‘Night Sky’ Review: An Enthralling, Slow Burning Sci-Fi Tale

If you’ve always loved space, imagine having a window to the universe right in your backyard. Imagine no more with Prime Video’s Night Sky. It’s a slow-burning, enchanting science fiction adventure. The fact that it’s all centered around top-notch performances is just an added bonus. If you love exploring new frontiers, and family dramas, this might be the show for you.

J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek are at the absolute top of their game. It’s long past time a space adventure centres around adults of a certain mature age. Their dynamic is captivating to watch. They so brilliantly play a couple whose love has stood the test of time. Their relationship is a portrait of two deeply imperfect people who continue to choose each other each day, in spite of every obstacle that they face. 

Even in their disagreements (and there are plenty of them), it’s clear that they only want what’s best for each other. Theirs is an aspirational relationship. It’s all too rare to see an older couple like them still struggle with fundamental questions about themselves while navigating their relationship. Seeing otherworldly forces and entities enter their lives only makes their relationship more grounded in the end. 

Credit: Chuck Hodes, Amazon Prime Studios

Their relationship with their son, who tragically died by suicide, is handled with such care and sensitivity. The York’s’ imperfections as parents are made clear in this storyline. They are forced to confront who they really are in the wake of such a tragedy. The honesty that Simmons and Spacek bring to their roles, in this story especially, is often heartbreaking. Yet, it’s a testament to how well the York’s are crafted as characters. 

The introduction of Jude (Chai Hansen) right off the bat really sets the tone for the York’s story for the entire season. Jude is less of a replacement for their son, and more of a second chance for them both to show how much they’ve changed. The contrast to how Irene and Franklin treat Jude, and the journey the respectively take with him, gives even further insight into their characters. 

Denise (Kiah McKirnan) is one of the most dynamic characters in a show filled with stellar performances. Her arc is incredibly relatable, being at a crossroads with where she wants to go in life. She’s another whose family loyalty is expressed so often through the season. Denise grounds the story, as it gets ever more chaotic as the season continues. 

Credit: Chuck Hodes, Amazon Prime Studios

Stella (Julieta Zylberberg) and Toni (Rocío Hernández) are in many ways opposite to everything about the York. Their relationship is centered around Stella’s understandable, if misguided need to protect Toni at any cost. Too often, this leads to Stella committing wildly irresponsible acts in the name of maintaining the status quo. As Toni tries to come into her own, and explore the world around her, she is always pulled back into her mother’s orbit.

Stella and Toni’s story is also the venue through which Night Sky explores the idea of religious extremism. Seeing how enmeshed Stella has become in this mysterious cult, contrasted with Toni’s inquisitiveness, is captured beautifully. It’s also a stark picture, of how this kind of religious extremism passes on unquestioned through the generations, until one person chooses to go another way. There was a lot more to explore about this cult, and by the end of the season there are far more questions than there are answers. 

The York’s neighbour, Byron (Adam Bartley), arguably goes on the most epic journey through this season. At the beginning, he’s perfectly detestable. He’s annoying, a bit of a con-man to boot. By the end, though, the way he’s bonded with Franklin in particular is endearing. Even though he has an irritating exterior, he manages to be sympathetic and relatable by the end. Ultimately, his character didn’t deserve his ending. It’s a shame. 

Credit: Chuck Hodes, Amazon Prime Studios

The ending of Night Sky’s inaugural season leaves much open for future storytelling. It was ingenious, to have the focus this story on a family coming together rather than the mysterious other-worldly portal leading into space. The ending indicates we could see a return to this universe, and perhaps get some more answers. Of course, even more questions could be uncovered. More the reason to re-visit the York’s again. 

Night Sky is a rare combination of science-fiction with character driven drama. The slow pace serves the series well. Well-developed characters with complex stories keep this story grounded firmly on Earth, even while space lies at their feet. Less on the outer space, and more on the family dynamics, this series is worth re-visiting over and over again. 

Night Sky Season 1 is available to stream on Prime Video. 

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