AMAZON’S NIGHT SKY—REVIEW

Back in May a new SF series called Night Sky premiered, with terrific actors Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons. But Amazon nixed a second season. Have you seen it? Can you explain why Amazon killed it? I can’t.

Figure 1 – Night Sky Poster

Now that it’s been canceled by Amazon, it’s damned hard to find good “poster” images of this series to post here. But I managed, I guess. Seems like a lot of movie people are doing TV series these days; genre fans are, of course, familiar with Sissy Spacek from Carrie and J.K. Simmons from the Spider-Man movies—but they’ve both done a lot of other stuff. Now they’ve come (and gone) to TV in the new (May 2022) show Night Sky.

Which is a shame, because both The Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk and I liked it a lot and thought it had promise for the second season. (Fair warnings: a) I might give some stuff away if you haven’t watched it; and b) a friend of mine—a writer and editor—found it “trite and predictable.” Yes, it was just like all the other TV shows about outer space portals buried in the backyard. <g>) Anyway, the short version you can read in any TV guide.

This older couple (both younger than me, but we’ll let that go for now) in Illinois have found a secret buried in their backyard under the shed. (Okay, it wasn’t originally buried under the shed; they put the shed over it, apparently.) They’ve kept this secret for twenty years (specifically, 849 visits over 20 years); and it’s a good one: there’s a metal chamber under the shed, built by who-knows-who (the chamber, not the shed), and it leads to another planet! (Oh, I said that above, didn’t I? Well, I’m a bit scattered today. But I’ll persevere.)

The couple, Franklin (J.K. Simmons) and Irene (Sissy Spacek) York, are both 73 (I think—she said her age, but if he did I missed it), and she’s in frail health. He used to be a woodworker, but has long since retired. She’s more or less wheelchair-bound—she can walk a bit with a cane, but it tires her and hurts—so Franklin drives her around (she used to drive, but her license is long since expired) and wheels her around too. They’ve been married since God was a pup, and they had one son, Michael (Angus O’Brien). Some years ago, Michael committed suicide (this does figure in the story). We don’t know much about Michael’s wife, but his daughter—Franklin & Irene’s granddaughter—Denise (Klah McKiernan) is very much a part of the story.

They have a nosy neighbour who moved in about 6 months ago, named Byron Albemarle (Adam Bartley), who with his wife Jeanine (Cass Buggé) was forced out of the town of Champaign when he whistle-blew the town’s biggest employer and threw it out of business. With nothing else to do, he’s spying on the Yorks and also thinking of running for city council. He’s seen them going into the shed late at night—Franklin pushing the wheelchair—and staying in there for hours. When he surreptitiously looks in the shed, he sees not even a big room. (He doesn’t know that the stairs to the shed’s cellar are hidden.) He even tries mowing Franklin’s lawn to get on his good side, but Frankline doesn’t like him and rebuffs any attempt at friendship.

On the space side, there’s a big window (Figure 1) where the couple can sit and gaze out at a starscape with a planet or two visible—there’s even a door that leads outside, but they’ve never tried going out. (“The mice died quickly when we put ‘em out,” Franklin said.)

Can you believe that? You or I would have been outside as soon as we could dig up or make whatever ersatz spacesuit we could get in our grubby little paws. Twenty years with another planet only an airlock away! Sheesh! But I digress.Figure 2 – Night Sky Poster 2

When her doctor gives her some very bad news one day, Irene decides to take matters in her own hands and go out on her own terms—she’s spent all these years afraid to find out what was on the other side of the airlock, and now she was going to do it. She writes a note to Franklin, quoting W.H. Auden about the stars and telling Franklin she had waited long enough and, while he’s asleep in bed, she goes into the chamber and transitions to the “other place,” putting the note on the table there for him. She’s about to exit the airlock, when she hears a voice behind her. She looks back and sees someone lying on the floor in the room she just left.

Are you intrigued? That’s just the first episode; there are eight in total. There was meant to be a second season, but citing low numbers of watchers and high production costs, Amazon backed out and canceled the show. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there’s a secret society—full of religious fanatics—a secret society opposed to the first one, a murderous bad guy (at least one), links between this chamber and others, and intrigues all ‘round. In addition, there’s even a Cocoon-like happening—no, nobody grows young again, and Don Ameche isn’t even in it, but it seems inevitable somehow.

There was an online review that complained that the hints for Season 2 somehow spoiled the ending of Season 1, but I really have to disagree; without those hints, we would have been left hanging. As it is, the season ender is more than a bit ambiguous, which I find rather satisfying—lots of room for speculation. We enjoyed the series and wished for more; it was both suspenseful and exciting (not all at once, however).

And with a pair of powerhouse actors, like Spacek and Simmons, how could even a bad TV series be boring? (And the granddaughter Denise is seriously cute. Just sayin’.)

I would really like your comments on this series, whether here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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