June 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Dark Matter “Are You Happy In Your Life?”

Episode One

Alright, this looks promising.  Blake Crouch’s novel was a lot of fun, and he wrote or co-wrote a number of episodes while serving as a producer.  The cast has Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly in the leads and includes the likes of Alice Braga and Jimmi Simpson.  There’s no reason at first blush that this should be bad or something.

Of course, there’s only one way to find out.

Here’s the thing:  I read the book and remember roughly what happens, so how does this first episode set things up?  The basic plot has college physics professor Jason Dessen, a man with a wife and son he adores, finding himself in an alternate reality where he’s rich and successful but never married.  Meanwhile, the version of him from that reality has taken his place back home.  Jason’s only real complaint was a lack of success in his career, but he had that loving wife, what looks like a comfortable living–his house looks pretty big for a guy who isn’t professionally success–and it’s mostly that his life is rather quiet and boring.  His students ignore him.  His college friend gets a prestigious award before he does.  But he has Daniela and Charlie, so that makes him a target for a guy who has everything Jason lacks but wants the family.

Given the option between being a rich genius and married to Jennifer Connelly…yeah, I think I would take the family too.

Still, the big surprise is that Jason is abducted by another version of himself.  Jason doesn’t learn that right away, and neither does the novel’s reader.  Instead, he’s ambushed by a mystery man while walking home a little drunk.  The man makes him change clothes, drugs him, and asks a couple questions about his life, but who is this guy?  It’s Jason-2 for lack of a better name, and his general knowledge of his own life while also knowing he is a stranger does give him an advantage with only a clue here or there that he’s another Jason.  The difference is Jason-2 knows the multiverse exists, for lack of a better explanation.  Jason-1 doesn’t.  Not yet.

But there was a moment here when the episode gave a clue by showing Jason-2 up to something suspicious before he’s done anything.  Anyone not in the know would wonder what Jason was up to here if they didn’t know there was more than one of him, so that by episode’s end with Jason-2 is hooking up with Daniela and Jason-1 is getting something of an explanation from one Amanda Lucas who may or may not be something to Jason-2 (I suspect not), it may start to make some sense.  I don’t know what that would mean off-hand as I am not someone approaching this story for the first time.

That’s the sort of thing I would want to know but obviously can’t.  I can only react to how the adaptation handles a story I already know.   It’s actually pretty good, showing the mundane existence Jason lives, shows Daniela actually has a life outside the house, and gives some ideas on how Jason-2 could so effortlessly take over Jason-1’s life.

The whys, that will come later.