‘Constellation’ Finale Recap & Ending Explained (In-Detail)

After taking viewers through the mysterious, captivating, thrilling, and occasionally emotional journey of Swedish astronaut Jo Ericsson—a journey that transcended realities to uncover some hidden corners of space exploration—Apple TV+’s Constellation brings an end to its first season in the most unexpected way. Previously, while being stranded in an alternate reality, Jo fled to their family cabin in Vindelälven, taking alternate Alice and the CAL device with her. On the other hand, Jo’s daughter, Alice from prime reality, decided to visit Vindelälven with her father, Magnus, as well, and through unique distortions in the spatial continuum, she is briefly reunited with her mother on the other side. Alternate Alice learns about another version of herself as the two Alice communicate with each other, discussing the predicament of a reality-displaced Jo. 


However, while saving alternate Alice, Jo is separated from her daughter and gets apprehended by the search party led by alternate Magnus, who considers her mentally unstable. Henry and Bud Caldera switch places in their current realities, probably due to the influence of CAL, thereby returning to their original worlds, which puts Henry Caldera in grave danger. By the end of the previous episode, Jo was taken to rehabilitation by Roscosmos chief Irena Lysenko, and alternate Alice senses danger as she sees a nightmarish vision, which suggests Irena and Valya are alternate versions of each other. Having gone through a fair amount of scientific complexities in the course of the last seven episodes, the finale episode of Constellation season 1 focuses more on the emotional family dynamics of the series, which forms the foundation of a possible continuation as well. 

Spoilers Ahead


What Happened To Jo In Rehab?

As Constellation episode 8 begins, an audio recording of alternate Jo is heard playing in the background as viewers are taken to the ISS, where alternate Jo is seen gazing below at the earth. We do not know for sure whether it is before her fatal accident or not, but the recording can be confirmed to be before the accident as alternate Jo is heard comforting her daughter, alternate Alice, mentioning that she will always be there, watching over her. 

Meanwhile, Jo has been admitted to a missionary rehabilitation center in St. Sergius, secluded away in a small townscape in the midst of mountains and wilderness. Jo is treated with shock therapy to restore the normalcy of her mental state and eventually slips into unconsciousness. Irena supervises her recovery as efforts are made to help Jo remember her cherished memories, from installing photo frames to bringing in a piano for her to play. However, these are memories of alternate Jo they are trying to recover—with which Jo had no connection to begin with. As Irena and the rest of the missionary nurses conduct more medical tests on Jo, they find out that she is four weeks pregnant, but the scan imagery comes out as distorted, as if two images of the fetus are overlapping each other. 


Jo eventually wakes up at night, and the realization of being separated from her daughter hits her anew. Haunting shrieks coming from the upper floors of the rehab center spook her, and she tries to get out of her room—to no avail. Later, Irena goes to check up on her, and Jo continues to insist that she is mentally fit and needs to be released to reunite with her daughter. Irena informs her about her pregnancy, which complicates things further for Jo as she considers that having a baby in this alternate reality will further end her chances of going back to her world. Regarding the voices from the upper floor, Irena mentions that a number of incurable patients are housed there. As Jo continues to plead with Irena, she sees a vision of the desiccated corpse of the Russian cosmonaut Valya and realizes that Irena is an alternate version of her who survived and came to this reality—much like Jo herself. Jo recites the audio recordings, which detail the last moments of Valya, and a scared Irena hurriedly leaves the room. In Irena’s absence, Ilya, Jo’s Russian astronaut colleague and friend, arrives later, in whom Jo had confided about the psychosis pill previously. Much like others, Ilya continues to assume that Jo is experiencing the phenomenon of ‘Astronaut Burnout’—hence the recurring psychosis and hallucinations that are plaguing her mind. However, as Ilya leaves, he secretly hands Jo the key to her room, signifying that at least he believed in Jo, unlike the rest of the world. 

Was Henry Caldera Able To Prove His Innocence?

On the other hand, after confirming the fact that he has swapped places with Henry and has returned to the reality to which he belonged in the first place, Bud Caldera destroys CAL. Perhaps he thinks that the presence of CAL can once again alter reality, sending him back to the sordid existence he had arrived at. In prime reality, Henry is indicted for the crimes Bud had committed, i.e., the murder of journalist Ian Rogers and attempting to murder astronaut Paul Lancaster, and gets apprehended by the FBI. He continues to plead innocence by mentioning that he and Bud are not the same person, but the situation itself is so inexplicable that Henry doesn’t have any strong alibi to dodge the allegations. He proposes that the FBI agents take his polygraph test and check the DNA sequencing difference between him and that of Bud. Even though the polygraph test results denote that Henry isn’t lying, his DNA sequence matches Bud’s, and the last time we see him, Henry is seen getting charged for Bud’s crimes. 


Bud is relishing the taste of the rich, successful life Henry Caldera built as a prolific astronaut and Nobel-winning quantum physicist. After her interaction with Jo, Irena is visibly shaken, and she asks Henry to meet with her, not knowing that it is actually Bud Caldera. While meeting with Irena, Bud doesn’t hide the fact that he is not actually Henry but professes at the same time that he will continue living this life while the real Henry rots in the cesspit of a life Bud had, and no amount of bureaucratic cover-ups is going to undo this anymore. Later, we find Bud seeking out Ian Rogers in this alternate reality and having a chuckle at confusing him with a bouquet and a hug. This is the same person he murdered back in prime reality, and seeing him alive in this one provides Bud with a weird sense of amusement. The Jack the Ripper story enactment, which Ian does as a retired police officer-turned-tour guide in this altered reality, is suggestive of Bud’s role in the life of his prime reality self.

