Joel Edgerton Opens the Door to the Multiverse in Absorbing New Existential Sci-Fi Series 'Dark Matter'

The Australian actor hops through parallel worlds in this nine-part Apple TV+ series, which is adapted by author Blake Crouch from his own thriller novel.
Sarah Ward
Published on May 08, 2024

When an Australian actor makes it big, it can feel as if there's more than one of them. Joel Edgerton, who has been on local screens for almost three decades and made the leap to Hollywood with the Australian-shot Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, is such a talent. He's usually everywhere and in almost everything (such as The Stranger, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Thirteen Lives, Master Gardener, I'm a Virgo, The Boys in the Boat and Bluey in just the past two years), and viewers would follow him anywhere. Dark Matter wasn't written to capitalise upon that idea. Rather, it hails from the page of Blake Crouch's 2016 novel, with the author also creating the new nine-part Apple TV+ sci-fi series that it's based on. But, streaming from Wednesday, May 8, 2024, the show's lead casting leans into the notion that you can never have too much Edgerton by multiplying him in the multiverse.

For the characters in Dark Matter, however, the fact that there's more than a single Jason Dessen causes considerable issues. The series' protagonist is a former experimental physics genius-turned-professor in Chicago who's teaching disinterested students about Schrödinger's cat. He's married to artist-turned-gallerist Daniela (Jennifer Connelly, Bad Behaviour), a father to teenager Charlie (Oakes Fegley, The Fabelmans) and the best friend of award-winning college pal Ryan Holder (Jimmi Simpson, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). And, he's been happy living the quiet family life, although pangs of envy quietly arise when he's celebrating Ryan's prestigious new accolade. Then, when another Jason pops up to pull off a kidnapping and doppelgänger plot, he's soon navigating a cross between Sliding Doors and Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Everything is a multiverse tale of late; a mere few examples span superhero films and television shows Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the Spider-Verse movies, Loki and The Flash; TV gems Fringe and Russian Doll; and the interdimensional animated chaos of Rick and Morty. Dark Matter is also a soul-searching "what if?" drama, exploring the human need to wonder what might've been if just one choice — sometimes big, sometimes small — had veered in a different direction. While a box is pivotal mode of transport like this is Doctor Who, as are all manner of worlds to visit, this is high-concept sci-fi at its most grounded. Neither version of Jason wants to hop through parallel worlds in the name of adventure or exploration — they're simply chasing their idea of everyday perfection.

The first Jason chose Daniela and Charlie over devoting his existence to his career, round-the-clock work and only seeing the inside of a lab. Drugging and abducting him to reveal what could've eventuated if he didn't chart that path, the second Jason slides into his life to trade places. The everyman Jason unwillingly gets transported to a plane of reality where he's a famous billionaire — as well as the recipient of prizes and kudos, and also the creator of the technology that's allowing tumbling through the multiverse to happen — while the interloper Jason assumes his spot as a husband and dad. Dark Matter ties into the proverb "the grass is always greener", too, as both Jasons face the ups and downs of the road not taken, mostly for worse not better.

For Jason One, if only verdant pastures were all that changed as he urgently attempts to return to his Daniela. With Jason Two's psychiatrist partner and colleague Amanda (Alice Braga, A Murder at the End of the World) for company, anything can await behind the infinite expanse of doors in a dimly light corridor that literalises the quantum state of superposition. Again, though, journeying to dystopias and paradises, and through disasters and futuristic havens while they're at it, isn't the point, even if each of the above makes an appearance. If you've ever felt as if you've been wading through copies of the life that you're meant to have, with nothing completely falling into place as it should, that's Jason One's experience as minor details morph from world to world.

Edgerton's job, fittingly, contains multitudes. As the initial iteration of Jason, he plays thoughtful, considerate, dedicated to his loved ones and desperate to find his way back to them — all while tussling with the show's high-tech premise, often while stranded within that endless hallway. As Jason Two, he's a calculating imposter endeavouring not to get caught in the dream reality that he's ruthlessly stolen, but also arrogant in his confidence that he's pulled off his existential heist. A click on the soundtrack signals Dark Matter's jump between Jasons, but it needn't: Edgerton conveys their differences alongside their similarities like an artist painting the same portrait in dissimilar styles, and does so in one of the best performances of his career.

Grappling with regrets, possibilities, the haunting knowledge that other futures are always possible and the distress of grasping that you mightn't have appreciated what you had until it was gone, Edgerton isn't the only actor excelling at doing double duty. For Connelly, in a show that spirits someone else off on a quest as another of her on-screen alter egos once was nearly four decades back in Labyrinth — a series where frosty climes and trains also play a part, bringing her last small-screen role on Snowpiercer to mind — shifts in body language say everything. And, they aren't the only cast members serving up layered performances. Braga, Fegley and Simpson are no slouches; in smaller but no less pivotal roles, neither are Dayo Okeniyi (Hypnotic) and Amanda Brugel (Parish).

With Wayward Pines and Good Behaviour, Crouch's work has ventured from the page to episodes before — and with his involvement. His latest series has echoes within Apple TV+'s slate, too, because the platform's love of science fiction, twists and mysteries just keeps growing, including with Constellation already in 2024, Silo in 2023 and Severance in 2022. There might only be a lone idyllic realm for Jasons in Dark Matter, but that isn't the case for the streaming service's viewers. An absorbing and addictive trip that's also firmly anchored in relatable yearnings and musings, this Edgerton-led series is one to enthusiastically dive into.

Check out the trailer for Dark Matter below:

Dark Matter streams via Apple TV+ from Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

Published on May 08, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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