I have known each other since we were both fledgling novelists; we read and comment on each other’s pre-publication stuff (I read and loved an early version of Dark Matter the book). And Jacque was an editor at Amazon Publishing when I started working with them in 2011 (after she left, she became one of my freelance editors). They’re both wonderful people and Laura and I love them both. So you should discount my enthusiasm for Dark Matter any way you feel is sensible.


I’ll only say this: if I weren’t as mad about the show as I am, as a friend I would just post something like “Dark Matter drops today on Apple TV+, you should check it out!” I wouldn’t rave about it. I seem constitutionally unable to pretend to be wild about something I actually think is just okay—which is why I’ve blurbed so few books over the course of a 20+-year career in writing. You can’t just say, “This is a good story; if you like thrillers, I think you might enjoy it.” You have to say, “OMG, this book changed my life and I am starting a new religion about it!” And while such over-the-top blurbs are common, that kind of true sentiment isn’t usually the case.


But sometimes it is. And while I’m not about to start any new religions about Dark Matter, I would happily be a charter member of a fan club. Everything I’ve said in this post is from the heart and I’m pretty sure millions of people are going to feel the same way. Give the show a try on Apple TV+ and let me know if you’re one of them.


And if you can’t wait for all nine episodes…the book is awesome, too.