Did Jo And Alice From Prime Reality Accept Their Fate?

Taking the room keys given to her by Ilya, Jo leaves her room at night and decides to go upstairs to take a look at the other patients. She finds a significantly old, seemingly senile person confined inside a cell, along with his twin or altered reality counterpart (it can’t be said for sure). Freaked out, Jo returns to her room and cries at her helplessness. She realizes that she could meet the same fate eventually, and the fear of spending her life in this captive state scares her. 


On the other hand, alternate Alice tries to convince her father, alternate Magnus, about the fact that the Jo they have sent for rehabilitation isn’t their reality’s Jo at all, and alternate reality Jo has been left deceased inside the ISS. Alternate Magnus feels bewildered listening to her claims and believes that his daughter has been fed lies and misinformation by her mentally unstable mother. Feeling dejected, alternate Magnus goes to share his burdens with a psychiatrist. Similarly, Magnus from prime reality has approached the psychiatrist in his reality, and the possible sighting of Jo in Vindelälven has made him question his own mental state. In a beautiful sequence that highlights both symmetry and binary, two Magnus are seen sitting on the opposite sides of a single psychiatrist, further highlighting the theme of duality in the series. 

Both Alice and Paul chat with their respective realities’ versions of Wendy, Paul’s daughter, and go through a change of heart. Alternate Alice now wants Jo to replace her mother, despite knowing that she isn’t the same person, and Alice, from prime reality, comes to acknowledge her father’s role in her life in Jo’s absence. In prime reality, Jo and Magnus are leaving their home in Sweden to venture somewhere where Jo’s memory will not haunt them anytime soon. Still, for one last time, Alice tries to communicate with her alternate self using the tape recorder, and as she tries to reach out to her, she asks alternate Alice whereabouts about her mother. Alice hears everything and chooses to remain silent. At the same time, in her rehab room, a heartbroken Jo starts playing the piano while singing the haunting tunes of the Norwegian lullaby “Trollmors Vaggsång”. As if, like the troll mother, she is trying to put her ‘daughters’ to sleep. Unable to converse with alternate Alice, in prime reality, Alice decides to stop her search for Jo for good, and as she leaves their house with Magnus, she shares her acceptance of fate by mentioning Jo being there with another Alice, which Magnus appreciates as a coping mechanism, not knowing that she is telling the truth. 


Alternate Alice accepts Magnus’ opinions despite knowing the truth, just to convince him to let her meet with Jo once again. Irena meets with Jo, and upon questioning- reveals the person(s) confined in the upper floor to be the first man in space. Is this a reference to Valentin Bonderanko? The Lost Cosmonaut who was supposedly going to venture into space before the first space traveller, Yuri Gagarin, until he met an u timely end and his death was covered up by the Soviet Union. We don’t know for sure. However, Jo continues to ask her about possible ways of going back to her world—back to her family—and Irena asks her to accept this life she has been thrust into. There is no undoing what has been done; the only two choices that remain in front of Jo are either to accept and live this new life, try to forget the past all the while, or to yearn lifelong to go back to her former life and spend the rest of her days inside the cell, turning senile all the while. Tears roll from Jo’s eyes as Irena consoles her, as she realizes how utterly helpless she is at the moment. 

Alternate Alice meets with Jo the next day and shares her willingness to accept her as a mother. Jo shares the news of her pregnancy with alternate Magnus and eventually reconciles with him as well. After everything she went through, the utter hopeless predicament of losing her family and being forced to accept a world that is not her own evokes a sentiment quite similar to what viewers must have felt seeing Andrew Laeddis’ final moments in “Shutter Island.” The theme of acceptance is also hinted at poignantly in the title of the season finale, “These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins,”  taken from the prophetic modernist masterpiece “The Wasteland,” written by T.S. Eliot. Like the poet himself, who is willing to gather the crumbling pieces of a world in ruins to spend the rest of his years, Jo has to accept the passing of the better, more familiar world and needs to come to terms with a broken, unknown world to survive. 


Is Jo From Alternate Reality Still Alive?

Taking another look at Jo’s pregnancy report, Irena decides to share her willingness to discuss mental health issues pertaining to astronauts and sends a letter to members of the astronaut community. Alternate Magnus and Alternate Alice arrive at the rehab to take Jo back home. During her conversation with alternate Alice, Irena reveals her nickname to be Valya, confirming Jo’s suspicion once and for all. On the other hand, an injured Paul wakes up in the prime reality – and undergoes a panic attack as he is seemingly being affected by the reality-shifting shenanigans. 

Before departing, Jo speaks with alternate Alice once again, who asks her whether her unborn child belongs to this reality or the other one. Jo is obviously perplexed at the question, as she doesn’t have any idea that can be shared as an explanation, and right at the moment, the scene shifts to the ISS in prime reality, and the audio recording mentioned in the first part of the episode continues playing in the background on Jo’s floating tablet. However, contrary to our assumption, the audio recording is of prime reality’s Jo, as it ends with an endearing message to Alice spoken in Swedish. As soon as the audio message ends, alternate Jo, who was presumed dead, is floating across the ISS with half her face scarred, mangled. She catches the tablet, and the scene marks the end of the season. With the revelation that alternate Jo is still alive and that Paul indeed left her in the ISS while she was still breathing, Constellation episode 8 provides a startling and borderline horror-inducing end. This also means that if the series gets a continuation, which it so deserves, there might be a way for both the Jos to return to their family or to get accepted into the ones they have found themselves stuck with. 


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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