Irene (Sissy Spacek) and Franklin York (J.K. Simmons) are an adorable old couple living in a town in Indiana, in the American heartland, and lovingly caring for each other as they grow old together. Nothing would seem to suggest they are any different to the other town folk. In these twilight years together, Franklin is acting as his wife’s caretaker and frets about her fragile health. One night, Irene wants to go see the stars once more and Franklin, keen to make her happy, obliges. With the aid of a walker for Irene, they both slowly head out into the garden, on the way to their backyard shed.
That’s pretty much the sedate start to Night Sky, the new original series from Prime Video that premiered on Friday, May 20, and straddles both the sci-fi and mystery thriller genres. That’s because hidden in that simple shed is a tunnel that eventually leads straight to the stars. At the end of the long passageway there’s a round, metal chamber like an elevator that teleports them to a cozy celestial observation deck where they can relax while viewing the cosmos. There are even easy chairs in which they can sit and gaze at the galaxy as if in the front row of their private movie theater. It’s not clear why they have access to this extraordinary privilege, and neither do they know. But it’s a secret they’ve kept for decades, perhaps waiting for some kind of sign from the universe to one day answer all their questions.
Night Sky viewers will be asking themselves similar questions after this astonishing trip through space and time. This charming couple has trod this same path from their backyard shed to outer space over 800 times, without ever daring to go beyond the threshold of that room with a spectacular view. But far from what it may sound like in this introduction, Night Sky is not some kind of intergalactic series with characters from other worlds who want to interact with planet Earth. It’s about much more mundane matters like the marital problems that arise and intensify with the arrival in the couple’s lives of a strange young man suffering some amnesia and who is on the run, but without really knowing from who or what. Irene protects this fugitive as if he were her own son, firmly believing that through him she will find the missing pieces to an unsolved puzzle.
From this point on, the Yorks’ quiet life together takes an abrupt turn. The strange viewing point of the universe they thought they knew so well turns out to be much more than they had ever imagined. The portal to infinity that once united them so strongly now starts to drive a wedge into their rock solid union.
Throughout its eight episodes – of which only the first six were available for preview – the show interweaves different characters with no apparent link to each other in a series of twists and turns that can be somewhat disconcerting at first.
Meanwhile, over in the middle of an Argentine desert, a woman and her daughter are harboring another secret hidden behind the walls of a small private chapel. Here there is also a tunnel that connects to another teleporter. But unlike the Yorks, these people do know the story behind this mysterious urban labyrinth and its paranormal voyages and, what’s more, they are guardians who must keep the secret safe. Spirituality plays a vital role in this series but their mix of Catholic devotion and custodianship of an important legacy makes them seem more like members of a strange sect preserving a secret handed from one generation to the next.
Both main storylines pile on frantic side plots and annoying supporting characters. Night Sky is an Amazon Studios and Legendary Television co-production starring Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons and it’s their synergistic pairing that provides a solid platform for the entire series. Rounding out the cast are Chai Hansen (The Newsreader), Kiah McKirnan (Mare of Easttown), Julieta Zylberberg (The Invisible Eye), Rocío Hernández (La caída) and Adam Bartley (Longmire).