The Inverse Interview

Why Apple TV+’s Dark Matter Matters

“It’s a serious adult drama wrapped in this crazy sci-fi package.”

Apple TV+
The Inverse Interview

You don’t have to be a fan of science fiction to wonder about the road not taken. Pretty much the only thing about human existence that everyone can agree on is that our choices define us. But the new Apple TV+ sci-fi show Dark Matter asks whether our choices may not be the only thing about selfhood that truly matters. In one of the most mind-bending series of the year, Dark Matter asks big questions, but smartly, puts those questions into relatable packages.

Based on the bestselling 2016 novel by Blake Crouch, Dark Matter tells the story of Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton), a man lost in the multiverse forced into a showdown with another darker, more ambitious version of himself. And for everyone involved, from executive producer Matt Tolmach to author-turned-showrunner Blake Crouch, to series co-star Jennifer Connelly, the name of the Dark Matter game was relatability.

“This is the life that reflects all the cumulative choices that we've made and experiences that we've had,” Connelly tells Inverse. “It’s kinda of an ode to marriage, and, in a way, to adulthood.”

Ahead of the launch of Dark Matter, we chatted with Connelly, Tolmach, and Crouch, to get a sense of how the series came to be, what it means, and what’s next.

A Down-to-Earth Multiverse

Jason (Joel Edgerton) and Ryan (Jimmi Simpson) have a strange history in Dark Matter.

Apple TV+

Unlike some big-franchise conceits about the multiverse, there are very, very grounded rules to how Jason, Amanda (Alice Braga), Leighton (Dayo Okeniyi) and others navigate different dimensions. As a version of Jason explains at one point in the series: “We don’t have access to the entire breadth of the multiverse... [these worlds] are adjacent to us somehow, worlds that split off some point in the recent past, next door to ours, that we exist in, or existed in.”

So, bottom line: Even though Dark Matter’s multiverse is infinite, it’s also finite insofar as characters are tied to options connected to their own personal timeline. If you have philosophical thoughts or feelings about the concept of “the observer effect,” Dark Matter is going to speak to those interested in psychology, just as much as people who want to get down with complex physics questions. And yet, despite all the very specific speculative science here, the show is about people first.

“I mean, I wrote the book before writing a multiverse thing was cool,” Crouch says. “And I think what makes Dark Matter different is it's a serious adult drama wrapped in this crazy sci-fi package. Even though you have this wild speculative idea of a magic box that leads you to other worlds, it’s all based on this very grounded character study of a marriage and of love, and what happens when you feel like you're starting to outgrow your life and you're having those regrets about choices you might’ve made.”

Connelly agrees, noting that the show is deeply connected to real choices everyone faces, calling it “a really domestic story that then travels through the multiverse.” But, if all this kitchen sink drama has thrill-seeking sci-fi fans worried, don’t be. Because once Dark Matter’s universe-hoping gets going, and its internal mysteries start to unspool, the show’s grounded tone only makes the action that much more exciting.

Bigger than the Book

Jennifer Connelly’s Daniela has a signifcantly larger role than in the novel.

Apple TV+

Dark Matter begins as a fairly faithful adaptation of the mega-popular novel. But, beyond the second episode, it becomes very much not like the novel it’s based on, only because the available perspectives and cast of characters is so much wider than the book attempted. While some TV adaptations tend to compress novels, Dark Matter does the opposite, and proves to be more capacious as a series than as a book.

“We were going to do this as a movie,” executive producer Matt Tolmach tells Inverse. “But we felt a little bit hemmed in by that prospect. There was a limitation to what we could do there. But, once we had this bigger landscape, we could play and expand.”

There are several characters who are expanded from their roles in the book, and a few brand new characters in the mix too. But, without spoiling anything specific, one character who gets a lot more development in the series is Amanda, who, in the book, is someone who accompanies Jason on his journey, but whose story in the novel is never really completed. And because Amanda was “such a fan favorite,” Crouch and Tolmach were pumped to expand her role in the show.

Amanda (Alice Braga) has a much bigger role in the TV series than in the novel.

Apple TV+

“For every four emails I get from readers, probably two of those are asking what happened to Amanda in the book,” Crouch says. “She just kinda falls off in the book. She writes the letter, she's gone. So, I always knew I wanted to do justice to her. She's such a lovely character and once we had Alice [Braga], it was like, oh, well now I understand exactly who this and I want to expand her world as well.”

Daniela (Connelly) also has a bigger presence in the show than in the novel, mostly because, unlike the book, we jump back to the “home” world more often, to witness Jason 2 trying to pass himself off as Jason 1, even though Daniela is totally onto him. “I love that part of the story where it kind of goes into a sort of thriller,” Connelly says. “She’s trying to solve the mystery of what’s going on and what he’s been up to. But, it was a fun challenge to play the different version of Daniela, too. I really enjoyed that.”

Dark Matter Season 2?

Could Dark Matter continue beyond the story of Jason? Nothing is impossible in the multiverse.

Apple TV+

So, because the show has so many new threads, expanded characters, and a few new characters, you can’t spoil Dark Matter outright by reading the book. And by the time the series gets to its eventual end, there are some interesting questions left unanswered, that perhaps, a second season of the show could explore. The book never had a sequel, but it seems like the series could keep going, not just with the story of Jason and his family, but perhaps well beyond into other multiverses with other people.

“There could always be a Season 2 of anything,” Crouch says. “As the writer, I know these characters and I can imagine where they might go after, and I know I'm being vague, but yeah, I could see a life after.”

Dark Matter debuts with two episodes on Apple TV+ on May 8.

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