Amazon Prime’s latest slow-burn sci-fi series, “Night Sky,” is what would happen if “Black Mirror” and “Babel” met and made a show together. Created and Executive Produced by Holden Miller and Daniel C. Connolly, the story focuses on the lives of Irene York (Sissy Spacek) a retired teacher and her husband Franklin York (J.K. Simmons) a retired carpenter, who happen to have a secret portal to an unknown planet hidden beneath their shed in the backyard. Like “Tales from the Loop” and “Outer Range”, “Night Sky” is the latest in what appears to be Amazon Prime’s push to create more thoughtful sci-fi content starring older actors.
For more than two decades, the couple traveled back and forth through the portal to an abandoned alien outpost staring out into the night sky, never venturing out onto the planet’s surface for fear of lack of oxygen. However, doors work both ways, and one day, a human (or so we think) visitor stumbles through the portal injured. After that, their lives are never the same.
“Night Sky” is not an alien invasion story, nor is it a sci-fi horror thriller, although if you squint, you can see the latter highlighting the muted tones of the show. Instead, the eight-episode series is about love and loss and the ripple effect losing a loved one can have across a family. Mostly seen through the eyes of a couple who have been married for half a century, Irene and Franklin’s story is juxtaposed with another story unfolding half a world away.
During a recent press junket with the cast and creators, I was lucky enough to chat with Oscar winners Simmons and Spacek about the series and how these two very different people navigate the unknown together. “I think Irene is inside her head a lot,” Spacek says, “and Franklin is a curmudgeon, but he’s a curmudgeon when he’s worried about her.” “He’s simple, but deep is the way I thought about him,” Simmons agrees, “really at the beginning of the story, Franklin is all about taking care of his wife, the love of his life, and trying to hang on to her and to what they have.”
Irene finds Jude (Chai Hansen) injured in the outpost one night and brings him home to nurse him back to health. But his presence changes the balance of the septuagenarians’ lives in ways that Franklin is very uncomfortable with, especially when they set Jude up in the bedroom of their son Michael whom they lost over two decades ago.
Jude and Franklin are like oil and water, but even Franklin doesn’t have the heart to put him out. “He’s a stoic, traditional Midwestern W.A.S.P.Y. dude,” Simmons says, “but..he’s an empathetic human being, and he can’t be cruel at the end of the day.”
As it turns out, Jude is not there to hurt the couple, but he is instead on a quest of his own. However, Irene sees Jude as providence. “[Irene’s] just hoping that Jude can lead her to Michael.” Spacek explains, “She’s got hope.”
A series starring an older couple is rare, and in a sci-fi series even moreso. The writing tackles marriage, depression, and how often both senior citizens and immigrants are ignored. In the end, Irene and Franklin realize that their greatest journey lies just beyond their fear and pain, and in a cliffhanger straight out of “The Twilight Zone,” get one hell of a reveal. “Night Sky” also stars Kiah McKirnan, Adam Bartley and Julieta Zylberberg. All eight episodes are available now on Amazon Prime Video