Many Worlds

Dark Matter Just Fixed The Biggest Problem With The Multiverse

In Episode 5, Dark Matter lays out a multiverse rule that’s truly brilliant.

Assuming the multiverse is real, and infinite timelines do exist, then how could you even navigate any of those various branches? In the Apple TV+ series Dark Matter, the notions of the observer effect and existing in a state of quantum “superposition” are essential to making the fictional science of the series work. But, for the purposes of making a propulsive sci-fi TV series, the ground rules for infinity can’t be too infinite. In fact, in Episode 5, one version of Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton) explains how the multiverse works in Dark Matter — and it’s a surprisingly simple bit of world-building that elegantly makes the show feel vividly real.

Mild spoilers ahead for Dark Matter, episode 5, “Wordless.”

In the world of Jason 1, the “bad” Jason — known as Jason 2 — clinches his get-rich-quick scheme by showing millionaire Leighton (Dayo Okeniyi) how the box can give anyone access to the multiverse. Because Jason 2 is the one who built the box, he’s the character in Dark Matter who knows the most about how it actually works. No other character has successfully navigated the multiverse as well as Jason 2, and, even though he’s kind of the defacto villain of the series, he’s also the one person most likely to have the answers to the various mysteries of the show.

The version of Leighton in the world of Jason 1 is a rich guy who lives off the profits from his father’s company, Velocity. In Jason 2’s world, a different version of Leighton collaborated with him to make the box, also with funds from Velocity. The difference between the Leightons is a matter of context: One is a party boy who wants to travel the multiverse as a kind of life-changing trippy experience, while the other is a determined businessman, who, not coincidentally, is also traveling the multiverse trying to find where Jason 1 and Amanda went.

In Episode 5, “Wordless,” Jason 2 explains to Leighton exactly how the multiverse navigation in Dark Matter works. After describing a world he visited that was mostly in the desert, with people driving around souped-up cars, Leighton says, “You just described the plot of Mad Max.” Jason 2 acts surprised, and Leighton asks “They don’t have Max Max [the movie] in your world?” Jason 2 laughs it off, implying he was messing with Leighton, and that no, an actual alternate universe exactly like Mad Max does not, in fact, exist.

Amanda (Alice Braga) and Jason (Joel Edgerton) try to escape a world that has completely flooded. The thing is, they both have doppelgängers in this world. Or at least they did.


Instead, Jason 2 lays out a specific rule that prevents anyone from ending up in a topsy-turvy universe where light doesn’t exist or people are two-dimensional. “We don’t have access to the entire breadth of the multiverse... [worlds] that are adjacent to us somehow, worlds that split off some point in the recent past, next door to ours, that you exist in, or existed in... so worlds that we were born into.”

So, this means that in Dark Matter, the rules of the box prevent characters from accessing universes in which they were never born. Their doppelgängers might be deceased in these adjacent worlds — in the relative present — but, at some point, the other worlds had a version of the travel, at some point. This makes the trip through the multiverse very personal, and essentially customized to each of the characters — to a point. Some of these worlds are being visited by the same versions of the same characters, crossing over with versions of themselves who may (or may not) be aware a multiverse even exists.

But, crucially, what this multiverse rule does is to keep the idea of multiverse manageable. Unlike something like Doctor Strange, or Loki, the characters won’t suddenly find a world in which they exist as animals or don’t exist at all. The multiverse of Dark Matter is one of madness or wackiness. It’s trippy as hell. But it’s the kind of trippiness that you could actually imagine happening.

Dark Matter streams on Apple TV+.

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