Jennifer Connelly staring into Joel Edgerton's eyes with his right arm around his neck in Dark Matter | Agents of Fandom

‘Dark Matter’ Episode 1 Recap & Review: Jason’s Life Is Turned Upside Down

Jennifer Connelly and Jimmi Simpson star opposite Joel Edgerton.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Dark Matter Episode 1 “Are You Happy in Your Life?”

The first part in a two-episode premiere for Apple TV+’s latest mind-bending sci-fi series is now streaming. Dark Matter Episode 1, “Are You Happy in Your Life?” tells the story of Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton), who is struck by an unthinkable tragedy so devastating he can’t even comprehend it. Episode 1 is a close recreation of author Blake Crouch‘s novel of the same name, so let’s dive into all the gritty details in our Dark Matter Episode 1 recap.

Jason Gets a Little Extra Time at Home in ‘Dark Matter’ Episode 1

Joel Edgerton standing in a kitchen smiling looking down at the counter in Dark Matter Episode 1 | Agents of Fandom
Jason has no clue just how precious the time he’s currently spending with Daniela and Charlie is. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

Dark Matter Episode 1 opens with someone walking out of a mysterious box and into an abandoned building before the opening theme and credits roll. After the credits, Jason wakes up to the sound of an alarm and goes downstairs to make coffee. He works with his son Charlie (Oakes Fegley) on trigonometry and gives his wife Daniela (Jennifer Connelly) a cup of coffee to go. Daniela doesn’t want Charlie to drive with his dad; after she leaves, Jason agrees to let him, but he runs a red light on his way to school.

Charlie tells his father about a girl he likes, Brooke, and Jason gets a phone call from his old friend Ryan Holder (Jimmi Simpson). Ryan tells Jason that he won the Pavia prize and wants to celebrate. We then transition to Lakemont College, where Jason is a professor teaching his students about quantum superposition and Schrödinger’s cat, before moving to Daniela at an art gallery, talking to her friend Blaire (Amanda Brugel) about family drama.

The mysterious man from the beginning of the episode enters a storage unit full of cash, cell phones, and other unidentifiable equipment. The camera pans to reveal his face, and it’s Jason, stalking and taking notes on his family’s daily life. Back at home, the Dessen family is making dinner and drinking wine (not Charlie) as they enjoy family night.

Everything Changes When Jason Leaves Home To Celebrate With Ryan

Joel Edgerton sipping a whiskey while Jimmi Simpson holds his hands in the air in Dark Matter Episode 1 | Agents of Fandom
Jason plays his feelings close to the vest, but it’s clear he’s curious about what it would be like to be in Ryan’s shoes. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

Ryan is texting Jason asking him to come out and have a drink, and Daniela reminds him that there will be other family nights, but no other chances to celebrate with Ryan. She insists he meets him, so he leaves, walks down to the Village Tap, and immediately embraces his old friend. Ryan orders a bottle of the nicest scotch and Jason congratulates him on winning the Pavia prize.

Ryan then introduces Jason to some of his friends and the two sit down in the corner booth to talk about old times. They share a touching moment and Ryan reveals that he has $100 million in his “war chest” and it’s about to triple, and he wants Jason to join his new neurotech company. Jason is intrigued at the idea — until Ryan tells him the company is in San Francisco. Jason then turns him down, exits the bar, and sees Daniela is calling him.

He declines her call and is almost struck by a cab in the middle of the street due to being distracted. As he’s in a dark alley walking home, he’s robbed at gunpoint by a man who steals his wallet and phone, demanding he get in a nearby car. The mugger tells Jason that if he doesn’t do exactly as he says, he’ll kill him. He then points the gun at the back of Jason’s head and says, “Drive.”

The Mystery Mugger Asks Jason Strange Questions in ‘Dark Matter’ Episode 1

Jason wearing a dirty, scraped up white mask in Dark Matter Episode 1 | Agents of Fandom
If Jason only knew who was behind the mask of his kidnapper, he’d be more terrified than he already is. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

The robber knows the passcode to Jason’s phone and unlocks it to see texts from Daniela. Jason tells him that Ryan offered him a job, and the two arrive at the same warehouse the man was in at the beginning of the episode. He orders Jason to take off all his clothes and move further into the warehouse. Jason tries to fight back, but his mugger pushes him down a set of stairs and injects him with an unknown substance.

He tells Jason to open the bag and get dressed because he’ll be unconscious soon. He then proceeds to ask Jason if he’s happy with his life, or if he’s ever wondered about “what could’ve been?” and then tells him he’s going to be scared, but he can “make this new life his own.” Fading out of consciousness, Jason asks the man who he is, and he simply responds with, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you” and Jason passes out.

