To The Stars
Episode 1 of Night Sky begins in the past, with Franklin and Irene first meeting in a bar. After a “lucky shot” from the pool table, Franklin finds an excuse to strike up a conversation with Irene. And that, as they say, is that.
Fast forward to the present, 50 years or so forward, and both Irene and Franklin are happily married and living together. Irene is in a wheelchair though, and Franklin wheels her out so they can go and see the stars.
Together, they head down to the shed, descending through an underground tunnel to a strange doorway. Inside, they’re inexplicably transported up into the stars; a martial observation deck.
Franklin has noticed that Irene has wanted to come out and see the view more and more over the past year or so. They’ve been up there 865 times in total and more frequently since her fall.
Franklin tries to probe what’s going on, eventually admitting that he’s a bit tired of constantly coming up here. He’s had enough and wants to pass their secretive burden on to someone else. Irene though is convinced this is their “riddle to solve.”
One of the more intriguing characters here is Byron, who happens to be their next door neighbour. He’s convinced that Irene and Franklin are hiding something in their shed and is determined to find out what.
Franklin certainly doesn’t take kindly to him, viewing the guy as a nosy pest. When he tries to mow the lawn, Franklin dismisses him completely. Byron also wants to run for mayor too, although his partner, Jeanine, is not so sure.
Irene visits the doctor who wants to run some tests, believing her symptoms are getting worse. Quite what she’s diagnosed with though is unclear.
As for Franklin, he ends up going for lunch with his granddaughter Denise. She’s worried about them, having heard from a neighbour that they’re roaming around in the middle of the night going for strolls. Franklin passes it off as simply watching the stars but Denise is not so sure. She’s worried and broaches the idea of them leaving the house. Franklin vehemently declines.
In Franklin’s absence, Irene leaves the doctors and visits an old friend at the care home. This happens to be Sadie, who shows up to see her. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst when she notices Sadie’s frail mental state. Needing to tell someone her secret, Irene tells Sadie that she’s special and has been traveling…but is also very sick.
When Irene is eventually picked up by Franklin, they ride home together. Both are looking the worse for wear, with time serving as a cruel mistress, chipping away parts of their mind. This time that falls to Franklin, who is starting to go senile and forgetting crucial things, like filling up the gas and collecting Irene from the doctors.
Back home, the pair talk about the inevitability of death. Irene urges Franklin to live a fulfilled life and move past this house if the time comes that she passes before him.
After a lovely evening together, Franklin falls asleep while singing to Irene. Irene though, is in no mood to sleep.
She’s had enough of waiting and after leaving a note for Franklin, tells him that she’s going to head out and make her own choice while she still can.
Irene promises to see Franklin again, heading up to the Martian landscape, leaving a note by the chair and preparing to go out the door. Only, just before she does, she notices someone lying on the floor, wheezing and pleading with her for help. Who is this stranger?
The Episode Review
Night Sky is a slow but methodical drama, one that hones in on ideas of existentialism, our place in the universe and the cruel passing of time. With both J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek in the driving seats, these two do an amazing job bringing these characters to life.
The brief but simple flashback at the beginning also helps to set things up for their fated meet, with the inevitability of old age hanging over them like a black cloud. The chapter is really nicely constructed in that respect, with some pretty thought provoking themes running throughout.
Having said that though, Night Sky is very slow paced so if you’re not wholly invested in the characters then this is likely to become somewhat of a chore. If the whole 8 hours are like this then it could become a bit much, but we’ll have to wait and see. For now though, this is a decent opener.