Dark Matter Episode 1 and 2 Recap: Are You Happy in Your Life?

Apple TV+’s ‘Dark Matter’ begins with a kidnapping. Jason Dessen is attacked by a man out of nowhere, and it changes his life forever. Based on the novel of the same name by Blake Crouch, the show’s first two episodes take the audience through a maze with mind-boggling twists and turns, leaving the audience guessing about what is really going on with the protagonist and how, if ever, will he find a way out of the strange predicament he has been thrown into. Several questions rear their head by the end of the two-episode premiere, promising a twisted mystery in the coming episodes. SPOILERS AHEAD

Who Kidnapped Jason Dessen?

Jason Dessen is a simple college professor who has no beef with anyone. So, one night, when he is attacked by a masked man who knows a lot of things about him, he wonders where he took the wrong step and where he made the mistake that is now coming back to haunt him. It’s weird because, somehow, the masked man feels a bit too familiar and yet someone that Jason has never met before. But there is no time to give this any more thought because the man injects him with a vial, and Jason is knocked out.

When he wakes up, Jason finds himself in a place he has never been before, and yet, he is treated as if he has lived there his entire life. He meets an acquaintance, Leighton Vance, whom he hasn’t seen for a very long time, and yet he treats Jason as if they have known each other every single day for the past decade. He also meets Amanda, a woman who claims to have a close relationship with him, even though he has never met her before. It’s a strange place and while Jason is assured he is safe, he doesn’t feel so. The first chance he gets, he runs out of the place and goes back home, only to discover that it is not his home.

The keys to Jason’s house work, but when he enters it, there is no Daniela and no Charlie. The whole house looks like it belongs to someone else. It doesn’t have the family pictures that adorn the walls of his house or any other thing that makes it feel like home to him. When he finds Amanda there, she says she lives in the house with him. As Leighton Vance and Velocity Labs’ men close in on him, he runs away, but where could he possibly go?

When nothing seems to make sense, Jason decides that he should have himself checked. What if he is sick? What if there is something wrong with his brain? He needs to find out if he is hallucinating or if it is an elaborate prank by the people around him. He checks himself into a hospital and tells the doctor about how his house is not his house and his life is not his life anymore. A scan of his brain doesn’t reveal any physical problems, but it still bothers the doctors. When Jason tells them to find his wife, Daniela Dessen, they say she doesn’t exist. They ask him to check into an institute where he can get a proper psychological evaluation and get treatment, but Jason knows by now that he is not losing his mind and something is very, very wrong about this world. He doesn’t belong there.

The Two Jasons and The Paths Not Taken

Jason’s fears about being stuck in a world that is not his are proven right when we see another Jason walk into his life. To simplify things, let’s call the original college professor Jason I and the man who replaces him Jason II. While Jason I tries to figure out his situation, wondering whether he has gone mad, Jason II steps into his life seamlessly. He walks into the house that didn’t belong to him, the family that didn’t belong to him, the life that he had only fantasized about, and finds himself fitting into it like a glove, but there are still a few creases.

Jason II had a very different life, and though it was his curiosity about the path not taken that brought him here, finally getting to walk that other path isn’t as easy as it seems. They might have the same face and the same name, but Jason I and II are very different people, and while Jason II tries to figure out how to go about the new life, the difference is felt by his family, especially Daniela. Having lived with Jason I for so long, Daniela had also been wondering about that other life for a while. She felt a stall in her marriage as if she and her husband were caught up in the routine of their lives, and all romance and excitement, things that had attracted her to him, had all but faded. But then suddenly, that passion comes back; that romance is not just reignited but is on fire, and Daniela can’t help but wonder if her husband is keeping a secret. Jason II will have to be on the lookout for Daniela’s suspicions, but that’s not the only thing he has to worry about.

The box through which Jason II sent Jason I into his world is not a prison. It’s a door, and it opens both ways. Jason II knows that despite having been stuck in a seemingly mediocre life, Jason I loved it, and because he is still Jason, it will not take him much time to figure out how the box works. One of these days, Jason I is going to walk back through that door, and Jason II has to prepare for it. As a countermeasure, he sets up a camera near the box so that he always has an eye on the door, ready for the day Jason I, or someone else (considering that Velocity Labs won’t simply stop working on the box, especially now that they think that their Jason made the trip back somehow), walks through the door. For now, he is happily living the life he always wanted.

Is Daniela Dead?

When Jason is told that his wife, Daniela Dessen, doesn’t exist, he searches for Daniela Vargas, the name she had before they got married. He is relieved to discover that she does exist, and much like him, she is living a completely different life. His Daniela had given up her career as an artist when she got pregnant and she and Jason got married and had Charlie. This Daniela is a successful artist, and it is through an art show that he finds her. But this Daniela doesn’t remember him like he remembers her.

It is after seeing Daniela’s completely different life that Jason realizes what is happening. He has somehow landed in an alternate reality where he and Daniela chose not to have a kid and moved on to have their careers, which turned them away from one another. This Daniela doesn’t remember the life he had with his wife and his son. But she is intrigued when he confesses that he is not the Jason of this world and talks about the life he lived in his own. When he says these things, Ryan Holder is also in the same room.

Unlike the Ryan who won the Pavia Prize, this Ryan is like Jason I, a little bit lost in his life and nowhere near the successful, award-winning scientist Jason I knows. He is infuriated when Jason I refuses to acknowledge his work with Velocity and the compound Ryan made for them. Moreover, when Jason I talks about being from a different world, Ryan is infuriated and leaves the conversation, believing that Jason is messing with him.

Jason spends the night at Daniela’s place. The next day, they break into Jason II’s house, where Jason I gets his hands on the research and finds out about the box, confirming his theory of crossing over into an alternate reality. But this sense of victory in figuring out the root of the problem is short-lived because the same night, people from Velocity come knocking at their door. They shoot Daniela in the head and take Jason with them.

Daniela’s death hits Jason hard, but now that he knows that this was never his world, he has to find a strange sense of relief in the fact that the Daniela who died wasn’t his wife. His Daniela is still safe and sound in the world that he belongs to, the world where he chose to be with her rather than part ways with her for his career. The only way back to that world is through that box, which is somewhere in Velocity Labs’ building. Luckily, that is exactly where he is being taken.

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