Jason wakes up unsure of where he is but surrounded by bright lights and doctors. He passes out yet again, and shortly after wakes up in a bed and tries to leave, but discovers he’s locked in his room. A woman knocks on the door and comes in seconds later, and Jason asks who she is. She asks Jason if he recognizes her, to which he says no, and she tells him her name is Amanda (Alice Braga).

Jason Is Trapped in a World He Doesn’t Recognize in ‘Dark Matter’ Episode 1

Joel Edgerton as Jason Dessen looking at himself in a mirror in Dark Matter Episode 1 | Agents of Fandom
The only thing Jason recognizes in this twisted world is himself. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

Jason asks what’s happening to him, and she says they’ll figure it out together and that he’s been cleared from quarantine. She shows him into a brightly lit room where he meets Leighton Vance (Dayo Okeniyi), who flips a switch to reveal dozens of people outside the room looking in, cheering on Jason. Leighton says most of the team rushed in from the city to see him and that he’s the only one who’s returned from the box.

Amanda tells Jason he’s been gone for 14 months and 10 days, and Jason says the last thing he remembers is being at a bar with his friend Ryan. Jason then has a panic attack and remarks once again that he doesn’t know who anyone is. On his way back to his room, Jason attempts to escape, gets out the front door, hops a tall fence, and runs through the forest and into the city of Chicago.

He gets a cab to take him to his house at 44 Eleanor Street in Logan Square. When Jason gets home, he walks in to find Amanda in his house, and it’s not at all as he left it. Meanwhile, the man who kidnapped Jason walks into his house at his real home, and it’s revealed to be another version of Jason. This alternate version of Jason kidnapped himself and stole his counterpart’s life. He walks into the kitchen to see Daniela standing at the sink.

Daniela Is Unaware This Jason Is Not Her Husband

Jennifer Connelly standing at a sink with Joel Edgerton standing behind her in Dark Matter Episode 1 | Agents of Fandom
He may not look the part, but the man standing in Daniela’s house is a stranger to her and her son. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

Daniela is upset with Jason 2 for coming home so late and not answering his phone, and he hugs her from behind. He tells Daniela about Ryan’s job offer and asks if she remembers what he said to her all those years ago when they decided to be together. She remembers that he said at the end of his life, he’d rather have memories of her than of a cold, sterile lab, and she forgives him.

Switch back to Jason 1, who asks Amanda how she got into his house, and she tells him they live together. Jason calls out for Daniela and Charlie, but they’re nowhere to be found. He enters what he knows to be his son’s room to find an office with a Pavia prize plaque with his name engraved on it. Jason tries to call Daniela but gets the wrong number, so he tries again, and they tell him to “f-ck off.” Amanda asks who Daniela is, and Jason tells her she’s his wife and continues searching the house.

Amanda tells Jason he doesn’t have a wife, but he’s in denial and runs out the back of the house into the alley. Meanwhile, Jason 2 and Daniela make their way into the bedroom, and she notices a cut bandaged on his arm. When she asks what happened, he says the same thing to her that he did to Jason 1 earlier in the episode, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

There Are Only a Few Changes From the Book in ‘Dark Matter’ Episode 1

The Pavia Prize plaque with the name Jason Dessen engraved in Dark Matter Episode 1 | Agents of Fandom
Jason can’t comprehend how this plaque exists considering mere hours ago, he was celebrating Ryan winning the Pavia Prize. Image Credit: Apple TV.

Dark Matter Episode 1 is a remarkably similar recreation of Crouch’s novel, but there are a few deviations to note. Firstly, Ryan and Jason are much closer; in the book, Ryan doesn’t invite him to join a new company. Jason and Amanda also do not live together in the book, this is a new addition to the series. Another important change is that Leighton in the book is more of a doctor, and heavily involved in Jason’s medical care, while his show counterpart is more of a businessman.

The Dark Matter premiere is riveting from start to finish. The series pays homage to the source material while tweaking several things to keep the audience on their toes. There’s still a long way to go with eight episodes remaining, but the show is undoubtedly off to a great start.

Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for all the latest entertainment news and reviews, and stay tuned for weekly recaps of Dark Matter, now streaming on Apple TV+.

'Dark Matter' Episode 1 "Are You Happy in Your Life?" Review

'Dark Matter' Episode 1 "Are You Happy in Your Life?" Review
5 5 0 1
5.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Joel Edgerton gives a great performance as Jason Dessen.
  • The characters and production design feel authentically 'Dark Matter'.
  • It's clear Blake Crouch was involved on multiple levels.

The Bad

  • The Daniela miscast will loom over the series, but is a larger, overarching issue.
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