Sci-fi series Beacon 23 gets off to a stellar start in two-episode premiere

Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+
Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+ /

MGM+ has premiered the first two episodes of Beacon 23, a science fiction series starring Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) and Stephan James (Race) as two people with conflicting agendas who are trapped on a deep space lighthouse together. Based on the Beacon 23 book by Hugh Howey, the mastermind behind Silo, the series has a gritty view of life in space that should make fans of shows like The Expanse feel right at home. It also has some deep character work, intriguing concepts regarding AI, and shocking twists. SPOILERS follow below for the first two episodes of Beacon 23.

Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+
Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+ /

Beacon 23 premiere episodes review

Beacon 23 wastes no time thrusting viewers into the thick of things with a cold open where Halan (Stephan James) shouts into a camera to try and get Aster’s (Lena Headey) attention as a group of people board the show’s titular deep space lighthouse. The cold open jarred me just a little bit, but fortunately the show doesn’t spend much time on it before taking us back in time to the moment just before Aster arrived on Beacon 23. From there, the story unfolds linearly, with Halan failing to warn a ship that the way isn’t clear after the beacon malfunctions, resulting in its immediate destruction.

Halan’s panic to stop the impending disaster followed by how shockingly fast it all happens is a pretty good precursor to the sorts of gut punches that await in Beacon 23.

But not all is lost: a lone sleeper pod drifts out of the ruined vessel. With only minutes to spare, Halan brings it on board the beacon, and we’re introduced to Aster. The first episode of Beacon 23’s two-episode premiere is a slow burn mystery, as it becomes clear that neither Aster nor Halan are who they say they are. The script and direction are razor sharp, as are the special effects and worldbuilding. Beacon 23 is a very confident show, and that confidence makes it easy to get swept up in the story instead of nitpicking little details. It also helps that there really aren’t many things to nitpick; beyond feeling a little shell-shocked by the premiere’s opening scene, I don’t have any real complaints about these first two episodes. That’s saying something.

Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+
Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+ /

Beacon 23 is a powerful study of the effects of human isolation

Despite being a show with no shortage of visual effects, the set design is seamless and immersive. It’s to Beacon 23’s credit that it doesn’t seem to rely much on digital soundstages or the like; instead, it recalls classics like Alien with its sleekly designed corridors and cold metal color palette. And stairs. Like SiloBeacon 23 has lots and lots of stairs. Apparently that’s Hugh Howey’s brand, so far as settings are concerned.

The slightly claustrophobic nature of the sets works really well for the sort of story that Beacon 23 is telling, which is firmly fixed on its characters. Yes, there are also larger things at play, such as hints of unrest on certain human colonies and the mystery of the new element discovered by previous beacon keeper Solomon (Stephen Root), but at its core Beacon 23 is a character study. The show shines most when it gives James or Headey quiet moments where their performances lead.

Headey in particular absolutely owns every single scene she’s in, and it’s a testament to the script and direction that the show gives her the room to do so. So much is conveyed with small gestures or expressions, the sorts of things a lesser show might gloss over. Beacon 23 homes in on them instead. A particular highlight is how Aster and Halan very subtly navigate the complicated web of lies they weave on the fly, at times trying to catch each other out in ways that you could easily miss if you’re not paying attention. I love a good show that doesn’t talk down to its audience, and Beacon 23 certainly fits that bill.

It’s not all just about Headey and James though, even if they are the obvious heart of the show. The AIs Bart (Wade Bogert-O’Brien) and Harmony (Natasha Mumba) are also both excellent, with a fascinating push and pull that has me very intrigued to see where they go next. The raiders which board the ship in the second episode are also surprisingly well developed. While Episode 102 functions like a survival thriller that sees Aster and Halan struggle to survive their space station being captured, the show still slows down enough to give each of the raiders a personality, and several robust backstories. Themes of isolation and being uprooted remain strong throughout. Most of these characters are killed off by the end of the episode, it serves to highlight how much attention to detail was put into their stories.

Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+
Beacon 23. Photo Credit: Rafy Winterfeld/Boat Rocker/MGM+ /


Beacon 23 feels like a surprise sci-fi hit that came out of nowhere. Before a few weeks ago, I had heard literally nothing about this show. Now, I’m dying to watch the next episodes. It has a very clear vision that is being brought to life by extremely talented actors, which makes it a breeze to watch. As a whole, these two premiere episodes serve as a great, expertld paced introduction to the series. The second episode’s final scenes, where Aster and Halan finally let down their walls (just a little) after surviving a horrific ordeal together had me tearing up. That it hooked me so quickly bodes well for what’s still to come.

am a little nervous about the fact that it’s on MGM+, a streaming service which was relatively unknown among genre fans until The Winter King premiered over the summer. I hope that enough people subscribe to MGM+ to check out Beacon 23 or that it becomes more widely available, because there’s no question that so far it’s a quality science fiction series that deserves an audience.

Two-episode premiere grade: A+

Next. Exclusive: Producer Glen Mazzara tells us about Beacon 23. dark

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